Q&A with Nicole Brown
Nicole Brown serves as Chief Innovation Officer for Open Book Extracts (OBX), an ingredient manufacturer and product development house focused on cannabinoid-enabled health and wellness, located in North Carolina. As Chief Innovation Officer, Nicole channels data-driven consumer insights into a long-term course of action, delivering immediately usable innovation, and drives awareness and thought leadership by overseeing strategic marketing efforts, including PR, event marketing, advertising, and partnerships.
Exclusive interview with The 420 Area Code
420AC: How does CBD work in the body?
Ms. Brown: The human body is a complex machine, and the way it interacts with any compound, including Cannabidiol (CBD) can be even more so. CBD (Cannabidiol) is one of over 100 compounds found in hemp and marijuana. It’s the second most prevalent compound (second only to THC) in cannabis. CBD belongs to a class of molecules called phyto-cannabinoids and is non-psychoactive.
All cannabinoids, including CBD, produce effects in the body by attaching to certain receptors belonging to the endocannabinoid system. The Endocannabinoid System (ECS), named after the plant that led to its discovery, is perhaps the most important physiological system involved in establishing and maintaining human health. Endocannabinoids are some of the most versatile and widespread molecules. The system plays a major role in balancing many important functions. The endocannabinoid system also isn’t unique to humans. Scientists have found that the ECS exists in any animal with a vertebra, including fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays a very interesting and varied role within the body. At its most basic, the endocannabinoid system is a huge network of cannabinoid receptors which are spread through the body. The human endocannabinoid system releases cannabinoids that interact with receptors found in virtually all of the tissues in our bodies. You can also take in phyto-cannabinoids (CBD) in addition to those compounds that your body produces to help boost this system. The role of the endocannabinoid system is to bring balance to our tissues, including the heart, digestive, endocrine, immune, nervous, and reproductive systems. In short, it’s working to keep you in neutral. Neutral means different things in different areas of your body, which is possibly one of the very best things about the compound – it can have a different impact on different receptors in your body.
Cannabinoid receptors are found throughout the human body embedded in the cell membranes that are responsible for regulating multiple processes that we experience daily including mood, appetite, memory, and pain sensation. When they’re activated, it can be by naturally occurring endocannabinoids, as well as by the phyto-cannabinoids found in hemp and cannabis.
There are two major cannabinoid receptors – CB1 and CB2 (Researchers speculate there may be a third cannabinoid receptor waiting to be discovered.)
- CB1 receptors: CB1 receptors are concentrated in the brain and central nervous system but also sparsely populate other parts of our bodies. CB1 receptors deal with thinking, mood, appetite, memories, pain, emotion, movement, coordination, and several other functions. THC attaches to these receptors.
- CB2 receptors: CB2 receptors are mostly in the peripheral organs especially cells associated with the immune system. CB2 receptors affect inflammation and pain.
Scientists once believed that CBD attached to the CB2 receptors, but new studies have indicated that CBD does not attach directly to either receptor. Instead, it’s believed that CBD influences the endocannabinoid system indirectly.
When someone takes CBD, the compound goes into your system and to the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Since cannabidiol has been found to have no particular binding affinity, scientists believe CBD’s therapeutic benefits created via indirect action.
CBD inhibits fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), which breaks down anandamide and weakens it. CBD weakens FAAH, which leads to an increased concentration of anandamide. Anandamide is considered the “bliss molecule” and plays an important role in the generation of pleasure and motivation. The increased concentration of anandamide can have a positive effect on the endocannabinoid system.
CBD also affects the fatty acid binding protein (FABP). FABP proteins bind to anandamide and transport the enzyme outside the synapse to broken down and metabolized by the FAAH. CBD affects the transportation process of FABP so that less anandamide is metabolized, again resulting in a higher concentration of anandamide.
Finally, CBD binds itself to the G-protein receptors known as TRPV-1. TRVP-1 receptors are involved in regulating pain, body temperature, and inflammation. It is through this bind that scientists believe CBD helps with inflammation and pain relief.
420AC: What health benefits does CBD really provide?
Ms. Brown: Cannabidiol (CBD) is a popular natural remedy used for many common ailments — it is one of over 100 chemical compounds known as cannabinoids found in the cannabis or marijuana plant, Cannabis sativa (1).
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis and causes the sensation of getting “high” that’s often associated with marijuana. However, unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive.
This quality makes CBD an appealing option for those who are looking for relief from pain and other symptoms without the mind-altering effects of marijuana or certain pharmaceutical drugs. It’s gaining momentum in the health and wellness world, with some scientific studies confirming it may ease symptoms of ailments like chronic pain and anxiety.
Here are seven health benefits of CBD oil that are backed by scientific evidence.
1. Can Relieve Pain
More recently, scientists have discovered that certain components of marijuana, including CBD, are responsible for its pain-relieving effects. The human body contains a specialized system called the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is involved in regulating a variety of functions including sleep, appetite, pain and immune system response (3). The body produces endocannabinoids, which are neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors in your nervous system.
- Studies have shown that CBD may help reduce chronic pain by impacting endocannabinoid receptor activity, reducing inflammation, and interacting with neurotransmitters (4)
- For example, one study in rats found that CBD injections reduced pain response to surgical incision, while another rat study found that oral CBD treatment significantly reduced sciatic nerve pain and inflammation (5, 6)
- Several human studies have found that a combination of CBD and THC is effective in treating pain related to multiple sclerosis and arthritis.
- An oral spray called Sativex, which is a combination of THC and CBD, is approved in several countries to treat pain related to multiple sclerosis.
- One study of 47 people with multiple sclerosis examined the effects of taking Sativex for one month. The participants experienced improvements in pain, walking, and muscle spasms. Still, the study didn’t include any control group and placebo effects cannot be ruled out (7).
- Another study found that Sativex significantly improved pain during movement, pain at rest and sleep quality in 58 people with rheumatoid arthritis (8).
2. Could Reduce Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety and depression are common mental health disorders that can have devastating impacts on health and well-being. According to the World Health Organization, depression is the single largest contributor to disability worldwide, while anxiety disorders are ranked sixth (9). Anxiety and depression are usually treated with pharmaceutical drugs, which can cause a number of side effects including drowsiness, agitation, insomnia, sexual dysfunction, and headache (10). What’s more, medications like benzodiazepines can be addictive and may lead to substance abuse (11)
CBD has shown promise as a treatment for both depression and anxiety, leading many who live with these disorders to become interested in this natural approach.
- In one Brazilian study, 57 men received either oral CBD or a placebo 90 minutes before they underwent a simulated public speaking test. The researchers found that a 300-mg dose of CBD was the most effective at significantly reducing anxiety during the test. The placebo, a 150-mg dose of CBD, and a 600-mg dose of CBD had little to no effect on anxiety (12)
- CBD oil has even been used to safely treat insomnia and anxiety in children with post-traumatic stress disorder (13)
- CBD has also shown antidepressant-like effects in several animal studies (14, 15)
- These qualities are linked to CBD’s ability to act on the brain’s receptors for serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and social behavior.
3. Can Alleviate Cancer-Related Symptoms
CBD may help reduce symptoms related to cancer and side effects related to cancer treatment, like nausea, vomiting and pain.
- One study looked at the effects of CBD and THC in 177 people with cancer-related pain who did not experience relief from pain medication. Those treated with an extract containing both compounds experienced a significant reduction in pain compared to those who received only THC extract (16).
- CBD may also help reduce chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, which are among the most common chemotherapy-related side effects for those with cancer (17).
- Though there are drugs that help with these distressing symptoms, they are sometimes ineffective, leading some people to seek alternatives.
- A study of 16 people undergoing chemotherapy found that a one-to-one combination of CBD and THC administered via mouth spray reduced chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting better than standard treatment alone (18)
- Some test-tube and animal studies have even shown that CBD may have anticancer properties. For example, one test-tube study found that concentrated CBD induced cell death in human breast cancer cells (19)
- Another study showed that CBD inhibited the spread of aggressive breast cancer cells in mice (20). However, these are test-tube and animal studies, so they can only suggest what might work in people. More studies in humans are needed before conclusions can be made.
4. May Reduce Acne
Acne is a common skin condition that affects more than 9% of the population (21). It is thought to be caused by a number of factors, including genetics, bacteria, underlying inflammation and the overproduction of sebum, an oily secretion made by sebaceous glands in the skin (22, 23). Based on recent scientific studies, CBD oil may help treat acne due to its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to reduce sebum production.
- One test-tube study found that CBD oil prevented sebaceous gland cells from secreting excessive sebum, exerted anti-inflammatory actions and prevented the activation of “pro-acne” agents like inflammatory cytokines (24)
- Another study had similar findings, concluding that CBD may be an efficient and safe way to treat acne, thanks in part to its remarkable anti-inflammatory qualities (25)
- Though these results are promising, human studies exploring the effects of CBD on acne are needed.
5. Might Have Neuroprotective Properties
Researchers believe that CBD’s ability to act on the endocannabinoid system and other brain signaling systems may provide benefits for those with neurological disorders. In fact, one of the most studied uses for CBD is in treating neurological disorders like epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. Though research in this area is still relatively new, several studies have shown promising results. Sativex, an oral spray consisting of CBD and THC, has been proven to be a safe and effective way to reduce muscle spasticity in people with multiple sclerosis.
- One study found that Sativex reduced spasms in 75% of 276 people with multiple sclerosis who were experiencing muscle spasticity that was resistant to medications (26).
- Another study gave 214 people with severe epilepsy 0.9–2.3 grams of CBD oil per pound (2–5 g/kg) of body weight. Their seizures reduced by a median of 36.5% (27).
- One more study found that CBD oil significantly reduced seizure activity in children with Dravet syndrome, a complex childhood epilepsy disorder, compared to a placebo (28).
- However, it’s important to note that some people in both these studies experienced adverse reactions associated with CBD treatment, such as convulsions, fever and fatigue.
- CBD has also been researched for its potential effectiveness in treating several other neurological diseases.
- For example, several studies have shown that treatment with CBD improved quality of life and sleep quality for people with Parkinson’s disease (29, 30)
- Additionally, animal, and test-tube studies have shown that CBD may decrease inflammation and help prevent the neurodegeneration associated with Alzheimer’s disease (31)
- In one long-term study, researchers gave CBD to mice genetically predisposed to Alzheimer’s disease, finding that it helped prevent cognitive decline (32)
6. Could Benefit Heart Health
Recent research has linked CBD with several benefits for the heart and circulatory system, including the ability to lower high blood pressure.
- High blood pressure is linked to higher risks of a number of health conditions, including stroke, heart attack and metabolic syndrome (33)
- Studies indicate that CBD may be able to help with high blood pressure.
- One recent study treated nine healthy men with one dose of 600 mg of CBD oil and found it reduced resting blood pressure, compared to a placebo.
- The same study also gave the men stress tests that normally increase blood pressure. Interestingly, the single dose of CBD led the men to experience a smaller blood pressure increase than normal in response to these tests (34)
- Researchers have suggested that the stress- and anxiety-reducing properties of CBD are responsible for its ability to help lower blood pressure.
- Additionally, several animal studies have demonstrated that CBD may help reduce the inflammation and cell death associated with heart disease due to its powerful antioxidant and stress-reducing properties.
- For example, one study found that treatment with CBD reduced oxidative stress and prevented heart damage in diabetic mice with heart disease (35).
7. Several Other Potential Benefits
CBD has been studied for its role in treating a number of health issues other than those outlined above.
Though more studies are needed, CBD is thought to provide the following health benefits:
- Antipsychotic effects: Studies suggest that CBD may help people with schizophrenia and other mental disorders by reducing psychotic symptoms (36)
- Substance abuse treatment: CBD has been shown to modify circuits in the brain related to drug
addiction. In rats, CBD has been shown to reduce morphine dependence and
heroin-seeking behavior (37)
- Anti-tumor effects: In test-tube and animal studies, CBD has demonstrated anti-tumor effects. In animals, it has been shown to prevent the spread of breast, prostate, brain, colon and lung cancer (38)
- Diabetes prevention: In diabetic mice, treatment with CBD reduced the incidence of diabetes by 56% and significantly reduced inflammation (39)
420AC: What are the most notable CBD flower effects?
Ms. Brown: CBD flower is the bud of the hemp plant. Hemp is cannabis with less than 0.3% THC, the part of the marijuana plant that gets you high. While THC can drastically alter your mood and perception, the cannabinoid CBD may treat a variety of aches, pains, and other conditions. For this reason, hemp-based CBD has become a sought-after foundation for therapeutic oils. CBD compounds mixed with essential oils are frequently used as creams, tinctures, and blends for massage therapy and other uses.
Any health advantages that CBD offers may also be present in CBD hemp flower. In addition, because hemp flower contains negligible THC, it is not addictive. While hemp products may not produce the euphoria that many cannabis users seek, they also do not lead to unwanted side effects like brain fog and memory issues.
Consumption method also influences how beneficial flower can be for you. If you have a respiratory condition, such as asthma, smoking or vaping flower would not be the best choice
420AC: What is the difference between broad-spectrum CBD, full-spectrum CBD, and CBD Isolate?
Ms. Brown: The difference between broad spectrum, full spectrum and CBD isolate is simply the chemical compound content found in each of the products.
- Full spectrum CBD means that it uses all of the phytochemicals found in Cannabis sativa; this includes cannabidiol along with terpenes, essential oils, and other cannabinoids such as CBG, CBC, and CBDV, as well as THC. However, the THC content can still be under 0.3 percent.
- Broad spectrum CBD contains all of the phytochemicals found in Cannabis sativa; this includes cannabidiol along with terpenes, essential oils, and other cannabinoids such as CBG, CBC, and CBDV, but it does not contain THC. The THC has been removed completely, resulting in a THC-free raw ingredient.
- CBD Isolate only contains CBD and is often found in crystal or powder form; it contains no other compounds found in cannabis, except for the pure CBD itself.
420AC: The Entourage Effect is often talked about. What is it?
Ms. Brown: A growing number of researchers believe CBD can produce superior results when administered in a more natural form, either together or in combination with other chemical compounds found in cannabis plants like the minor cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. Such compounds are often referred to as whole-plant or full-spectrum products.
They claim this is the result of a theoretical principle known as the entourage effect. While some still have doubts, experimental and anecdotal evidence has convinced many cannabis consumers and industry professionals that the entourage effect is real.
The entourage effect is believed to emerge from the interactions between cannabinoids and between terpenes and cannabinoids. Terpenes are essential oils with distinctive aromas and flavors, and the characteristics of individual cannabis products are often determined by their relative concentrations of specific terpenes. Currently, most of the research into the entourage effect has focused on the interactions between THC and CBD, and more specifically, on how the latter might affect the former.
“The biggest influence [on THC] is CBD,” states Ethan Russo, a neurologist who serves as Director of Research and Development at the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute in Prague. Perhaps no one in the industry has gone to greater lengths to prove the existence of the entourage effect than Russo, who has been scouring the scientific literature in search of its footprints for decades.