Up until very recently, the cannabis world was all about THC.
For years, the quality of cannabis for many recreational and medical users was solely dependent on the THC content of that particular strain. As you probably know, the widely shared belief was that higher concentrations equated to better quality and higher potency. In other words, the more THC, the better the marijuana.
So to make their customers happy, breeders focused on creating more powerful and potent strains by increasing THC levels in their cannabis while neglecting other cannabinoids.
According to High Times, the strongest strain on earth for 2016 —and the new record holder for the highest potency ever recorded at a High Times Cannabis Cup event — is none other than Chem Dog which reached a staggering 32.13% THC!
But while demand for high THC strains has continued to rage on, a new phenomenon has suddenly emerged in the ever-evolving world of cannabis.
Surprisingly, strong demand for the other major compound found in the cannabis sativa plant, called cannabidiol (CBD), has created a brand new category in the industry in just the last few years.
You see, clinical studies have shown CBD to have a wide range of effects that may be therapeutically useful, including anti-seizure, antioxidant, neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-tumor, anti-psychotic, and anti-anxiety properties. CBD is also non-psychoactive, unlike THC. Furthermore, CBD has no negative side effects, does not damage the body or mind, is not addictive, and cannot be overdosed on.
More importantly, the mainstream media has begun to pick up on CBD and its miraculous healing abilities – with global networks like CNN producing and airing special documentaries that have been watched by millions of people worldwide.
This has caused an explosion in demand and created a disruptive new industry that could make many prescription drugs obsolete.
Today, consumers who are seeking the wide ranging medical benefits of the cannabis plant, but don’t want to get “high”, are focusing on strains that are rich in other cannabinoids – especially CBD. As a result, cannabis seed breeders and growers are now producing many new strains that exhibit high levels of CBD.
What to look for when choosing CBD-Rich Strains
When looking at a strain’s cannabinoid content, any CBD content level that is 4% or higher is considered a high CBD strain.
But while that may seem low (especially when compared with THC contents over 30%), keep in mind that cannabis genetics were geared towards high THC content and nothing else for many years. This caused CBD to nearly disappear from the cannabis gene pool before breeders began bringing it back.
All of this has begun to change however as strains with up 18% CBD have emerged in the last few years. Of course, 18% content may be difficult to find, but high CBD strains of 8% – 12% are now very common as well.
Charlotte’s Web is still considered the gold standard for CBD-rich strains of cannabis. CNN documentaries received widespread publicity and popularized Charlotte’s Web as a possible treatment for epilepsy and other conditions. Produced in Colorado by the Stanley brothers and marketed through CW Botanicals, the CBD content of Charlotte’s Web products has been measured to contain 17% CBD with only trace amounts of THC at 0.3%. Products include hemp oil, hemp oil for pets, hemp capsules, and even hemp infused coffee.
Avidekel, another CBD-rich strain of cannabis, is produced by Israeli firm Tikun Olam. Backed by the Israel Ministry of Health since 2007, Tikun Olam Ltd. is the first, largest and foremost supplier of medical cannabis in Israel, and one of leading medical cannabis companies in the world. It is also the flag bearer and pioneer of the treatment of patients with medical cannabis in Israel.
Avidekel is currently being used in treatments for cancer, Crohn’s and colitis, PTSD, fibromyalgia, and arthritis and has been measured to contain roughly 18% CBD and 1% THC.
The Future Looks Bright
Both Charlotte’s Web and Avidekel have gained a cult following over the last few years and have contributed to changes in the U.S. as federal regulators have begun to relax their stance towards cannabis – at least where CBD is concerned.
Most recently, British biotech company GW Pharmaceuticals announced positive results on its latest FDA-authorized Phase 3 clinical trial for its drug Epidiolex. The drug is CBD-based and is used to treat children with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a rare form of childhood epilepsy.
The company still needs to obtain approval, but they plan to submit a New Drug Application with the FDA in the first half of 2017. If they succeed, it would be the first plant-derived cannabinoid drug in the U.S. to be approved and would force the DEA to reschedule the drug from Schedule 1 status. Analysts expect Epidiolex to get approved by the first half of 2018.
This could be monumental for breeders and growers who produce CBD-rich strains of cannabis. Without the legal red tape holding back an entire industry, we could see a huge comeback for CBD content in cannabis which will translate to greater medical benefits for users who simply have no desire to get “high”. The next couple of years will be very interesting as this story develops. Stay tuned.
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