What it is

Cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD, is an active ingredient in medical marijuana. CBD is derived from both hemp and low-THC strains of cannabis, and has no psychoactive properties. According to the World Health Organization, “CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential….to date, there is no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”

CBD is best extracted through a low temperature, high pressure process using CO2, and is then mixed with alcohol as a tincture, or infused in oils appropriate for ingestion or topical application.

How it works in the human body

CBD works with the body’s own endocannabinoid system, where naturally produced cannabinoids bind with receptors throughout the body to balance heart, digestive, endocrine, immune, nervous, and reproductive functions. CBD does not bind directly with these receptors, but can positively influence their molecular signaling systems, their receptors, and ion channels.

CBD has a strong affinity to fatty acid binding proteins; these delay the chemical process in cells which is responsible for inflammation
CBD is a vanilloid receptor activator, unclogging blood vessels and causing rapid desensitization and pain relief
CBD binds with serotonin receptors, inhibiting serotonin action and thus reducing pain, insomnia and anxiety

Health benefits

While herbalists have appreciated the benefits of cannabis for millennia, medical science has only recently discovered a number of positive uses for CBD. These applications have been proven effective, or have indications of positive physical/mental impact:

  • Pain relief. Perhaps the most common use for CBD is pain relief. While widely accepted, there has, until recently, been little scientific proof. Studies by researchers at Montreal’s McGill University, and by a team in the European Journal of Pain, have found promising evidence that regular dosing with CBD reduce chronic pain.
  • Chemotherapy. CBD is commonly used to treat the symptoms of chemotherapy: nausea, loss of appetite and insomnia. While there is widespread anecdotal evidence of CBD’s efficacy, small recent trials have shown that there may be scientific evidence to back this up.
  • Anxiety. A review published in Neurotherapeutics found that CBD may be effective in reducing a number of anxiety disorders, such as PTSD, OCD and Social Anxiety.
  • Epilepsy. After extensive clinical trial, the FDA approved CBD in the treatment of two rare forms of epilepsy. Research suggests CBD may be effective in treating other forms of epilepsy.
  • Type 1 Diabetes. Research published in 2016 in Clinical Hemorheology and Microcirculation found CBD may ease inflammation of the pancreas, a primary cause of diabetes.
  • Alzheimer’s. research in the Journal of Alzheimer’s found that CBD prevented development of social recognition deficit, a common symptom of Alzheimer’s.
  • Quitting smoking. A study published in Addictive Behaviors found that users of inhalers with CBD consumed fewer cigarettes, and had no further cravings for nicotine.
  • Opioid addiction. A review in Neurotherapeutics found that CBD may be a promising treatment for opioid addiction. Studies in Michigan and Israel found that cannabis use reduced opioid use, and in some cases led to discontinuance of opioid use.
  • Cancer. A review in the British Journal of Pharmacology found evidence that CBD helped to significantly prevent the spread of cancer.

Side effects

For most people, CBD has proven safe and well-tolerated, especially in low to moderate doses. Studies have shown that there may be a few occasional side-effects, including dry mouth, diarrhea, fatigue, low blood pressure and changes in appetite. In some rare cases, rather than relieve anxiety, it may cause it.

WebMD cautions women that “There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking cannabidiol if you are pregnant or breast feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.” It also reports that early research shows high levels of CBD could make tremors worse in Parkinson’s patients.

Until recently, it was thought that CBD might be a promising treatment for Glaucoma, but a study released in December 2018 finds that it may increase pressure on the eye—the primary risk factor in Glaucoma—rather than decrease it.


Cannabis use is legal for both medical and recreational purposes in Massachusetts. Adults 21 or older may keep up to 10 ounces at home, or 1 ounce on their person out of home, and can share up to 1 ounce with another adult. Sale of cannabis is legal only in approved medical or recreational dispensaries.

CBD oil derived from hemp is legal in the U.S. based on the 2014 Farm Bill. Hemp-based CBD oil is treated as a dietary supplement and is available on-line and in specialty hemp stores. Cannabis-based CBD is available in cannabis dispensaries.

CBD and professional practice

The Massachusetts Chiropractic Board ruled that chiropractors may offer clients dietary advice. While they’ve not ruled on using or advising patients on CBD, given its status as a dietary supplement, it appears that it would fall within accepted scope of work.

Cannabis/hemp has been a part of Chinese traditional medicine for thousands of years and is being rediscovered by acupuncturists. The professional journal, Acupuncture Today, cites an on-line cannabinoid certification program for healthcare professionals.

As massage therapists learn about the benefits of CBD, use of legal, hemp-based CBD oil in massage therapy is becoming more common, relaxing patients, easing pain, and allowing therapist to go deeper.

There seems to be a divide in the yoga community about use of cannabis and CBD oil in yoga. On one side are practitioners who feel that CBD oil can reduce pain and stiffness, making yoga postures easier, and reduce anxiety, helping people to relax and quiet their minds. Some feel smoking or ingesting cannabis can help focus the mind and bring inner peace—key benefits of yoga itself. On the other side are those who feel that as CBD oil wasn’t available in traditional ayurvedic medicine, it shouldn’t be part of a yogi’s practice, and that use of cannabis is an escape from emotions, not a way to deal with them. The growing popularity of yoga-and-weed classes in California, Washington and Colorado is an indication that this is something Massachusetts yoga instructors might seriously consider to enhance class experience and increase attendance.

Resources to inform your clients

If you think cannabis can be an enhancement to your practice, and would like to provide information about how it can enhance your clients’ health and well-being, give us a call—we’re happy to help you develop digital and print materials you can distribute, or create an informative event we can host together.

In the meantime, check-out these articles—you might want to post them on your website:

Sources: Acupuncture Today; American Academy of Ophthalmology; Forbes Magazine; GreenWellness; Harvard Health Publishing; Massachusetts Board of Registration of Chiropractors; Medical News Today; National Cancer Institute; National Institutes of Health; Project CBD; Science Daily; Spa Industry Association; WebMD; Yoga Journal