6 reasons why CBD might not be working for you

Posted by Ross Clark on

Around 70% of consumers and patients that try CBD experience noticeable benefits to their health from consuming CBD products, but what about the other 30%?

While it’s unlikely that 100% of people would experience benefits from CBD, the number is most likely much higher than 70%.

This is because our bodies homeostasis is regulated by the endocannabinoid system. Our bodies naturally produce endocannabinoids which attach to endocannabinoid receptors (mostly CB1 and CB2 receptors) that are found in every organ in the human body including the brain.

The endocannabinoid system regulates things like mood, pain, sleep patterns, memory, inflammation amongst many others. Additionally, both internal (deficiency, disease, medication, infection, etc.) or external (stress, environment, injury, etc.) can throw our system out of whack. If that’s the case, most of the population should benefit from a daily dose of phytocannabinoids (found in plants like hemp), such as CBD, which also bind with endocannabinoid receptors even if its purely as a preventative measure. So why are only 70% of people experiencing benefits? Below I dig into the six most likely reasons you aren’t experiencing the full benefits you hoped for from your CBD product.

  1. 1.      There isn’t as much CBD as the label says

First and foremost, consumers need to be on their A game when shopping for CBD products. While there are many reputable companies providing top notch products that are what they say they are, many companies are pushing products marketed as containing CBD, but there may be zero CBD content or much less than the label says. This isn’t just a hypothesis, at this point it’s well documented that many CBD products don’t contain the amount of CBD their labels claim. Just this past week Leafly conducted a study where they reviewed 47 products at random and had them tested at cannabis labs in Seattle to compare what the label said to the lab results. The results were quite interesting to say the least as more than 50% percent of products tested had less CBD than was claimed on the label.

It’s important to review the lab reports of the product you are purchasing to ensure the contents match up with the label. If you can’t find a lab report, move onto the next brand as it’s a “red flag” that you could be looking at a fake product right before your eyes. While this may sound overwhelming if you are out and about shopping at your local Natural Food store, companies with nothing to hide make reviewing lab reports an easy process. Typically, you’ll find a QR code on the product which can be scanned with your smartphone to pull up the lab report instantly. If there is no QR code it’s not an immediate “move on”, but more of a “proceed with caution” type warning. If no QR is present, pull up the brand website and search for “lab reports” in the top navigation links. Sometimes the lab report is also right on the shop product page. If you can’t find lab reports easily, it’s time to move on.

  1.     The “ingredients beyond CBD” don’t support your wellness needs

If I could move this up to the number one spot I would because this is probably the least understood challenge with CBD products that even veteran CBD users may not understand.

You may be saying to yourself – wait a minute, so I don’t just have to worry about the CBD content being accurate, I also must look for other product attributes? The answer is unequivocally “Yes”. Many consumers and patients are just beginning to learn about the benefits of CBD and fail to understand that CBD acts synergistically with other cannabinoids and terpenes. This synergistic relationship is known as the entourage effect, a term made famous by well known cannabis researcher Ethan Russo. Beyond the medicinal potential, this proven phenomenon may be the most interesting aspect for those that study cannabis. Most of us can do basic math and understand that 1+1=2, but what if I told you that depending on the additional cannabinoids and terpenes present with CBD, 1+1 may not equal 2. It may equal 3, 2.5 or even 1.7 – it all depends on what other compounds are present with the CBD. For example, Myrcene, the most common terpene found in cannabis, has shown the ability to reduce the blood brain barrier and can enhance the amount of CBD that binds with CB1 and CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system. Another terpene called Beta Caryophyllene is known as a terpenoid due to its ability to act as both a terpene and a cannabinoid. Beta Caryophyllene interacts with the CB2 receptor in the endocannabinoid system like CBD.

Other terpenes like Limonene promote a mood boost and energy, alpha pinene is great for focus, memory retention and pain, the list goes on and on. It’s important for consumers and patients to have a general understanding of terpenes, and to actively look for terpenes on lab reports that will support their wellness needs. Despite terpenes being well known and studied amongst cannabis researchers, almost no CBD companies ensure consistent terpene profiles to support specific wellness needs. 

  1.     You aren’t taking a high enough dose

Finding the proper dose of CBD for your body and wellness needs can be difficult. Most of the reason is due to the lack of clinical trials conducted on CBD to provide patients a better understanding the dosage required by symptom. However, as explained above, the entourage effect will always make this challenging when more than one or two cannabis compounds is present (as is the case in all full or broad-spectrum products). All CBD brands will provide recommended dosages of anywhere between 20-40mg per serving and preach a “start low, go slow” strategy, which is the right call with how little we currently know. It’s best to see how CBD interacts with your body before taking a high dose. Many consumers without chronic ailments may notice a benefit even from this low of a dose of CBD. However, studies conducted on CBD with patients with severe general anxiety disorder found doses much higher to be effective, with little to no effect at 20-40mg levels recommended by most brands. One research study conducted on anxiety put patients through a public speaking exercise and compared their level of fear of speaking with placebo vs. different doses of CBD. The study concluded that anxiety and fear of public speaking was greatly reduced at dosages of 300 - 600 mg of CBD. While its best practice to start low and go slow, if you aren’t feeling the desired effect don’t be afraid to take a higher dose.

  1.     You aren’t taking it when you should

Bioavailability is an important term when talking about any medication but may be a term that most consumers are unfamiliar with. Bioavailability refers to the amount of active compound consumed that makes it to the bloodstream, which is necessary to gain therapeutic benefits and have the medication spread throughout the body. When and how you take CBD, as well as the delivery method (product type) will all affect the bioavailability of CBD. There are a variety of different delivery methods that CBD products come in and some are better than others at increasing bioavailability. CBD is not water soluble and is a large molecule which limits its ability to reach the bloodstream. Many active ingredients in medicine suffer the same challenge and to solve this issue medical technologies like nano technology were developed. However, nanotechnology is new, and the jury is still out as to whether it has the potential to do more harm than good to the human body. It’s wise to stick to all-natural products until more studies are completed on technologies that reduce the molecule size of active compounds.

CBD products come in many different forms with the most popular being tinctures, edible food products, topical, transdermal, vape and capsule, however not all of these are created equal. With CBD, like other medications, the general goal is for the active ingredient to make it to the bloodstream without being denatured or blocked. Transdermal and vaping have the highest bioavailability as both bypass the gastrointestinal tract which can cause denaturing of CBD. Transdermal leverages skin penetration enhancers to send CBD through the skin barrier, muscles and into the bloodstream and can produce bioavailability of 80+% in certain formulations. With vaping CBD, the lungs are full of capillaries, allowing CBD to easily access the bloodstream, where up to 40% of CBD can be bioavailable. The most popular form of CBD products are tinctures due to their ability to produce high bioavailability and easy to measure dosages. While tinctures can produce bioavailability north of 20%, it’s critical that certain steps are followed to reach this level, otherwise only 5-10% of the CBD you consume will make it to the bloodstream:

  1.     Consume your CBD on an empty stomach or 20-30 minutes prior to meals
  2.     Drop the tincture under your tongue and hold it for at a minimum 1 minute

These two steps ensure that CBD won’t be mixed in with food and potentially denatured, and access to one of the highest concentrations of capillaries in the human body (under the tongue), providing a clear route to the bloodstream. Capsules and topical products provide the lowest bioavailability of all CBD product types due to the lack of their direct route to the bloodstream. Capsules aren’t released until they reach the GI tract and stomach acid, food and other variables can denature the CBD content. Topical products lack the skin penetration enhancers that are present in transdermal formulations leaving ~95% of the CBD blocked by the skin.

  1.     Your body isn’t endocannabinoid deficient

Some people’s bodies are just rock stars and can conquer the internal and external environment disruptors that can cause a temporary or chronic endocannabinoid deficiency. Endocannabinoids are naturally made compounds in the body that are almost identically structured to phytocannabinoids, which are cannabinoids such as CBD found in plants. Most of us are susceptible to our bodies being thrown out of homeostasis causing pain, anxiety, insomnia, and other symptoms. The bodies homeostasis can be compromised by internal and external environmental factors. While much research needs to occur, it’s unlikely your endocannabinoid system is never deficient.

  1.     You bought it at a petrol station…

Don’t be this person, just don’t. CBD products found at petrol stations are cheap, and due to the infancy of the market, cheap in this case doesn’t mean good or value. Overtime CBD products will become cheaper and cheaper; however, this will happen gradually over the next 10 years. Cheap products generally mean low quality in infant industries like hemp. Hemp goes through several different processes to make it to the product that consumers purchase. The hemp must first be grown, and many farmers are just learning how to grow the crop effectively, which leads to high failure rate and price increases. Additionally, the hemp must be dried and cured, another process which can result in failure and crop loss. Then the hemp biomass must go through an extraction process that requires costly technology and/or solvents such as C02 and ethanol extraction. From there the extract must be formulated and manufactured into the end products that consumers purchase. This is a costly and lengthy process that overtime will become more efficient. However, for now products found at low quality retail establishments like petrol stations should be avoided at all costs. They are low cost for a reason and surely lack the CBD content they are advertising on the bottle. Additionally, I haven’t seen a product at a petrol station marketed over 300mg of CBD. Purchasing these kinds of products will only lead to false claims (reason number 1) and inability to consume high enough doses (reason number 3).

If you haven’t noticed the benefits you hoped for out of your CBD product, consider these six potential reasons as to why. Please share if you’ve experienced no effect at first, but stuck with it and now have found relief!


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