CBD oil, short for cannabidiol oil, is an extract of the cannabis plant and is known for its pain relief, anti-inflammatory, and anti-anxiety effects.
It's also one of the hottest (and controversial) health products in the USA.
However, the legality of CBD oil is a little murky in some states, because while manufacturers claim hemp oil is perfectly legal (and indeed, is freely available in stores and online), the DEA has waffled on its legal status.
Bureaucracy notwithstanding, people are still clamoring for CBD oil. Here are the top brands right now:
1. Nutiva Organic Hemp Oil
Nutriva isn’t the best-selling hemp oil product on Amazon by sheer luck. This hemp oil extract is inexpensive, highly pure, and certified organic to boot. That means you don’t have to worry about any pesticides or herbicides making their way through the extraction process and into your supplement.
It comes in a large, opaque bottle, which helps keep the oil from suffering the destructive effects of visible light, but even so, you should still keep it cool. One bottle of Nutiva Organic Hemp Oil will last most users quite a while, and because it’s so cheap, it is a great choice if you have a high daily intake of hemp oil.
2. Just Hemp Foods All Natural Hemp Seed Oil
If there’s another contender for king of the hill when it comes to large-serving hemp oil products, it’s got to be Just Hemp Foods. Their product contains only pure cold pressed and cold filtered hemp seed oil. It’s not organic, but that’s about the only thing you can hold against it.
Though it’s a pretty new product, it’s got rave reviews so far, with users praising it for both supplement and cosmetic uses. The large size and the bottle-based delivery does make it susceptible to deterioration if you leave it sitting for months at a time, so use it up or get a smaller bottle (or softgels)!
3. Manitoba Harvest Hemp Oil
Manitoba Harvest is a heavy hitter in CBD oil products, and for good reason. Its flagship softgels deliver 825 mg of omega-3, 6, and 9 fatty acids, and the only active ingredient is unrefined cold-pressed hemp oil.
Purists will like the fact that it contains little in the way of flavorings or additives, though the caramel powder (added for coloring) does detract from its appeal just a bit.
It’s a non-GMO product and is prepared without any preservatives, though it’s not certified organic like some of the other oils on this list. Considering the attractively low price, Manitoba Harvest is a solid contender across the board.
4. Dr. Adorable Help Seed Oil
Dr. Adorable is a well-loved purveyor of pure, organic hemp seed oil. It’s a solid contender, but it is hurt by the clear glass bottle (which allows light inside, which in turn causes degradation of some of the delicate compounds in cannabis oil extracts) and the moderately higher cost.
It’s also not marketed directly as a food supplement; again, this shouldn’t be a problem if the product is indeed 100% pure, but it never hurts to go with something intended for consumption.
5. Blue World Naturals Cannabis Sativa Hemp Seed Carrier Oil
This product is the right one for those seeking a hyper-pure cannabis derived oil for aromatherapy use or topical application. It’s too spendy to be consumed as a supplement.
While it’s quite expensive per ounce, few other competitors can match the purity claims of Blue World Naturals. The company uses advanced chemical purity analysis on every batch to ensure purity. Because of this, you should store it in the fridge after opening to ensure it retains its purity–some of the compounds in cannabis oil are quite delicate.
6. Sweet Essentials Extra Virgin Unrefined Hemp Seed Oil
Sweet Essentials is another contender in the “big and pure” category. While it’s a solid product, it gets beat out for two reasons. First, while it’s 100% pure and cold-pressed, it’s not USDA certified organic, and it isn’t quite as cost-effective as some of the other products on the market.
Still, make no mistake, it’s a good hemp oil, and people do love it. So don’t think you’re making the wrong call by going with Sweet Essentials’ hemp seed oil.
7. Renewalize Hemp Seed Oil
If you are interested in using hemp seed oil for its cosmetic purposes, you’ll have to check out Renewalize Hemp Seed Oil. It’s organic, cold-pressed, and includes only hemp oil as its sole ingredient.
While there’s no reason you couldn’t use it as a supplement, it’s not labeled as such, so it may not be subject to the same purity testing as a bona fide hemp oil supplement. The bottle is brown amber glass with an eyedropper on top, as is customary for oils like this, but the packaging also includes a facial sponge to underscore the recommended cosmetic use of the hemp seed oil.
8. Absolute Scientific Hemp Oil
Chalk this one up in the highly-pure category. It’s got the hallmarks of products that fit that description: small brown amber glass vial and dropper, lab-certified purity, and pretty spendy.
Unfortunately the actual hemp oil content is pretty low. Absolute scientific Hemp Oil would work okay as an aromatherapy product or a topical treatment for your skin, but look elsewhere for hemp oil to use as a supplement.
9. EndoCanna Care Pure Hemp Extract
The hemp extract made by EndoCanna boasts of its high omega 3, 6, and 9 content, but a typical serving size is only middle of the road when it comes to the fatty acid content.
It’s expensive compared to other products, and while the purity is good, it will get spendy if you are taking the recommended dosage every day (or if you need a high dose for relief of symptoms). As with other bottle-based hemp oil supplements, it's best if you refrigerate the dropper bottle after you’ve opened it.
10. Restore CALM Hemp Oil Infusion
Though the label highlights the hemp oil content, Restorative Botanicals’ hemp oil is mostly plain old MCT coconut oil. The hemp oil content, per one gram serving, is very small: only 14 mg! It includes natural flavoring to give the flavor and aroma a kick, but the poor hemp oil content is just a deal-breaker.
MCT oil from coconuts is dirt-cheap compared to cannabis extracts, so you can be sure that this product has a pretty high profit margin and a pretty low likelihood to be therapeutically useful.
Part Two: An in-depth look at CBD oil
With the ongoing legal and political battles over marijuana legalization, you've heard about a compound called cannabidiol, or CBD.
It's a cannabinoid, meaning that it's one of the dozens of bio-active chemicals found in cannabis. The most famous cannabinoid, of course, is THC—it's this cannabinoid which is responsible for the “high” associated with smoking marijuana. Cannabidiol, on the other hand, does not create a psychoactive high – it's of interest mostly for medical applications.
Cannabidiol is most easily used in a liquid form. Since it's not soluble in water, it is dissolved in a vegetable oil (often olive oil) and referred to as CBD oil. Its intriguing biological properties have attracted attention from scientists and medical researchers studying a number of health problems.
In June of 2015, Nora D. Volkow of the National Institute on Drug Abuse gave a presentation to the United States Senate Drug Caucus (1).
The caucus had called a hearing to inquire on the potential medical uses for cannabidiol, which remains difficult or illegal to obtain and use (depending on the oil's source) in many states. In it, she described the state of the scientific research behind the use of cannabidiol oil for a wide range of health problems.
CBD oil for epilepsy
Some fascinating evidence exists suggesting that CBD oil is effective as an adjunctive treatment in children with epilepsy that was not well-controlled by medication. Volkow cites a number of small studies and clinical reports which found that cannabidiol oil reduced the frequency of seizures. A 2012 review by Gloss and Vickrey at the University of California's Department of Neurology examined the limited number of studies available to date, noting that there were some promising results, but concluding that the studies were too small and too limited to draw any strong conclusions (2).
There was, however, good evidence that there were no major adverse effects (side effects) from the cannabidiol oil treatment protocols used.
CBD oil's brain-protecting and cancer-fighting effects
CBD oil also appears to have the ability to reduce inflammation and protect the brain from degenerative damage in diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. So far, the research has been mostly confined to the Petri dish and the microscope. Volkow cites one small study that found some improvement in quality of life in patients with Parkinson's disease. However, beyond this, no major studies have tested cannabidiol oil as a drug for preventing or slowing the progression of any neurological diseases.
Similarly promising results have been found in cell cultures of cancerous cells. Cannabidiol appears to have anti-tumor properties. Volkow notes that there are a number of clinical trials underway: within a few years, there should be some good research on whether CBD oil can reduce tumor size or slow the progression of cancer.
CBD oil for schizophrenia
Human trials are a little more advanced when it comes to using CBD oil to treat psychological problems. A 2012 study by a team of nine researchers in Germany, Italy, and the United States investigated the effects of cannabidiol on brain activity in patients with a diagnosis of schizophrenia (3).
The researchers compared cannabidiol to a common anti-psychotic drug called amisulpride. While both drugs were similarly effective at reducing the severity of symptoms, cannabidiol had far fewer side effects.
Further, analysis of blood samples revealed that patients who received cannabidiol had heightened levels of a particular neurotransmitter, and levels of this neurotransmitter in the blood were strongly and independently related to having fewer symptoms of schizophrenia. This indicates that CBD oil could one day become a reliable treatment for schizophrenia that has fewer side effects and uses a different biological mechanism to treat the problem.
CBD oil for anxiety
The neurological effects of cannabidiol might be useful for treating anxiety, too. A 2011 study in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology examined whether cannabidiol could reduce anxiety and nerves in people with social anxiety disorder who were assigned a simulated public-speaking test (4).
Half the volunteers were given a single dose of CBD, while the other half were given a placebo. All of the study's subjects were then instructed to prepare and give a short speech about their city.
To increase anxiety, the subjects were told the speech would be videotaped and later analyzed by a psychologist. Compared to the subjects who received the placebo, the subjects who were given cannabidiol had lower levels of self-assessed anxiety, less cognitive impairment, and were more alert. Their overall performance in the speech was nearly as good as that of healthy controls who didn't have social anxiety disorder!
So far, cannabidiol appears to be quite safe. A 2011 study published in the journal Current Drug Safety concluded that CBD oil use, even at fairly high doses, does not appear to be associated with any major side effects (5). However, the authors caution that more research is needed, along with studies that follow subjects for longer periods of time.
Could cannabidiol oil become a mainstream treatment?
Volkow's presentation proposes that many of the positive effects of cannabidiol are the result of its ability to modulate levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. This would explain why it appears to be a potent treatment for such a wide range of maladies.
Despite the fact that much of the research is at a very early stage, CBD oil shows a lot of promise in treating many chronic health conditions, including epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, cancer, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorders.
Volkow's presentation mentions a number of other emerging prospects for the compound, too: cannabidiol may work in concert with THC to reduce pain levels in people with neuropathy, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer pain; it may also help reduce pain and spasms in multiple sclerosis too.
Takeaway: With marijuana legalization in many states opening the door for more research into medical uses of compounds found in the marijuana plant, including cannabidiol, you're sure to hear a lot about it in the future. If larger, more carefully-designed studies continue to find the same positive effects of CBD oil, it's sure to make its way into the medical establishment as a mainstream treatment for a wide range of problems.