My experience with CBD oil and how it affects the human body

Is it marijuana? Will it make you high? Can you drive if you take it? Do you smoke it? Will it make you drowsy? Can people tell you are taking it? What’s it actually for?

Illustration showing CBD oil bottle pippet dropping CBD oil into someones hand
Illustration showing CBD oil bottle pippet dropping CBD oil into someones hand

What is CBD oil?

CBD stands for cannabidiol, it is one of 113 identified cannabinoids found in marijuana and hemp and accounts for up to 40% of the plant’s extract. The effects of marijuana, when smoked or ingested, are split into two — psychoactive (THC) and non-psychoactive (CBD), therefore CBD will not make you ‘high’. Basically, it’s the part of marijuana that makes you feel relaxed.

The Human Body’s Response

The endocannabinoid system is a molecular system that exists within the human body that is responsible for regulating and balancing many processes, including immune response, communication between cells, appetite and metabolism, memory, pain and more. It is a complex network of receptors and neurotransmitters spread throughout the body. Our bodies produce endocannabinoids naturally that interact with this system, CBD oil enticing the body to make more of its own natural cannabinoids.

Benefits of CBD oil

  • Can be used to help with pain relief
  • Can reduce anxiety and depression symptoms
  • Can help with cancer-related symptoms
  • Can help reduce side effects of neurological disorders including seizures
  • Can help with pain from arthritis by reducing inflammation
  • Can be used to help metabolism issues such as irritable bowel syndrome

…Makes sense right?

Okay, so… I have been taking CBD oil for over two years now, and people don’t know unless I tell them. One of the things I find if I do talk about CBD oil is that it seems a taboo topic, just from the fact that people don’t understand it. Because CBD is linked strongly to marijuana use, people assume that it’s an oil that gets you high — this couldn’t be further from the truth. You tend to get one of three reactions when you talk about it, you get the ‘in the know’ people, which honestly doesn’t happen all that often; you get the ‘I’m somehow offended by your choice to take that’ people, which is most people; and you get the ‘ohhhhh you’re naughty!’ people, these are the people that think you are walking around high everyday and that you have just brought up a subject that is so taboo they look around the room to make sure nobody is listening.

My experience

When I first started taking CBD oil, there really wasn’t much choice. You could buy it online, which was really expensive, or Holland and Barratt’s was the only place you could really walk in and buy it. These days, it’s everywhere — it’s in food, it’s in drinks, it’s in soap… it’s taking over! And honestly, I still don’t think people actually understand what it is or does — they have just jumped straight on to the fad that is now ‘CBD’.

The first thing you really need to concern yourself with when looking to try CBD is, obviously the quality, but also the percentage. The percentage relates to how strong the oil is, usually, it’s best to start at 2.5% and then work your way up if it works for you. If you’re thinking about trying CBD oil my best advice is to do research yourself, what works best for me may not work best for you. There are different types of oils and different strengths but, like anything else, you need to try them to see how they work for you.

When I started taking CBD oil, I was at the height of my anxiety struggle, I wasn’t in a good place physically or mentally and was truly hoping that this would help. I think my first few experiences were enhanced slightly due to my deteriorating mental state, for some people I know that the effects do take some time. For me, it felt like I could actually breathe fully again for the first time in as long as I can remember. What I mean by that, and this is difficult to explain, is if you breathe in as much as you possibly can, it feels like you go into a second space. A space that you usually don’t breathe in. I felt like I wasn’t breathing fully before, like everything in my body was tense and I had finally let go.

The few weeks that followed I found, strange. This is because the effects it had I didn’t expect. The first few weeks my shoulders ached so much I really didn’t know why, and I didn’t realise why until the day I forgot to take my oil. My shoulders were aching so much because, for so long, I had been holding them so tight and tensed that when I finally relaxed my muscles, they were full of lactic acid — kind of like when you do too much in the gym and your muscles are extremely sore for days.

Most people think that if you take it, your world will become… hazy. For me at least, it was the opposite, I felt like I could see again. Have you ever been into one of those kids soft play areas in the summer when there’s what seems like 1000 children all running around and screaming at once? That’s what my head feels like when my anxiety is bad. I feel like every thought I’ve ever had, for as long as I can remember, is screaming at me all at once — along with all of my muscles hurting from my body tensing. Safe to say, I didn’t forget again quickly.

This clearly isn’t a solution for anxiety and depression, but for me, it gave me the time I needed to sort myself out.

Two years later

Nearly two years on from when I first started taking my oil, I am now up to 5% CBD oil but I don’t take it every day. I have made such extreme changes in my lifestyle to positively change my physical and mental state that I am stable day to day without the need for my oil. However, anxiety is something that I live with and will always live with, and sometimes I have bad days. My bad days are nowhere near as bad as they used to be, but they still happen. I know my body now, I know when it’s good, I know when it’s bad, I know when it’s struggling and in need of a release or help. I take my CBD oil maybe once a week or less and I still cherish the release it offers me.

The stigma around mental health and CBD oil can be dramatically shifted with educating people properly, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to understand for themselves because the hard truth is, everyone will know someone struggling with one of the issues CBD oil helps with — and in reality everyone will likely know someone who takes it. In the past I have been told that I am ‘not the right type of person to suffer from anxiety’ because I am seemingly fully functioning day to day, there for everyone that needs me, have worked hard to build my career and, according to social media, I am happy all of the time and am doing well at life.

You never know what someone is going through, be kind.

Written by

UX designer, accessibility champion and mental health first aider and advocate.

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