CBD oil in Aotearoa

Is CBD oil, as some say, a perfectly designed natural therapy? Good finds out more.

Words Emma Stone

Cannabis has been on the radar of many New Zealanders recently, with the government passing the Medicinal Cannabis Amendment Bill in December 2018, and a referendum on recreational cannabis use planned for 2020.

One of the critical elements of the amendment is the re-classification of cannabidiol, or CBD, so it is descheduled as a Class B1 controlled drug and recognised as a prescription medicine.

What is CBD and why all the interest?

Scientists have described cannabis as a pharmacological treasure trove. CBD is a cannabinoid – a unique chemical compound found in cannabis plants. Cannabis contains more than 100 cannabinoids, most of which we still know little about. The other well-known cannabinoid is THC,  the psychoactive compound that stimulates the sensation of feeling high. CBD does not cause users to get high; in fact, some clinical studies have shown that CBD can counteract the psychoactive properties of THC.

CBD has recently captured the attention of scientists due to its ability to reduce the incidence of severe convulsive seizures among some sufferers of epilepsy. Research into other applications of CBD oil is currently exploding, with studies showing that it has the potential to deliver therapeutic benefits to those suffering from diverse conditions characterised by chronic pain and inflammation.

Where does CBD come from?

CBD oil is sourced from the leaves of both marijuana and industrial hemp plants. Marijuana is the cannabis plant used for recreational and medicinal purposes, while hemp is more commonly used to produce fibres and food. CBD can be extracted from the resin in the leaves of both plants, and distilled into oil.

Even if CBD is taken from the leaves of marijuana plants, the compound can be isolated, with minimal traces of THC, meaning the user won’t get high.

How does CBD act on the body?

CBD impacts the body’s endocannabinoid system and helps to regulate pain and inflammation, appetite and energy levels. The endocannabinoid system extends throughout the human body, with cannabinoid receptors
on cell surfaces.

When we ingest or inhale CBD, it binds with the cannabinoid receptors in our body, supplementing our existing cannabinoid levels and bolstering our body’s ability to respond to illness. CBD is better integrated into our physiological system than synthetic drugs.

CBD and THC: More than the sum of its parts

According to some researchers, growers, and consumers, the beneficial and therapeutic properties of CBD can be significantly enhanced when combined with a healthy dose of THC. In the wild, cannabis generally contains moderate concentrations of both THC and CBD, along with other cannabinoids, terpenes (these are the properties that endow cannabis with its unique scent), flavonoids and phytonutrients. 

These compounds work collaboratively to enhance the effects of cannabis, a process referred to as the entourage effect. Research into better understanding how CBD behaves in conjunction with other compounds is ongoing.

CBD in New Zealand

As the Ministry of Health works to develop domestic commercial cultivation and manufacture of medicinal cannabis, businesses focusing on developing and disseminating the benefits of CBD are beginning to emerge. One of the most prominent companies paving the way is Helius Therapeutics, New Zealand’s largest licensed producer of cannabis. According to executive director Paul Manning, CBD has the potential to transform New Zealand’s therapeutic landscape. “More and more Kiwis are seeking to put goodness into their bodies, for wellness, healing and extending their quality of life,” says Manning. “Consumers are seriously catching on to this amazing compound. Its healing properties are abundant, and the evidence to support its efficacy continues to grow. The demand for CBD will be enormous in New Zealand. It has the potential to displace other therapeutics and harsher pharmaceuticals, like opiates or benzodiazepines.”

Helius is currently building a world-class research and development lab. The brand has already achieved certified New Zealand Grown status, and by 2020, all Helius cannabis products will be grown and manufactured locally. There are 12 CBD products in the pipeline for New Zealand, with more coming. Kiwis can expect to see these new CBD products in pharmacies soon. 

“In time, CBD will transition from pharmacies to health-food stores, juice bars, and supermarkets,” adds Manning. “Expect to see CBD move out of the tincture bottle and into a myriad different wellness formats in coming years – and New Zealand has the opportunity to be at the forefront of this nascent industry.“ 

What can CBD help with?

At the moment, CBD is most commonly used as a form of pain relief, a therapy for epilepsy and a treatment for various forms of inflammation. However, some studies have identified it as an effective potential therapy for:

  • Depression, schizophrenia, and psychosis
  • Stroke rehabilitation
  • High blood pressure
  • Skin disorders such as acne, psoriasis and eczema
  • Nausea
  • Gut disorders
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Neurodegenerative diseases

Prescription meds that are often used to treat these conditions can be accompanied by severe side effects. Many medical experts agree that in comparison to mainstream drugs, CBD has a more favourable safety profile for humans (and animals).

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