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CBD Oil: Definition, Extraction Methods, Health Benefits, and Precautions

Natural remedies are gaining momentum in the today’s world. Cannabidiol is one of the most discussed of them. Its effectiveness has been proven by numerous highly regarded studies. What is CBD Oil? How is it produced and what beneficial effects may it exert on the body?


What is Cannabidiol (CBD Oil)?

Probably each person has heard about marijuana (cannabis). This is a well-known psychoactive drug, which is used for recreational and medicinal purposes. Some people may become addicted to it, so in many countries it is prohibited. However, cannabis contain a lot of substances which may have healthful effects.

CBD belongs to the group of cannabinoid substances contained in cannabis. The principal cannabinoid which is responsible for narcotic properties of marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol ((−)-trans-Δ⁹-tetrahydrocannabinol, THC). It causes “getting high” feeling, impairs the ability to drive, and also leads to intoxication of the body. However, CBD is not a psychoactive substance and cannot cause addiction. Therefore, it can be successfully used to treat certain conditions, such as pain, without the risks to mental health.

How Is CBD Oil Made?

This product is made of cannabis. Several oil extraction methods are used by manufacturers. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages; however, some have higher safety profile and/or are more effective.

The main purpose of cannabidiol extraction is to obtain a highly concentrated product. Cannabinoids have an oily structure, so their separation leads to the formation of a very thick oil. That is why CBD oil has received its well-known name.

The purity and texture of the extracted substance depends mainly on the production technology used.

Cannabioids in cannabis are of terpenophenolic nature. Due to this, they can be dissolved in both alcohol (ethanol) and water. According to these considerations, the producers use both ethanol-based substances and solvents that are powerful for oil dissolution. Supercritical carbon dioxide (a fluid state of CO2), hydrocarbons (compounds of hydrogen and carbon), ethanol, and olive oil are typically used for CBD extraction.

  1. CO2 Extraction. This method is one of the most common ones, it is also very safe. Normally CO2 is a gas. However, with the help of elevated temperature and high pressure, it reaches a supercritical state, in which its density is like that of a liquid, and its viscosity and surface tension are like that of a gas. This unusual physical substance (fluid) is an excellent non-polar solvent. It allows for extracting the necessary elements from raw materials with the highest accuracy. After reducing the pressure, the waxy substance with high CBD content is separated from the gas, as it returns to its usual gaseous form. This substance has a brilliant golden color. After this, it undergoes additional purification, known as “winterization”. The key task of this process is to remove vegetable waxes from the resulting substance, since they cannot be included in some types of products and in general they may be undesirable for the human body. In addition, “winterization” allows drugmakers to remove chlorophyll (a green pigment). Removing oil with CO2 is expensive and requires highly specialized knowledge. However, it is not associated with burning and is significantly safer.
  2. Ethanol Extraction. Ethanol has been used to extract medical substances from plants for a long time. Back in the middle of the 19th century, the American Pharmacopoeia recommended hemp-based alcoholic tinctures to treat mood collapses, hemorrhages, pain, and neuralgia (a disease of peripheral nerves, which is manifested as intense, intermittent pain). Such tinctures were actively used by the population until the 1930s when a ban on cannabis-based products was imposed by the US law. However, these tinctures continued to be used underground, especially in the communities where Latin Americans lived. Ethanol destroys hydrogen bonds and weakens the electrostatic interaction of lipids and proteins. It should be borne in mind that alcoholic extracts from plant material, as a rule, contain resinous substances, pigments anthocyanins, carotenes, chlorophyll, flavones, etc. (waxes, sterols, fats, balms, etc.). One of the currently popular products obtained by this method is Rick Simpson Oil. However, it contains all the cannabinoids and not just one cannabidiol, including a small amount of THC. Because of the possibility of the psychoactive action of Rick Simpson Oil and the presence of other substances in its composition, manufacturers recommend using it in very small dosages (one dose should not exceed the rice grain size).
  3. Hydrocarbon Extraction. This technology involves the use of hydrocarbon solvents like butane (C₄H₁₀), hexane (C₆H₁₄), propane (C₃H₈), or their mixtures. If the proper implementation of the technique is ensured, it allows for getting a pure product, which is properly separated from unwanted substances like chlorophyll. The main advantage of this method is a high degree of purification and separation of excess components. The product retains a unique smell and all therapeutic properties. However, hydrocarbons are flammable substances that can also have a neurotoxic effect. If the product is poorly cleaned, it can both explode in case of non-compliance with safety measures and cause harm to health.
  4. Olive and other oils. These substances may be used to get homemade CBD oil. Oils are much safer choice than solvents which can easily get inflamed and cause a conflagration. The study by the Italians L.L. Romano et al. (2013) evaluated effectiveness of five solvents, including petroleum ether, ethanol, naphtha, and oil from olives. They showed practically the same efficacy, but olive oil methods were considered safer due to the absence of risk of blowing up. Two techniques based on olive oil usage were described. The first involves olive oil and water, which should be heated in a water bath (with added cannabis) for an hour. To separate oil and water, the solution should be put in the freezer. According to another technique, olive oil is used solely for extraction. Cannabis (10 g) and the oil (100 mL) should be heated in a water bath for 2 hours. Then just collect the oil which has become rich in CBD.

Warning: don’t believe supplement corporations that claim they extract CBD from industrial hemp seeds. These seeds definitely have healthy components, such as omega 3 (polyunsaturated fatty acids), and plant proteins. However, they are extremely poor in CBD content. Cannabis oil may contain traces of cannabinoid if the seed covering isn’t meticulously rinsed. However, these small amounts are virtually not able to provide beneficial effects.

CBD Oil Benefits

This plant component has been researched multiple times and in a bunch of directions. According to the PubMed, the largest database of biomedical literature from science journals, online books, etc., there are 68 studies, the subject of which has been CBD.

Let’s explore benefits of CBD oil in detail using scientific evidence.

1. Pain Relief

Marijuana is an ancient remedy for pain treatment. There is data indicating that it was used for this purposes in 2900 BC. Contemporary scientists have revealed that come components of the plant, including CBD oil are responsible for reducing painful sensations.

This healthful effect is associated with the presence of the endocannabinoid biosystem in the human organism, which is responsible, in particular, for pain modulation.

Scientists have revealed that CBD is helpful for reducing chronic pain related to cancer (see below), arthritis illnesses, and multiple sclerosis in the elderly.

2. Reducing Depression

Depression & anxiety belong to widespread mental impairments that can affect the overall health condition and wellness.

In the WHO’s ranking system, depression is the most powerful factor causing disability while anxiety occupies the sixth position. For treating dispiritedness, medicines are typically used. They can cause different adverse events among which are sleeplessness, headache, sexual disorder, agitation and drowsiness. Moreover, some pharmaceutical drugs such as benzodiazepines frequently lead to addiction.

CBD oil is a promising substance for coping with depression. Those patients who experience these health problems are getting increasingly interested in using natural remedies, in particular this oil.

In one experiment, involving 24 participants, the first group were given CBD oil in the dose of 600mg while the second one received a placebo before delivering a speech in front of the audience. The CBD group members experienced a lower degree of anxiety and psychological discomfort than their placebo counterparts did.

There are medical data proving CBD oil’s efficiency in treating insomnia in children suffering from stress caused by trauma. According to animal experiments, CBD has demonstrated antidepressant action.

These properties are associated with the oil’s ability to impact the brain’s neurotransmitter regulating social behavior and mood.

3. Fighting Anxiety

There is evidence that this product can help cope with anxiety. According to the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America), more than 40 million Americans from the age group over 18 suffer from this pathological mental condition. This is the most common mental disorder in the United States. There are effective medicines for treating anxiety, but the problem is that they can cause a number of very unpleasant side effects, both psychological and physiological, in particular, a decrease in libido and a deterioration of erectile function in men. Therefore, alternative treatments for depression are greatly appreciated. According to WebMD, CBD may be an efficacious tool for fighting anxiety, in particular, social anxiety, a fear of being evaluated or judged by other folks which is manifested by such symptoms as inadequacy, embarrassment, inferiority, and so on.

There are already many clinical data on the effectiveness of this product for the treatment of anxiety (the evidence base ranks second in terms of persuasiveness after epilepsy), but the drug intended for these purposes has not yet been officially approved. However, cannabidiol has been used successfully to eliminate the symptoms of anxiety in informal medicine.

4. Alleviation of Cancer-Associated Symptoms

The “marijuana oil” may diminish symptoms related to malignant tumors and their treatment, caused mostly by the chemotherapy. These symptoms include pain, queasiness in the stomach, and vomiting.

The number of studies of CBD effectiveness in this area have been conducted.

  • The UK scientists J.R. Johnson, M. Burnell-Nugent et al. (2010) studied the efficiency of tetrahydrocannabinol, one of about 110 cannabinoids in the plant, and CBD in persons who hadn’t received relief from traditional painkillers. Patients who had administered a mix of these two components experienced more powerful pain reduce in comparison with those who had taken only tetrahydrocannabinol.
  • According to 2006 study by B. Bloechl-Daum, R.P. Deuson and others, who are researchers from Austria, the remedy may inhibit vomiting and nausea caused by chemotherapy. As it’s known, chemotherapy (“chemo”) is used in cancer patients to kill cancer cells throughout the body. Due to this, it has high effectiveness, but side effects may be very annoying and exhaustive. CBD can be helpful in such cases. In the mentioned study, volunteers received CBD+ tetrahydrocannabinol oral spray. This treatment appeared to be more effective than commonly used drugs.
  • There are even studies indicating that CBD may kill cancer cells. For instance, the group of scientists from Boston (2011) reported that CBD concentrate slayed malignant cells in case of breast cancer. However, it was performed in vitro (test tube). Another study by Californian researchers (2007) found that the substance suppressed aggressive metastasizing in mice. Because of the absence of research on the human body, more investigation is needed in this direction.


5. Treating Epilepsy

In the spring of 2018, the FDA approved one of the CBD-based drugs (Epidiolex) for the treatment of epilepsy in children. This was done because of the availability of convincing scientific evidence about the effectiveness of the use of this drug in this age group. Clinical trials were also conducted with the participation of adult patients, but the evidence base for children was more extensive. Epidiolex is intended for the treatment of two rare but serious forms of epilepsy – Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome – which are often resistant to the traditional drug treatment. Moreover, as was stated by the US regulator, the medication was the first approved remedy for Dravet syndrome.

  • More than 500 patients took part in the triad of large-scale clinical experiments during which the effectiveness of the drug was tested.
  • In most patients, 4-6 anticonvulsant medications appeared to be ineffective. In addition, they usually took about three such medicines at the time, however their seizures were beyond control. These were, in particular, clobazam (Onfi), stiripentol (Diacomit), and valproate.
  • The drug can cause side effects such as drowsiness, gastrointestinal dysfunction, diarrhea, increased rates of liver enzymes, weakness, fatigue, skin rash (not acne), infectious diseases, problems with falling asleep and sleep.
  • The dosage should be adjusted to the weight of the child.

6. Combatting Acne (Pimples)

Acne is a modern-day scourge, especially in younger population. It is mostly caused by the features of nutrition which is offered nowadays. Over 9 per cent of the population is affected by this skin condition. We’ve found three studies specifying anti-acne properties of CBD.

  • In 2014, the team of Hungarian researchers reported that the oil prevented excessive formation of sebum by sebaceous glands. In normal quantities, sebum performs important functions. It waterproofs and lubricates the skin and hair. However, its overproduction leads to the development of acne. In addition to sebum regulation, CBD has anti-inflammatory effect; it also prevents activation of acne-associated agents, such as cytokines.
  • An international research (2016) contains well-tested information that cannabidiol may exert positive anti-inflammatory effects when treating acne. It has been positioned as a safe and efficient method to combat this unpleasant condition.
  • In 2017, German scientists at nova-Institut reported about scientific data referring to CBD’s effects regarding ameliorating acne.


Experts express concern about possible interactions of this substance with other drugs. For example, Timothy Welty at Drake University (Iowa) has claimed that CBD increases rates of other anti-epileptic meds in the blood in people who administer both CBD and epilepsy pharmaceuticals. What does this mean? This means that such people most likely need to adjust (reduce) the dosage of antiepileptic drugs if they are going to take cannabidiol.

A small percentage of volunteers taking CBD had a very high level of liver enzymes, which could indicate liver damage. Some people were forced to stop taking the product due to extremely high levels. This may prove that the use of the drug may be contraindicated in people with severe hepatic diseases.

According to the study by the Americans B.J. Ortiz et al. (2019), minimum information is available regarding possible interactions between CBD and anticancer agents. However, doctors and pharmacists should always consider the risk of interactions whenever they know that a person uses CBD products.

In addition, keep in mind that despite its naturalness, CBD may still cause side effects like drowsiness, stomach disorders, and sleeping difficulties. To minimize chances of their occurrence, don’t overdose CBD, and use it in recommended quantities.

Conclusions on Whether You Should Use CBD

CBD a fully natural product with scientifically proven health benefits. Moreover, this oil is not a narcotic drug. As you’ve learned above, it should not be confused with ordinary marijuana. It may serve as a powerful remedy for a multitude of health conditions, so why not use it?

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