Cannabidiol (CBD) [can-a-bi-dye-all] is an extract of the cannabis plant.  So too, is Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) [tet-rah-hydro-ca-nab-in-all].  Together, these are the two most frequently considered cannabinoids in non-professional discussions. CBD Cannabinoids [can-ab-in-oids] themselves are simply molecules that react with the specific receptors in our bodies.

There are two classes of cannabinoid, the endocannabinoids, made within our bodies, and the phytocannabinoids, which are made by plants.  There are 133 different varieties and we continue to learn about them.  The molecules are largely the same, but slight variations in chemistry give them significantly different properties and capabilities.

History of hemp

Humans have been using hemp for at least 10,000 years, though possibly as much as 12,000 years ago in China, for its medicinal benefits.  All this “unregulated use” didn’t destroy humanity.  It used to be the best treatment for asthma and other bronchial disorders before the 1930s.

In fact, the greatest harm arising out of marijuana use has only occurred in the last 90 years because of the dangerous, often criminal subculture created by politicians trying to regulate it and the consequent overcrowding of prisons by people caught using it.

According to the nearest figures at hand (2016), alcohol killed 7,327 people from alcohol-specific causes in Britain; cannabis’ tally was 24.  Oddly, though the United States records ~88,000 deaths annually from alcohol, they record none for natural cannabis and only 20 from synthetic (laboratory made) cannabinoids.

Perhaps its mere presence at the scene of a death means (for us) that it is “involved”, even without any detection in the blood.  In any case, such deaths are (apparently) often the result of undiagnosed heart conditions, not inherent toxicity.

Cannabis Around the World

Different parts of the world have different rules for how cannabis, its components, or its by-products may be used.  July 2018 will see legal access to marijuana in much of Canada including government operated stores in the Province of Ontario, for example, operating on the same principle as the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO).  Customers will need to be age 19 or older to utilise the facilities.  Nice and simple…

In other jurisdictions you might require a medical prescription, or need to be suffering from a life-threatening disease to get a prescription. In yet others, simple possession could incur minor jail time, life imprisonment, or even the death penalty.

But how did marijuana, or all cannabis products, get such a bad reputation?  It began, predictably, in the United States—but as is often the case, not for the publically stated reasons. With the end of Prohibition’s demonisation of alcohol, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, which had previously said marijuana was harmless, found itself with a huge staff and nothing to do.


Cannabis in all its forms was wicked, maddening, and dangerous, they claimed.  The U.S. tried to impose its (misguided) will upon its trading partners, too. In the case of Mexico, who refused to make cannabis illegal, they cut off all shipments of painkillers to the country, and people began dying in agony in hospitals until the Mexican government capitulated and reluctantly made cannabis illegal, too.

It can all be traced directly back to one man: Harry J. Anslinger, Commissioner of the Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics.  It is not even certain if he believed the propaganda himself, but he was certainly adamant about it.

Modern Times

The problem arose in the U.S., but it looks like it will finally die there, too.  More than half the country has decriminalised possession through local and state legislation, and several states have made recreational possession and use completely legal. In Europe, cannabis is treated more leniently in the west and more severely in the east.

Additionally, Asia (China, et al) is severe while Russia is fairly laid back. In the UK, Britain’s former chief advisor on drugs to the British government, David Nutt, observed that if marijuana actually caused psychosis as claimed by its detractors, that such psychoses ought to rise and fall in direct proportion to use.

That contention doesn’t hold up, however, since psychosis in the population has remained rock-steady for the last 60 years despite a 4000% increase in British marijuana use since the 1960s.

Why CBD?

Cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD, came to the public’s attention because of the discovery of its use as a treatment option for childhood epilepsy (Dravet Syndrome).  Chronic, near-continuous seizures were not only ameliorated, but virtually stopped.  It came to the public’s attention with one particular victim named Charlotte (as you can see for yourself in this TED Talk) having up to four seizures per hour, all day, every day, and the herculean pursuit of a solution by her parents, Paige and Matt Figi.

Drugs such as benzodiazepine and barbiturates had been tried to no avail.  A ketogenic diet (high fat, low carbs) had helped for about two years, but certainly wasn’t a cure.  They heard about a very rare cannabis hybrid which was high in CBD and low in THC, through the limited and sketchy literature of the time.  At a cost of $800 for two ounces, they obtained a sample and had it purified by a chemist friend, tested by a laboratory, and gave a few drops to their daughter.

She didn’t have 4 seizures that hour.  She didn’t have a seizure for a week…  It actually worked!
There was no more to be had of the rare plant, however, so the search began.  Eventually through luck and circumstance they connected with the six Stanley Brothers (Jared, Jesse, Joel, Jon, Jordan, and Josh) of Colorado.  The Stanleys were experimenting to create a breed with next to no THC and rich in CBD to see if it was useful for anything.

It was such a boon to the child that they renamed the strain from Hippies’ Disappointment to the title of that gentle story about farm animals helping each other, Charlotte’s Web, in her honour.  The Colorado government wouldn’t let them give the non-psychotropic medicine away for free, so they charged them mere pennies per kilogram instead.

At the time, the Figi family was required to move to Colorado in order to obtain the CBD oil as it was still a “controlled substance” elsewhere in the country. The knowledge about the efficacy of the treatment spread like wildfire, however, and this is considered the turning point in history where public opinion finally started to veer back towards a more sensible attitude about this largely harmless plant.

Legislatures began to pass laws permitting medical use, and it has evolved since then towards legality in one form or another in most jurisdictions. Research was spurred on by the discovery, and we now look at CBD in a new light.  Its known properties include:

  • Anti-epileptic (preventing seizures, as shown above)
  • Analgesia (pain relief)
  • Anti-inflammatory (symptomatic of nearly every disease process)
  • Bronchodilator/ Muscle Relaxant
  • Anti-Asthmatic
  • Antiemetic (stop nausea/vomiting, e.g. cancer treatment patients)
  • Anxiolytic (reduces anxiety)
  • Anti-spasmodic
  • Anti-psychotic [study]
  • PTSD Treatment
  • Anti-tumour properties (in laboratory test conditions)
  • Anti-oxidant properties making it extremely neuroprotective
  • Anti-arteriosclerosis properties (plaque and blockages)

What other uses might be found in the future are largely incidental, since it has already proved its worth in a number of different categories.

CBD Vaping

CBD, in order for it to achieve its effects, needs to enter the blood stream so it can travel to where it can do its intended job.  If you simply swallow CBD, the stomach will digest a great deal of it and what passes through into the bloodstream (and eventually the liver) will result in a bioavailability of about 15%, or more specifically, if you ingest 50 mg of pure CBD you can look forward to 7.5 mg worth of effect in your body.

For many, sublingual (under the tongue) introduction of CBD is sufficient.  By placing it under the tongue, the sheer number of blood vessels near the surface can absorb the CBD and get much more of it directly into the blood stream and bypass the digestive process.  It may as much as double the effect.

All of our blood passes through our liver, which actively seeks to regulate all the chemicals floating around in there, using enzymes to break down things it deems unnecessary.  There is no easy way to avoid that; however, through so-called “vaping” a great deal more can be made available to the bloodstream though the lungs, which are rich in blood vessels designed for easy exchange between the air and the bloodstream.

Use Much Less

Vaping provides a 50 to 60% bioavailability factor (3-4 times more than simple ingestion), so it is much more cost effective, even after you include the expense of the variegated methods of Vaping.  You’ll need to invest in a CBD Vape Pen or E-cig, or a device of some kind, to vaporise your CBD and carrier fluid (we’ll discuss this in more detail below) as well as batteries and chargers, if it is a portable model.  The savings (ultimately) for vaping are quite tangible when compared to ingestion, or even sublingual consumption.

CBD Oil vs CBD Vape Liquids

These are not the same.  You cannot vape CBD Oil in your Vape Pen or E-cig.  You’ll just make a big mess, generate a disgusting taste, possibly destroying your device, or at least put it out of commission until it has had a thorough cleaning, and to top it off, get very little actual CBD.

There are some specialised devices that can vape real CBD Oil but they are uncommon and yours is not likely one of them.  The danger with vaping normal oils is Lipoid pneumonia, a very rare disease confined to former (or current) cigarette smokers.  E/Vape-liquids do not contain any oil so it cannot cause this disease process.

CBD Oil itself is usually in a carrier such as MCT (medium chain triglycerides), hemp, olive, or canola oil, which is highly digestible (and actually good for you).  It’s designed to be treated as an edible.  It should not be vaped because the “oil” component will burn when exposed to excessive heat.

Vape Liquids are not oil at all

CBD in its pure state is a white crystal that resembles table sugar.  It is not water soluble.  Some misguided retailers still label Vape liquids “Vape Oil”, because it is thicker than water and appears “oil-like”.  The essential thing to keep in mind is that you are looking for is a product that specifically says that it is designed for vaping-use, irrespective of whether or not it is mislabelled as “oil”.

E-Liquids, Vape Liquids, and suchlike are made from Vegetable Glycerine (VG), Propylene Glycol (PG), Distilled Water, and often, added flavouring.  When vaporized they become, essentially, steam.  Easily breathed in and out, but allowing the exchange of the essence of whatever they happen to be carrying, be it nicotine or CBD…

The Takeaway

Vaping CBD is the most effective and most economical method by which people use CBD to treat the ailments or deficiencies listed above.  You must keep your wits about you when purchasing your CBD products.

Locate products using edible oils for sublingual applications, and products specifically marked as CBD vaping products for your E-cigs or vaping pens. As long as you are fully aware that the two different products are not interchangeable, you should be fine.