What is Cannabis Oil?

Cannabis oil is produced by plants in the genus Cannabis and is concentrated in the trichomes on the surface of the plant. Trichomes are small, hair-like structures that occur on the outside surface of many plant species. The oil is a complex mix of phytochemicals – substances that are produced by plants through photosynthesis.

This a process whereby molecules of water and carbon dioxide are broken down and re-assembled into a plethora of compounds useful to the plant. These include nutrients, anti-herbivore compounds, structural compounds, and in the case of Cannabis, cannabinoids. These are the compounds of medicinal and nutritional interest to humans, and occur in high concentrations in cannabis oil.

The Benefits of Cannabis Oil

Cannabis oil is extracted from plants and is either ‘full spectrum’ oil, as it is extracted mechanically from the plant, and ‘pure’ CBD or cannabidiol, which is a still more refined material, produced from the raw cannabis oil. The term ‘cannabis oil’ can commonly refer to either of these substances, but the benefits and disadvantages of each of the two are slightly different.

Pure CBD

Pure CBD oil, or cannabidiol, is a known single molecule and has been studied extensively since it was first refined. Organic chemists Roger Adams and Alexander Todd isolated CBD from cannabis oil, independently, in the USA in 1940. CBD has a number of well-documented effects on mammals. It is currently used in a number of countries as a treatment for neuropathic pain in sufferers of MS, or Multiple Sclerosis – a disease of the nervous system.

It has also been used in some situations to ameliorate epileptic fits, and other forms of spasticity in numerous illnesses. In a study in the US, CBD has been demonstrated to help in breaking addiction cycles in rodents in a laboratory setting. Anecdotal evidence from human subjects similarly suggests that it may have a similar role in breaking the cycle of opioid addiction. It has also been implicated in the inhibition of adenosine uptake, which may be the cause of its anti-inflammatory and thus pain-reducing properties. Martial arts practitioners and other sportspeople have been taking advantage of this effect to speed up recovery times in recent years.

Full Spectrum Cannabis Oil

‘Full Spectrum’ cannabis oil is a more variable substance, as it can contain any number of the cannabinoid family of molecules, of which at least 113 cannabinoids have been identified. Some institutions have catalogued up to 147 separate compounds, although not all of them are cannabinoids. The average CBD concentration within this raw cannabis oil is around 40%. The benefits attributed to CBD outlined above can additionally apply to cannabis oil. Aside from this, cannabis oil has a number of other useful phytochemicals which are of nutritional interest.

Linoleic acid (LA) and α-linolenic acid (LNA) are omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, respectively. They occur in cannabis oil, as do omega-9 acids. These well-known acids are critically important in brain function and development, cannot be manufactured in the body and can only be obtained from a very small set of foods, of which cannabis oil is one. The ratio of LA to LNA in cannabis oil is at 3:1, which is known to be optimal for nutrition. A number of other micronutrients are available in cannabis oil in small amounts.

Disadvantages

There have been a number of minor side effects recorded with chronic high doses of CBD. These can include tiredness, diarrhoea, and loss of appetite. When compared to other drugs used for the same conditions, these side effects are seen by researchers as minor, and not so severe. Cannabis oil is also not recommended for use by children, or by those under 21. Cannabis oil therefore appears to have a plethora of tangible benefits, and only minor, manageable risks. Although much knowledge has been gained surrounding the benefits of CBD, there are a number of avenues of research which have yet to be explored, although much work is ongoing.

Summary

There are a number of apparent health benefits of cannabis oil and its main constituent, CBD, which have been explored and revealed since 1940 and more so since 1963. Aside from anti-inflammatory properties, it is said to have a hand in calming spasticity and seizures. It has been used extensively as a sports supplement and as a chronic painkiller. The oil itself, aside from the CBD, includes some vitally important fatty acids and micronutrients.

As with any relatively newly discovered compound, more research will be beneficial as it is produced. The importance of the mild side effects of loss of appetite and tiredness are down to the discretion of the user, and it is worth bearing in mind that these are said to be less severe than those of drugs for similar conditions.

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