If you type in “antioxidants'' on Amazon by either using your prime or guest account it will bring in 1000's of results. You’d be hard pressed to identify what actually is an antioxidant. There’s “antioxidant rich” supplements in powder, liquid, and capsule form. Face masks claim to seep with serum full of the stuff.
The general belief seems to be that antioxidants automatically mean good for your body. It has become a panacea of sorts. In CBD, being antioxidative is often paraded as one of the cannabinoid’s chief benefits.
But how much good does it actually do in your body? To answer that question, let’s take a closer look at how antioxidants work.
Free Radical Theory
We still haven’t quite figured out what causes ageing. We know it happens because cells die. Theories abound on why, from biochemical reactions to cells having a predetermined expiry date.
One of those theories is The Free Radical Theory. First proposed by Denham Harman in the 1950s, the theory posits that cells age because of oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable atoms from oxygen.
Free radicals interact destructively with cells, tissues, and organs by stealing electrons from them. The destabilised cells, in turn, go on to affect other cells. Over time, the damage accumulates, turning into conditions associated with ageing like high blood pressure or Alzheimer’s.
Oxygen is a natural by-product of natural metabolic processes. That means when cells produce energy, it also produces free radicals. Free radicals can also come from external sources like UV radiation and pollution.
Antioxidants are the body’s natural defences against free radicals. These neutralise free radicals either by giving the extra electron it needs to stop ravaging or by breaking its structure, rendering it inert. These defenders come in many forms, like Vitamin C and E, and they enter our diets through food like fruits and vegetables. The body also naturally produces its own, like alpha-lipoic acid and glutathione.
How Much Antioxidant Content Does CBD Have?
Like most plants, the cannabis plant gets its deep green pigmentation from a host of compounds. One of them is a substance called flavonoids. Cannabis plants carry an abundance of flavonoids–around 20, to be precise. Quercetin, apigenin, luteolin, and kaempferol are just four that are linked to strong antioxidant action. CBD also contains cannflavins, a type of flavonoid that’s unique to cannabis plants.
In plants, these flavonoids help with vital functions like growth and UV protection. In humans, the substance protects against free radicals. Ingestion of flavonoids have been shown to help reduce risk for organ damage and diseases linked to oxidative stress.
Another compound called terpenes can also contribute to CBD’s antioxidant potential. Terpenes are responsible for how plants smell and taste. Some terpenes found in CBD, like myrcene and limonene, are noted protectors against oxidative stress.
Users who don’t want to ingest CBD will be relieved to know that its antioxidant properties seem to extend to topical applications. CBD on skin can help cells recover from oxidative stress caused by UVA and UVB radiation. Research funded by the European Regional Development found that CBD treatment “would protect skin against external insults” and be “greatly beneficial” for eczema or atopic dermatitis–two inflammatory skin conditions that are linked to free radicals and oxidative stress.
Are Antioxidants In CBD Effective?
Protecting cells from damage seems quite straightforward, as positives go. But as with most things related to the balance in our bodies and the wellness industry, the maths isn’t so simple.
CBD appears to exhibit strong antioxidant properties, even stronger than that of Vitamins E and C. However, the amount of antioxidant potential in your CBD product depends on a few factors. One is the solvent the cannabidiol is mixed with. One study found that CBD with hemp oil had the highest antioxidant content. Another found that mixing CBD with certain oils like sunflower oil may even reduce its antioxidant properties.
Current evidence suggests that antioxidants are at their most beneficial when coupled with nutrients. For instance, the Vitamin C and the flavonoid hesperidin in citrus fruits work in tandem to fight diseases that cause the production of free radicals–that’s more effective than just antioxidants handing out electrons in an effort to stabilise the molecules.
Cannabidiol’s antioxidant properties appear to be mitigated by the same effect. Some researchers have found that compounds in hemp oil complement CBD’s ability to neutralise free radicals. Together, the pair were found to have stronger antioxidant abilities than pure CBD or crude hemp oil alone.
CBD In Other Antioxidant-Rich Substances
Fortunately, CBD on the market already comes in many forms. You have pure isolates, but the vast majority of products combine CBD with other ingredients, like hemp oil and olive oil. Olive oil contains a high level of phenolic compounds that keep free radicals from multiplying.
There are also CBD-infused vitamin and mineral supplements. Elixinol’s Immune Booster gummies contain Vitamin C and zinc. Vitamin C is already a known antioxidant, while zinc is known to protect against oxidative stress.
Beyond gummies and capsules, you’ll also find CBD-infused food products like oat bars and dark chocolate. Oats are rich in flavonoids and other antioxidant compounds. Dark chocolate, which many consider a “healthy” chocolate, contains more antioxidants than fruit juice.
Antioxidants In CBD: Is It Good For Me?
So to answer the question of whether CBD is a good and reliable source of antioxidants: yes, but with reservations. Preliminary research says that CBD does have a good antioxidant profile, but needs to work synergistically with other ingredients to maximise its effects on the body.
The findings echo the current clinical consensus about antioxidants: they’re good for your body, but supplementing won’t do as much as many wellness brands claim. The best course of action, according to medical experts, is still a balanced diet. Take your CBD, but don’t forget your fruits, veggies, and grains.