The popularity of cannabidiol, or CBD, oil has recently exploded in Iowa the way fireflies appear on a warm summer night. As a natural foods retailer, I see firsthand the burgeoning interest in CBD, with customers regularly stopping in to learn about this promising new supplement. Due to its newness, customers have lots of questions about CBD that range from curiosity to skepticism to hopefulness. What is CBD? Is it safe? Will it make me high? Does it work?
CBD is a phytochemical extracted from the cannabis plant, but has virtually no THC. It’s one of over 100 phytocompounds naturally occurring in hemp, along with other health-promoting molecules. Medical marijuana, its more familiar cousin, has higher levels of THC, the psychoactive component responsible for its famous “high.” The most popular brand of CBD oil sold in Iowa natural food stores is produced from tall, lanky European hemp plants, which have very little THC, and as defined in the 2014 Farm Bill must contain no more than 0.3 percent THC to be legally imported into the U.S.
Scientists are finding CBD has strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties. Fascinating research is revealing the existence of a regulatory bodily system called the endocannabinoid system, which maintains balance in the body. Cells throughout the body contain receptors for endocannabinoids, and CBD interacts with this system, thus playing a key role in supporting the body in a deeply therapeutic way. Experts surmise that stress reduction techniques like yoga and meditation also benefit this system (so keep doing your yoga!).
Customers report using CBD for a wide variety of issues, including supporting healthy sleep, mood and pain levels. I see people from all walks of life using CBD, from 20-somethings with sleep issues, to 70-year-olds with achy knees. CBD comes in lots of forms, including soft gels, tinctures, lozenges, gummies and topical creams. Newer research is showing that full spectrum, whole plant CBD oil is more therapeutic than an isolated CBD extract. When shopping for CBD, ask if the oil is full spectrum, and how the oil was extracted from the plant. CO2 extraction tends to be the gold standard, resulting in a superior product, while solvent extracted oils should be avoided, as often low-cost solvents are used that can leave behind toxic residues.
Iowa is slated to open five medical marijuana dispensaries in December 2018, to sell medical-grade CBD that legally can contain up to 3 percent THC. These dispensaries will serve a small subset of Iowans with qualifying serious health conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.
People purchasing CBD at natural food stores represent a different population than those seeking an Iowa medical card. These folks are quite healthy overall, and are looking to augment their overall quality of life. The product provided by the dispensaries will likely be a more highly concentrated form of CBD, while what is available in retail stores now is more a whole food supplement. I believe there is room for both the dispensaries and the retail outlets to provide high quality CBD products.
The future looks very bright for CBD products, from a consumer and manufacturer standpoint. The farm bill that is currently making its way through Congress has language that would legalize hemp farming in the U.S., and allow for a wider access of hemp products. This makes a lot of sense, and could afford some great opportunities for Iowa farmers.
Perhaps there will be a time in the not-too-distant future when CBD will take its place alongside Grandma’s chicken soup as an everyday tried and true remedy.
Kim McDermott is a wellness manager at Wheatsfield Co-op in Ames, Iowa. She has an interest in natural foods and natural healing, and has been following this passion for the past 25 years. This article was originally published in YogaIowa magazine in October 2018.