By Sherri Romm, Owner, Versacchi Studios, Owings Mills, Maryland

High-quality cannabidiol, or CBD, used as intended and on a consistent basis, possesses the potential to stimulate hair growth, making it an attractive natural alternative for treating and preventing hair loss.

There I said it. I will explain how, but first a little background.

Cannabis History (Lasered Version)

Cannabis has a long, rich history indigenous to Asia as one of the earliest domesticated crops. It has been used in China for more than 8,500 years for both industrial and medicinal uses. Cannabis was introduced to Western Asia and Europe in 2,000-1,000 BCE and was primarily used for fiber. For hundreds of years, hemp fiber was the No. 1 choice for rope and sailcloth and was vital to the shipping industry during the Industrial Revolution. In 1545 it was introduced to the Spanish Colonies. In 1606, cannabis made its way to North America.

FUN FACTS: In 1619, the Virginia Assembly passed a law that all households had to produce hemp. It was accepted as currency in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin and Henry Clay all farmed hemp.

Cannabis has an extensive, fascinating past, but there is not enough time or space here to take a “deep dive.”  The important takeaway is that cannabis is “deeply rooted” in Earth’s history to provide raw material and natural medicine. Historically controversial, cannabis has also been used for political and economic posturing, and to racially profile certain groups of people. Fortunately, cannabis is gaining unprecedented recognition in the scientific, medical and spiritual realms for its powerful protective and healing properties.  

Hemp vs. Marijuana:
What’s the Difference?

A common misconception is that hemp and marijuana are two separate species of cannabis plants. The truth is that science doesn’t differentiate between the two, but the law does.

Legally, tetrahydrocannabinol — THC — is the distinguishing factor. 

The term “hemp” means the cannabis contains .3% or less of the THC content by dry weight. “Marijuana” contains more than .3% of the THC by dry weight. THC content can vary among cannabis plants due to genetic breeding, farming methods, extraction method and intent of use. 

Cannabis plants have been designated as cannabis sativa, cannabis indica, or a hybrid. Each has its own purported characteristics and effects. For the sake of this article, we will refer to the terms cannabis and hemp (.3 percent or less of THC) interchangeably. 

What is Cannabidiol (CBD)?

Cannabidiol —  CBD — is a naturally occurring compound found in the resinous flower of cannabis, a plant with a rich history as medicine going back thousands of years. A safe, nonaddictive substance, CBD is one of more than a hundred “phytocannabinoids,” unique to cannabis and endow the plant with its robust therapeutic profile.

CBD is closely related to another important medicinally active phytocannabinoid: tetrahydrocannabinol — THC — the psychoactive compound that causes the famous “high.”

Both CBD and THC have significant therapeutic attributes. But unlike THC, CBD does not make a person feel “stoned” or intoxicated. That’s because CBD and THC act in different ways on different receptors in the brain and body.

How Can CBD Help?

CBD has so many therapeutic benefits; it’s hard to know where to start. I’ve highlighted the benefits that directly correlate to hair loss and healthy hair growth.

Providing Restful Sleep and Less Stress

We all live in stressful times in society that can wreak havoc on one’s well-being (understatement of the year!). 

Continuously high levels of stress lead to excessive production of cortisol, which is a hormone that triggers the “flight or fight” response when you’re in a dangerous situation. High amounts of cortisol in the body have been associated with:

■ Hair loss

■ Weight gain

■ Sleeping difficulty 

When you have less cortisol in your system, you have a higher chance of getting more restful sleep, preventing hair loss. CBD has been shown to reduce anxiety, improve sleep patterns, and help with stress management in day-to-day situations, potentially reducing hair loss risk. It makes sense, right?

CBD Oil Can Reduce Inflammation

Chronic inflammation can be devastating for your general health, but it also significantly worsens the condition of your hair’s health, including its growth. CBD can suppress inflammation in the body, promoting a healthy environment for hair to grow on the scalp. It can also reach sebaceous glands that secrete sebum to lubricate hair in follicles, preventing them from drying out.

CBD Oil Improves Blood Circulation

Better blood flow offers many benefits for the body, especially around hair follicles, encouraging hair growth. Since CBD increases cerebral blood flow, it brings more nutrients to hair follicles while removing harmful toxins and thus allowing hair to become healthier and stronger.

CBD Oil Nutritional Benefits

Incorporating CBD oil into your diet allows you to take advantage of the vast nutrients you may not be getting in your diet to promote healthy hair. The cannabis plant packs a punch when it comes to nutritional information making it arguably one of the most nutrient-dense plants. Cannabis seeds are considered a complete protein source, are gluten- and dairy-free and are packed with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The cannabis leaves are rich in fiber, flavonoids, essential oils, magnesium, calcium, beta-carotene, iron, potassium, etc. Full-spectrum CBD oil incorporates these macronutrients into a small amount.

Endocannabinoid System — ECS: Crucial for Homeostasis

Homeostasis is your body’s efforts to keep everything balanced, your internal environment stable and optimal no matter what’s going on in the world around you. Think of it as a “gatekeeper” who continuously monitors important levels and functions in your body. 

Is your temperature too high, too low, or just right? Are you tired and need to rest? Is your heart beating too fast? Do you feel hungry? Is too much of something building up in your bloodstream or inside of your cells? Are your hormone levels what they should be? You get the point. When something is operating outside of the right range, your body activates the ECS to help correct it. 

ECS is one of the body’s largest neurotransmitter networks. It is an integrated balancing system for the body and is responsible for keeping in balance a variety of physiological functions, including:

■ Immune function

■ Inflammation, including neuroinflammation

■ Mood  

■ Movement and coordination

■ Sleep

■ Appetite, hunger, and metabolism

■ Memory, learning, and cognition

■ Temperature regulation

■ Pain 

■ Sensory processing

The ECS does this via cannabinoid receptors found in select tissues. The two most prominent cannabinoid receptors are CB1 and CB2. 

CB1 Class of Receptors — CB1 receptors are located primarily in the brain and central nervous system and are responsible for:

■ Regulating learning and memory

■ Neuronal development and synaptic plasticity

■ Regulating reward and addiction

■ Reducing pain

■ Reducing neuroinflammation and degeneration

■ Regulating metabolism and food intake

■ Regulating bone mass

■ Cardiovascular effects

CB2 Class of Receptors — The CB2 receptors are located primarily in the periphery instead of the central nervous system and are mainly expressed in immune cells, giving them an important role in inflammation and autoimmune response. CB2 receptors are responsible for:

■ Allergic and autoimmune inflammatory diseases

■ Osteoporosis (loss of bone mass)

■ Neurodegenerative diseases

■ Ischemic injury from stroke or heart attack

■ Chronic pain

■ Hepatic (liver) injury and disease

■ Alcohol and nicotine addiction

■ Weight gain

■ Stress responses

Fun Fact: The first endocannabinoid that was discovered was named anandamide after the Sanskrit word ananda for “bliss.” All of us have tiny cannabis-like molecules floating around in our brains. Lucky us.

Endocannabinoid Deficiency

If the body has an endocannabinoid deficiency, cannabis-derived CBD acts as a supplement, giving the body the ability to regulate various functions and processes that are crucial to one’s health. 

Endocannabinoid deficiency is believed to be caused by chronic stress, exposure to environmental toxins and poor lifestyle habits. Symptoms range from forgetfulness, brain fog, decreased tolerance to pain, moodiness, compromised stress response, chronic inflammation, and a poorly functioning immune system that results in frequent illness. 

Certain types of hair loss are a major indicator that the body’s ECS is not in balance. Telogen effluvium is generally instigated by high cortisol levels causing irregular, constant shedding. Prescription drugs, such as blood pressure medicine, can cause hair loss. Nutritional deficiencies, such as insufficient calories, not enough protein, etc., may sabotage your normal hair cycle and cause hair loss. 

What are the various types of CBD?

With a plethora of options available, we should first identify each type’s technical aspects, including full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate CBD.

Full-spectrum

Full-spectrum CBD, or whole-plant CBD, contains all naturally occurring compounds in cannabis. Cannabidiol and other cannabinoids found in cannabis — including trace amounts of THC. It also features terpenes, flavonoids, vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids contained in the plant’s waxes. Full-spectrum CBD creates the entourage effect and allows the body to process CBD more efficiently. 

Broad-spectrum

Broad-spectrum CBD is almost the same as full-spectrum CBD — except for its THC content. The THC is removed after initial extraction, leaving behind CBD, minor cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids so that the user can benefit from some of the entourage effects.

Isolate

CBD isolate is exactly what it sounds like — pure CBD. The cannabinoid is separated from the other compounds using winterization and fractional distillation. Although CBD isolates may appeal to certain users due to being flavorless and odorless, they only offer the health benefits of CBD. Some cannabis experts argue that isolated compounds can’t use the full potential of cannabis unless they are combined with other cannabinoids and terpenes.

What is the Entourage Effect?

While cannabinoids and terpenes (another significant compound found in cannabis) have been studied for their individual effects, proponents of the entourage effect are interested in how these compounds work when combined with each other. Think “synergy.” They insist that consuming whole-plant cannabis produces a different effect than consuming individual cannabinoids or terpenes in isolation. The term “entourage effect” was coined by Mechoulam and Shimon Ben-Shabat in a cannabinoid study from 1999. In the study, Mechoulam and Shabat suggested that this phenomenon explains why botanical drugs (containing the entire spectrum of compounds within a plant) can sometimes be more effective than the plant’s isolated components.

Most cannabinoids and terpenes are present in cannabis in such small concentrations, making it difficult to judge the effects of these individual compounds when the plant is consumed as a whole. The exception to this rule is THC and CBD, the two cannabinoids found in the highest percentages in most cannabis strains. The interaction between these two cannabinoids provides one of the strongest arguments for the entourage effect.

Summary

To maximize the benefits of CBD, I recommend using both topical CBD-based products in conjunction with ingesting CBD internally. Using high-quality CBD-based shampoos, conditioner and scalp treatments help protect, moisturize, and repair the hair and scalp. CBD extracts, oils and caplets are measurable in terms of consistent dosing. With that said, finding an effective CBD dosage may depend on the potency, bioavailability, unique biochemistry, weight, severity of your condition, etc. Set your goals, start slow, but be consistent in your dosing. Increase as necessary.

In addition, I want to clarify that CBD is one key component in treating hair loss. With any imbalances, one must address the whole body to include nutrition, exercise, hydration and toxic elimination as equal, synergistic facets to health.

As an educator, cannabis user, and resident research nerd, my CBD selection criteria is very strict. Based on anecdotal feedback, potency/efficacy, independent lab testing, purity (non-GMO, no pesticides), entourage effect, company integrity, and customer service, I highly recommend the following companies to check out for your CBD needs. Please note that I do not have any financial incentive to do so. 

RPM / CBD; Contact Tyler Murphy, Evolve Solve Systems, email [email protected], 800-262-4247

Topical CBD infused products for hair care, skincare, specialty analgesic relief using broad-spectrum CBD 

BAYWATER HEMP FARMS, Contact Tim Fields, email [email protected], 410-357-1468

CBD Oil Extracts and Flowers, Balms, and Salves using full-spectrum CBD

Please feel free to contact me on my email, [email protected], with any questions on usage, dosing, product recommendations, etc.

About the Author

Sherri Renée Romm is the founder of Sherri Renée & Co. and Versacchi Studios. As an educator and expert on hair loss design solutions for almost 30 years, her path has led her to study and educate others on natural therapeutics and holistic lifestyle as a solution for hair loss and optimal health.