First, it’s important to understand the endocannabinoid system or ECS. You may be familiar with this relatively new term but still confused about what it is exactly. The endocannabinoid system is 600-million-years old, but only recently discovered in the late ’80s by a scientist researching the cannabis plant. What researchers found was an intricate and intelligent receptor-site system located throughout the body that’s responsible for regulating sleep-wake cycles, mood, anxiety and stress, metabolism, energy, pain and inflammation, brain health and much more.
While it has nothing to do with getting “high,” the ECS is an incredibly important system that plays an integral part in the regulation, maintenance, and balance of optimal health and healing. “The ECS with its actions in our immune system, nervous system, and all the body’s organs, is literally a bridge between body and mind,” says Dustin Sulak, DO.
How CBD Affects the Body
So, what do you do if you’re drug tested in your profession, but still want to experience the health benefits of CBD? You can either avoid the substance altogether or you can take a safe CBD alternative that works on your endocannabinoid system better than CBD alone.
Drug testing has become common in many workplaces, and mandatory for those in federal positions, law enforcement, aviation, health and emergency medical care, and athletics (particularly those tested for banned substances). What many CBD users don’t realize is that trace amounts of THC (the psychoactive compound in cannabis) can be found in CBD products, posing a potential risk of a positive drug test.
Now that you know a little more about how the ECS works, let’s dive into how CBD interacts with this system and affects the body. Your endocannabinoid system requires “activators” called cannabinoids. Some cannabinoids are produced naturally in your body, called endocannabinoids and others are derived from plants (like hemp or cannabis) called phytocannabinoids. These cannabinoids bind to receptor sites (CB1 and CB2) like a key does to a lock and may release an intricate cascade of neurotransmitters that communicate vital information to cells, tissues, organs, and glands critical to maintaining optimal health and homeostasis. However, scientists have discovered hundreds of non-cannabis and non-hemp plants that also contain healing phytocannabinoids that can activate and support the endocannabinoid system. This means you can achieve the same results with other options.
“We really see the future of this industry leaning into minor cannabinoids.” —Gabe Kennedy, Plant People co-founder
Plant People is another leading brand that’s betting big on cannabinoids other than CBD. “We really see the future of this industry leaning into minor cannabinoids,” says Gabe Kennedy, the company’s co-founder. “We’ve been able to create unique products that [address] specific solutions by sourcing oils that have high minor cannabinoid content.” These include Plant People’s Double Strength Drops+ Sleep, which debuted in May 2019 and blends CBN-rich hemp extract with an array of calming terpenes, and its brand-new skin-care line featuring anti-inflammatory CBC alongside other cannabinoids and botanical ingredients.
“CBC, CBG, and CBN are all being isolated and purified by formulators so they can reintroduce them into bespoke product formulations,” says Mills Miller, founder of hemp wellness brand Mineral. “We have created proprietary hemp genetics on our farm to produce plants which are higher in each of the different cannabinoids to serve our different products.” Mineral’s post-workout Recovery tincture and Maison salve include high concentrations of CBG alongside a broad spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes—celebrity trainers Kirsty Godso and Joe Holder are fans of both products. (Miller notes that since relaunching Maison in summer 2019 with higher CBG percentages, sales of that product have tripled.) Its best-selling Sleep tincture, which launched in November 2018 and is responsible for 28 percent of the company’s revenue, is rich in CBN.
Although CBD, or cannabidiol, is the most abundant cannabinoid found in hemp, it’s just one of many that are thought to be supportive in the face of mental or physical stress. CBG (cannabigerol) and CBC (cannabichromene) have been touted as anti-inflammatory agents. CBN (cannabinol) shows some promise as a sleep aid. While CBD is also believed to have these benefits, some product developers believe they can create more nuanced, targeted solutions by incorporating higher levels of these secondary cannabinoids.
Farmers, too, are banking on a rise in interest in CBD oil alternatives. One example: Hemptown USA—a network of hemp growers that closed a $23 million funding round earlier this year—is planning to double its acreage in 2020 with a focus on high-CBG hemp strains.