Production of Cannabis
Production of cannabis is booming as the medical benefits of CBD (cannabidiol) are increasingly recognized.
According to Project CBD, at least 50 conditions are believed to be improved by CBD, including pain, seizures, muscle spasms, nausea associated with chemotherapy, digestive disorders such as colitis and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), degenerative neurological disorders such as dystonia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, mood disorders, anxiety, PTSD and high blood pressure.
Yet, despite the legalization of cannabis for adult use in 10 states in the past few years and the inclusion in the 2018 Farm Bill of industrial hemp as a crop,2 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), up until recently, listed CBD as a Schedule I drug, the most dangerous drug category reserved for drugs like heroin and LSD.
The classification made no sense because CBD is non-psychoactive — it is not addictive, does not produce a “high” and there are few to no dangerous side effects. In fact, there seems no reason for the FDA and Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) long-term vilification of CBD except possible collusion with Big Pharma, whose dangerous and lucrative pain treatments, primarily opioids, would suffer from wider CBD use.
Opioids cause approximately 115 Americans’ deaths every day. In states where CBD is becoming widely used, there are few reports of negative social or medical consequences. Conversely, there are early reports in those same states of fewer opioid emergencies, overdoses and deaths.
The restrictive, Schedule I classification of CBD has also produced medical “refugees” — people whose health conditions are only improved by CBD, not pharmaceutical products, forcing them to relocate to states with looser CBD laws.
A Cannabinoid With Many Benefits
CBD is one of some 104 compounds classified as cannabinoids in cannabis plants, with as many as seven or eight more recently discovered compounds that may be considered cannabinoids.6 CBD is contained in both Cannabis Sativa (hemp) and Cannabis Indica (marijuana), but hemp has such a low CBD content, it is primarily grown for fiber and seed — uses we will discuss later.
It is not a surprise CBD has so many benefits since there is actually an endocannabinoid system in the human body and other mammals. It is part of our physiology. Cannabinoid receptors, which recognize and interact with CBD, are found in the human brain, lungs, liver, kidneys and immune system.
There are myriad medical uses attributed to CBD, and the list keeps growing. Here are some uses that have recently been scientifically documented.
Allergic asthma — “CBD treatment decreased the inflammatory and remodeling processes in the model of allergic asthma,” according to the European Journal of Pharmacology
Anxiety and sleep — “Cannabidiol may hold benefit for anxiety-related disorders,” The Permanente Journal
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) — “Cannabis in ASD patients appears to be [a] well tolerated, safe and effective option to relieve symptoms associated with ASD,” Scientific Reports
Blood pressure — “This data shows that acute administration of CBD reduces resting BP and the BP increase to stress in humans,” JCI Insight
Cancer pain, nausea and lack of appetite — “The National Cancer Institute (NCI) currently recognizes medicinal C. sativa as an effective treatment for providing relief in a number of symptoms associated with cancer, including pain, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, and anxiety,” BioMed Research International
Cancer/tumors — “Cannabidiol (CBD), one of the compounds present in the marijuana plant, has antitumor properties,” Cancer Letters
Diabetes — “These results suggest that the neuroprotective effects of CBD in middle-aged diabetic rats … are related to a reduction in neuroinflammation,” Neurotoxicity Research
Epilepsy — “CBD is a well-tolerated and effective antiseizure agent and illustrates a potential disease-modifying effect of CBD on reducing both seizure burden and associated comorbidities well after the onset of symptomatic seizures,” Epilepsia
Inflammation — “CBD that exerts prolonged immunosuppression … might be used in chronic inflammation, the terpenoids … might thus be used to relieve acute inflammation,” Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research
Irritable bowel diseases — “Clinical trials suggest that there may be a therapeutic role for cannabinoid therapy in the treatment of IBD,” Current Gastroenterology Reports
Multiple Sclerosis — “As cannabis legalization has impacted the variety of cannabis products available, there appears to be growing numbers … using cannabis … reporting use of highly efficacious products with minimal side-effects,” Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders
Neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases — “CBD has been found to possess antioxidant activity in many studies, thus suggesting a possible role in the prevention of both neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases,” BioMed Research International
Ovarian function/female reproductive system — Impacts “the female reproductive system where it affects folliculogenesis, oocyte maturation and ovarian endocrine secretion,” Journal of Ovarian Research
PTSD and nightmares — “Administration of oral CBD in addition to routine psychiatric care was associated with PTSD symptom reduction … CBD also appeared to offer relief in a subset of patients who reported frequent nightmares as a symptom of their PTSD,” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
Pain, migraine, detoxification from opioids — “There is accumulating evidence for various therapeutic benefits of cannabis/cannabinoids, especially in the treatment of pain, which may also apply to the treatment of migraine and headache. There is also supporting evidence that cannabis may assist in opioid detoxification and weaning, thus making it a potential weapon in battling the opioid epidemic,” Headache
Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases — “CBD may be effective in the “treatment of five syndromes, currently labeled recalcitrant to therapeutic success, and wherein improved pharmacological intervention is required: intractable epilepsy, brain tumors, Parkinson’s disease (PD), Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and traumatic brain injury,” Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience
Pediatric seizures — “The efficacy and safety profile of CBDV suggest it may have therapeutic value for early life seizures,” Neuropharmacology
Why Is There Such Resistance to Cannabis and CBD?
Despite CBD’s many benefits, it remains in a legal no man’s land, says the Brookings Institution:
“Over the past 22 years, 33 states have legalized cannabis for medical purposes, and over the past six years, 10 states have legalized cannabis for adult use. Every one of those programs is illegal under federal law, with no exceptions [if federal authorities choose to prosecute] …
Even CBD products produced by state-legal, medical or adult-use cannabis programs are illegal products under federal law, both within states and across state lines … Under the 2018 Farm Bill, there will be more broadly available, legal, CBD products; however, this does not mean that all CBD products are legal moving forward.”
Many trace the original vilification of cannabis which gained it Schedule I status to its association with hippies and opposition to the Vietnam War 50 years ago. Not only were “pot” arrests a way of muzzling protestors, the “out of the box” thinking that marijuana fostered fed young people’s strong questioning of authority, fueling the counterculture and war opposition.
But, as I noted earlier, the medical use of CBD oil, especially as a treatment for pain, also represents a significant threat to the sale of opioids which have so enriched Big Pharma in the last decade.
The cannabis plant also poses economic threats to the lumber, energy, food and other industries; its fiber products can be used to make paper, biofuel, building materials, food products and oil, clothing, shoes and even jewelry.
In fact, according to the Hemp Business Journal, industrial hemp “can be used in an estimated 50,000 different products across a wide spectrum of industries: from textiles to food products, building materials to bioplastics, nutraceuticals to nanomaterials, ethanol to animal bedding.Still, if the use of CBD were more widely adopted by Americans for medical treatments, we would probably all be healthier.
Hemp has been outlawed in the U.S. since 1938. Thankfully, the latest Farm Bill signed into law at the end of 2018 makes it legal. In this interview, board-certified clinical nutritionist and expert on phytocannabinoids, Carl Germano, discusses the exciting implications of this change.
Now, there’s a difference between cannabidiol (CBD) products made from hemp and those made from marijuana. While many mistakenly believe hemp and marijuana are interchangeable, they’re actually two different plants.
“Both are considered Cannabis sativa by genus and species, but that’s where the similarity ends,” Germano explains. “Hemp has been cultivated for many reasons for the past few thousand years — food, clothing, fiber and fuel. The plant itself contains naturally occurring active compounds called phytocannabinoids, of which CBD is just one of them.
Marijuana, on the other hand, has been cultivated for its primary phytocannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). While it has recreational value at small levels, it does have medicinal value.
Nevertheless, many decades ago, hemp got dumped into the definition of marijuana. Hemp was unjustly placed into the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which kind of hampered its access, its ability to have U.S. farmers grow it, or to have even medical or academic institutions study it.
We’ve been in the Dark Ages for decades. Thanks to Israel and Europe, who’ve championed all the research, we’ve [discovered] the cannabinoid system in the body called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS).
Trump did sign a Farm Bill that finally deregulates hemp. It takes it out of the CSA … It gives the rights of farmers to grow it. It will open up the doors for academic and medical institutions to study it. It will give consumers access to [what is] probably the most important botanical we have on this planet.”
Why Whole Hemp May Be Better Than Isolated CBD
The hemp plant contains over 100 different phytocannabinoids, of which CBD is one. And while hemp has now been taken off the CSA, CBD is still under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is responsible for the labeling of supplements and enforcing the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA).
Hemp oil is a food that happens to have CBD in it. But while CBD may not be legally advertised on the label, CBD-containing hemp products can be labeled as having phytocannabinoids — the class of compounds to which CBD belongs. While CBD has gained the most attention, CBD alone cannot fully support your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). You need the other phytocannabinoids and terpenes, which are very complementary to the phytocannabinoids, as well.
“Those of us in botanical medicine understand that the sum of all the parts of the plant is greater than any one single ingredient,” Germano says. “Let’s face it. There’s more than one ginsenoside in ginseng. There’s more than one curcuminoid in curcumin. There’s more than one isobutylamide in Echinacea. There’s more than one ginkgolide in ginkgo.
Well, there’s more than just one phytocannabinoid in hemp. Back in 2011, Dr. Ethan Russo in the British Journal of Pharmacology1 … wrote about the entourage effect of all the phytocannabinoids and terpenes needing to be present to give rise to full clinical, meaningful benefit …
While CBD may be the most dominant phytocannabinoid in hemp, the others are there in minor in number, but they are not minor in the body as they all participate in nourishing, supporting the ECS, which is the bigger story.”
Understanding Your ECS
While the discovery of the ECS is fairly recent, genetically it dates back over 600 million years.2 Cannabinoid receptors in the human body were discovered in the 1990s, which in turn led to the realization that we make compounds in our body — endogenous cannabinoids — that influence these receptors.
It was also discovered that the ECS orchestrates communication between other bodily systems, such as your respiratory, digestive, immune and cardiovascular systems. The ECS does this via receptors found in every organ, including your skin.
“Your ECS is like the conductor of the orchestra. The orchestra are our organ systems. We cannot be healthy, we cannot be well if our ECS does not function well,” Germano says.
“Your body produces cannabinoids similar structurally to the cannabinoids found in cannabis. Your body feeds off of them. If you don’t produce enough to feed every single receptor, various conditions and various illnesses will ensue.”
Two Types of Endocannabinoid Receptors Have Been Identified
There are two primary ECS receptors: cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB2). While CB1 is typically thought of as being primarily in the brain and CB2 primarily in the immune system, both types of receptors are in fact found throughout your body.
One of the two cannabinoids your body produces is called anandamide — a nod to the word “ananda,” the Sanskrit word for “bliss,” as it attaches to the same CB1 receptors that THC attaches to. The other, 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), is found throughout your body.
“The ECS has been the subject of many scholarly textbooks … Quite frankly, this is something that should be taught from high school to college to medical school. Unfortunately, because of the stigma attached to cannabinoids … less than 13 percent [of medical schools in the U.S.] are teaching the ECS.
I say, ‘Are you insane? This is like saying that for the next 70 years we will not teach the cardiovascular system, as if it never existed.’ We now have to dismantle this medical travesty … The whole thing is about education. This is critical and crucial to our health and well-being.
We have to dismantle the stigma, and we have to start educating ourselves to understand that the ECS is probably one of the most important medical discoveries in quite some time. Understanding the enormity of this system and what it does and what it influences throughout the entire human body.”
Low Endocannabinoid Levels Result in Ill Health
With age, our bodies tend to become less efficient in creating the compounds needed for optimal health, and this holds true for anandamide and 2-AG as well. According to Germano, these two cannabinoids can actually be used as biological markers for certain illnesses and conditions.
Endocannabinoid deficiency has been identified in people who have migraines, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory and neurological conditions and a variety of treatment-resistant conditions. Germano also cites a paper3 in Translational Psychiatry, which found low anandamide levels are a statistically positive indicator for stress-induced anxiety.
They’ve also discovered there’s an intimate relationship between your ECS and your omega-3 status.4 As it turns out, omega-3 fats make your cannabinoid receptors more active, and are used as backbone structures to produce cannabinoids in your body.
“What do we see in people who have low omega-3 status? We see the same things we see in people who are endocannabinoid deficient: pain, inflammation, stress, anxiety, depression and so on. It is a perfect marriage between omega-3s and phytocannabinoids, which act like a multivitamin for the ECS.
But it doesn’t stop there. Look at bones … the reason we give post-menopausal women estrogen is because it influences the cells that build up bone, osteoblasts, and the cells that break down bone, osteoclasts. What does this have to do with the ECS?
We now know that if you stimulate the CB1 receptors, you start to stimulate the brain-to-bone communication by slowing down the brain from releasing bone-breaking compounds, like norepinephrine. Then when you stimulate the CB2 receptors, it increases osteoblasts, the bone makers, and decreases osteoclasts, the bone breakers.”
Top conditions associated with low cannabinoid levels include:
Pain, inflammation and inflammatory conditions
Stress, anxiety and insomnia
“These are all conditions that can be suitably treated with phytocannabinoids,” Germano says. “These are conditions that we see in people who are endocannabinoid-deficient.”
Running Dramatically Boosts Anandamide Level
While runner’s high is typically attributed to the release of endorphins, running also dramatically increases anandamide in the body, and anandamide not only targets the CB1 receptor, but it also influences opioid and endorphin receptors. Not surprisingly then, the higher an individual’s anandamide level, the better they report feeling.
“That makes sense, because anandamide hits the receptors in the brain that are involved in reward and mood,” Germano says. “We also understand that the cannabinoids we produce are quite promiscuous.
They certainly touch the CB1 and CB2 receptors, but they [affect] other receptors as well, [such as] the 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT3) receptors, peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPAR), gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors, and receptors that control inflammation, pain, reward, anxiety and things of that nature.”
A paper5 published in PLOS ONE also details how various nutrients (such as omega-3 fats), drugs, exercise, chiropractic care, massage and acupuncture influence the function of your ECS.
Your Endocannabinoid System — A Key Player in Inflammation
Curcumin, boswellia, fish oil and quercetin are all well-recognized anti-inflammatory nutrients, but none can compare to what cannabinoids can do, Germano says, especially when the full spectrum is used.
As noted in a 2014 paper6 in Current Opinions in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, the ECS is an emerging key player in inflammation, because it’s intertwined with all of the inflammatory pathways, including the eicosanoid ones that omega-3 fish oils influence.
Germano also cites other research showing that targeting the ECS can ease both inflammatory and neuropathic pain, and describe how cannabinoids act as analgesics. According to Germano:
“You cannot contend with any inflammatory condition unless you’re supporting the ECS. They can be used interchangeably; phytocannabinoids along with curcumin and boswellia and fish oils would be remarkable, as they are complementary to each other by doing different things.
Again, we must address the ECS in any inflammatory condition, whether it be irritable bowel syndrome or injuries — even inflammation in the brain, which is one of the hallmarks of all neurological diseases. In 2003, the United States government got issued a patent on the neuroprotective effects of cannabinoids.
At that time, while the government has been telling us that phytocannabinoids are like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and heroin — [meaning they] have no medical value — they go out and get a patent on the medical value.
But that was followed up, and there are many papers that talk all about the anti-inflammatory effects in the brain and in the nervous system, of these cannabinoids … There is nothing else like supporting the ECS with phytocannabinoids.”
Your Endocannabinoid System Also Plays a Key Role in Your Gut Health
You’re probably familiar with the fact that there’s a strong connection between not only your brain and your gut, but also your immune system. The importance of this triad in health and disease prevention cannot be overstated. Your gut not only is your largest immune organ, it’s also your second brain, containing hundreds of millions of neurons.
“We now understand how the gut is involved with communicating with the brain and the immune system, because it has brain cells and immune cells in it,” Germano says. In the middle of this trio is your ECS. It is actually the orchestrator of this tri-directional communication. According to Germano, researchers have also discovered the ECS controls:
Motility in the gut
Tolerance to antigens
The ECS also reduces the activity of the stress pathways, including the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) pathways. Anandamide, specifically, participates in the immunological response in the gut. What’s more, there’s also communication occurring between your endocannabinoid system and your gut microbiome (the bacteria in your gut).
Clinical Applications for Hemp Products
Again, a full-spectrum oil is actually far preferable to product in which CBD has been isolated. Germano cites a 2015 Israeli paper, which compared full-spectrum oil against isolated CBD, and found the full-spectrum oil was in fact clinically superior.
As for dosing, most of the literature demonstrates efficacy of CBD in the several hundred milligram range — but that is for “single magic bullet” isolated CBD. Preclinical studies and any clinicians are reporting that efficacy can be achieved with much lower doses when using a ful spectrum oil — some in the 10 to 25mg CBD range.
“Since CBD is the most dominant cannabinoid in hemp, when you extract oil from hemp, you do have much, much higher levels of CBD naturally in the oil as compared to the rest of the phytocannabinoid family. Providing 10 to 25 mg of CBD is the sweet spot for most conditions in the trade — especially when used with other synergistic ingredients …
People are responding quite remarkably, which [suggests] you don’t need a lot to jump-start the body’s ECS. Quite frankly, when we look at the bell-shaped curve with the isolates, the higher the dose, sometimes you decrease the effectiveness … When you use a full-spectrum oil and you’re getting the other important phytocannabinoid and terpene components, this is superior, and I’ll tell you why.
People have been focusing on CBD, which is the wrong message. It’s the myopic message. Think about it, CBD does not attach to the CB1 or CB2 receptors. If anything, CBD supports the CB1 receptors by preventing the breakdown of anandamide in our bodies and anandamide hits the CB1 receptor.
What about the CB2 receptor that controls inflammatory cycling, pain signaling, insulin sensitivity and bone building? CBD does nothing for that, so we need something of a CB2 agonist. A perfect partner to CBD would be another phytocannabinoid called beta caryophyllene. Luckily, the family of other phytocannabinoids in a full-spectrum oil contains other phytocannabinoids that complement to what CBD is not doing as well.
We must get off this single magic bullet bandwagon. We must appreciate the full gamut of all these phytocannabinoids as a whole, and that they complement each other, because CBD is not the answer to support the ECS as a whole.”
As with most things, too much can backfire. While CBD cannot kill you, using CBD isolate in too high amounts can reduce its effectiveness. Such problems are far less likely when using a full-spectrum oil.
“I don’t foresee anybody really overdosing on the standard dosages that we’re recommending,” Germano says. “Nor when we look at the data that’s been published, up to 1,500 mg of CBD chronically administered over time show that it was well-tolerated, minimal to no adverse reactions on physiological function, psychological functioning and other parameters in the body, including blood pressure. So, CBD is quite well-tolerated in humans.”
Hemp Oil for Sleep
Aside from inflammation and pain, another area where a full-spectrum hemp oil can be beneficial is to improve sleep and treat insomnia. Germano recommends using a full-spectrum oil in a dose that provides 25 mg of CBD.
“CBD at that range does a number of things. No. 1, it reduces excitability in the brain. It can reduce glutamate toxicity and any excitatory conditioning. Secondly, CBD is involved in various neurotransmitters that are involved with a normal sleep cycle.
While it has a calming effect and helps to establish a normal sleep cycle, it’s not necessarily a sedative. You can use it with melatonin. You can use it with lavender. You can use it with chamomile and passionflower, what have you. I would do that towards the latter part of the day, at least an hour or two before bedtime. Lower doses of CBD are more stimulating, so to speak, and more upregulating.”
How the New Law Can Improve Quality of Hemp Products
In the past, prior to the signing of the new Farm Bill, the leaf, flower and bud of the hemp plant could not be used in the production of CBD-rich hemp oil. The oil had to be pulled from the stalk and stem of the plant only — the less concentrated part. With the new law, all parts of the plant can be used, which will make processing easier and more economical, as the cannabinoids are more concentrated in the leaves, flowers and buds.
The law also makes it legal to grow hemp in in every state, so if you wanted to, you could grow it in your backyard. This is something I’m definitely considering, as you can easily juice the whole plant or add it to smoothies.
“Growing it for yourself would be wonderful,” Germano says. “It is a weed. It has a short period of harvest. It grows very rapidly — July, August and September. Yes, the whole plant can be used rather than just extracting the oils from it. All the phytocannabinoids and lipids are found in the oils, but the leaf can be juiced and put into smoothies as well …
In terms of growing and processing it, it’s a rather easy plant to grow, because it is a weed. When we talk about the raw plant, a lot of these cannabinoids are in their acidic form. CBD is in CBDA, cannabidiol acid, form. To convert it to its useable form, the acid has to be decarboxylated.
So, while you may benefit from a lot of the phytocannabinoids [in the raw plant], it’s going to be reliant on your body’s ability to process it from the acidic forms that are in there. Exposure to heat, light, moisture and air will decarboxylate a lot of them as well. The more you process it yourself, the more useable some of those phytocannabinoids will be.
[To process it], you can take the leaf, flower and bud. You can blend it and store it in the refrigerator. Over a day or two of exposure to heat, air, light and moisture, it’ll decarboxylate to some extent and you’ll benefit more from that. How much do you get? Appreciable amounts of CBD may be difficult with just juicing alone …
I don’t want to misquote myself and say the wrong thing, but probably an ounce or two [of raw plant] would do the trick as a healthy plant beverage. Again, you don’t need a lot to jump-start your body’s ECS. It’s not a numbers game. Small doses, you would definitely respond to.”
“The Many Benefits of Cannabis and Cannabidiol (CBD).” Mercola.com, Mercola.com, 2 Feb. 2019,
- PMCID: PMC3736954