We dig into the wonders and benefits of CBD and look into its surge in popularity.
“Say no to drugs and stay away from marijuana!” I’m sure we were all warned similarly when we were young. My first association with marijuana was music; of the seven main forms of art, music is probably the most closely connected to cannabis. Many musicians’ names have become near-synonymous with weed, the first in line probably being Bob Marley. Many years later, when I first heard about CBD (short for cannabidiol) and with the knowledge that it comes from hemp, which belongs to the same family of cannabis plants as marijuana, I initially had a negative impression. However, my curiosity arose a year ago when a friend of mine handed me a bottle of hand-crafted CBD beer and started educating me. CBD has exploded in the market in the past year—but confusion has reigned. Let’s discover what CBD is and trace its recent popularity.
THE MYTH: WHAT GIVES HEMP A BAD NAME?
Hemp, possibly the earliest plant to be cultivated by humans, has been highly controversial since the beginning of the 20th century. Hemp has been widely used in the production of textiles, paper, food, and building materials for thousands of years, since it is one of the strongest natural fibres in the world. It had never been considered dangerous or illegal until around 1910, when nearly a million Mexicans migrated to the US, seeking refuge from the emerging Mexican Revolution. Anti-Mexican sentiment began brewing and the name “marijuana” arose to refer, in a negative sense, to the use of cannabis by Mexican immigrants. As the condemnation of cannabis use grew more widespread, the US began passing anti-marijuana laws—and hemp, belonging to the same family, was regulated as an illegal substance.
THE RISE: SO, DOES HEMP EQUAL MARIJUANA?
No, not really. While hemp and marijuana are often visually indistinguishable from each other, they are in fact different varieties of the same plant species. Two of the compounds in marijuana are delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and CBD. Until recently, THC was the best-known compound in cannabis. It is the most active constituent and it has a psychological effect, creating a mind-altering “high” when a person smokes it or uses it in cooking. CBD, in contrast, is not psychoactive. It doesn’t change a person’s state of mind when they use it. However, it may produce significant changes in the body and is showing some major medical benefits as well. In 2018, the US Agriculture Improvement Act (aka the Farm Bill) legalised hemp, which is defined as cannabis that contains no more than 0.3 percent THC. In other words, if a CBD product comes from a hemp plant, it’s legal. This legality varies across different countries. In Hong Kong, it’s only legal when the product contains 0 percent THC.
THE IMPACT: HOW DOES CBD WORK?
CBD and THC work by interacting with our body’s endocannabinoid system, a regulatory system made up of naturally occurring cannabis-like molecules. These endocannabinoids shuttle messages through the body to help maintain homeostasis. Our body produces two receptors: CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are present throughout the body, particularly in the brain, to coordinate movement, pain, emotion, mood, thinking, appetite, memories, and other functions. CB2 receptors are more common in the immune system. They affect inflammation and pain. THC attaches to CB1 receptors, but CBD stimulates the receptors so that the body produces its own endocannabinoids. Research has shown that CBD offers great antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits to reduce inflammation, dryness, and free-radical damage on our skin. It has also been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of chronic pain, anxiety and depression, sleep disorders, migraines, nausea, cancer, and more.
If it seems like you’re seeing CBD products everywhere, that’s because you are! CBD is available in a variety of forms and products. The most common and effective one is CBD oil. However, for beginners and those who want to start off easy, the choices aren’t limited at all, with CBD honey, chocolate, beer and coffee beans available on the Hong Kong market.