Green Roads Co-Founder Laura Fuentes Interview and Debunking CBD Myths

Cannabidiol (CBD) is wildly popular. Sales accounted for about half a billion U.S. dollars in 2018 and are projected to hit $1.8 billion by 2022. But most consumers are still scratching their heads over this elusive cannabinoid. How exactly does CBD work? How much do you need? How do you know if you’re buying a quality product? Which CBD coupons actually give you the best value for your money?

We sat down with Laura Fuentes, a 25-year pharmacist and the co-founder of Green Roads CBD, one of the most successful cannabidiol companies in the nation. She helped to lift the veil on CBD products, myths, and delivery systems, offering some insights that would surprise even veteran CBD aficionados. Among other things, she offered such insights as:

  • How your own expectations can influence the effectiveness of CBD
  • How our pets may be the key to proving the effectiveness of CBD
  • Why CBD is the wrong ingredient to add to your salad or hamburger
  • How a lot of CBD products are manufactured by companies that have never even seen a hemp farm
  • How to know if CBD lab test results have been falsified
  • How to pass a drug test as a CBD user
  • Why the entourage effect might just be a lot of hype

If CBD Isn’t Working, the Problem May Be Your Expectations

Does CBD actually work? This is the No. 1 question that curious consumers have when hearing about cannabidiol. It’s also a very complicated question to answer. After all, what condition or end goal are we talking about? And what is our standard for efficacy?

Maybe you’ve tried CBD and felt nothing at all. But as Fuentes relates, this may indicate that the product is working.

“A lot of people try CBD for a couple of weeks and feel like they’re not getting any benefits from it. And what happens is they stop taking it. And then they realize it was helping them because the way our bodies work is that we definitely know when we’re stressed or hyper or in pain—we feel all those things. But when you don’t feel that, you don’t register it, so you don’t realize that CBD is taking all those things away from you.”

The problem, as Fuentes sees it, is not that CBD is ineffective. The problem is that some users are expecting a euphoric experience. “Some people take it because they’re looking for a dramatic effect. Like they think they’re going to get some type of a sensation. So they think it’s not working. But you don’t feel when you’re calm. You feel when you’re stressed. So it’s just a very strange thing to feel normal, to feel not stressed and not in pain.”

Patients who aren’t noticing the effects may benefit from keeping a diary or journal. Fuentes often recommends this to parents providing CBD to their children. Journaling is an effective way to chart your actual progress from day to day without being misled or discouraged by whatever you happen to be feeling—or not feeling—in the moment.

Fuentes firmly believes in the effectiveness of cannabidiol for wellness. Her own CBD journey began as a result of her anguish and frustration at witnessing the effects of the opioid crisis and drug dependence on the patients she served. She started formulating CBD preparations for her own friends and family, and she was amazed at what she saw.

And while research into the medicinal potential of CBD is still limited, a growing number of studies show tremendous promise. Researchers have seen positive outcomes when observing CBD for epilepsy, muscle spasms, chronic pain, anxiety, high blood pressure, and more.

So what does it work best for? Fuentes can’t make any specific medical claims regarding CBD, but from a strictly personal and anecdotal standpoint, she has found it very helpful to take in stressful situations. “I’m very shy, and I have stage fright, and I don’t like talking in front of people. So I take CBD before I go on stage so that my hands aren’t shaking and I can actually speak in a normal voice. It’s very calming, but it doesn’t cause a lot of drowsiness if you take not too high of a dose.”

If you need evidence of the effectiveness of CBD, look no further than the animal kingdom. A 2018 clinical trial found that CBD treatment reduced pain scores in dogs with osteoarthritis, and a 2020 study reached a similar conclusion. CBD is also used to address seizures and anxiety in dogs, and new studies are ongoing.

Why is this important? Well, it could mean good things for our four-legged friends, but in addition, it lends credence to the value of CBD oil for humans. According to Fuentes, “Dogs are a great placebo verifier. Because a lot of people say, ‘Oh, it’s snake oil, and it’s only placebo.’ Your dog doesn’t know he’s taking something, but your dog knows if all of a sudden he’s not afraid of the fireworks, or if he can run around the block when before he couldn’t.”

You May Be Taking CBD Incorrectly

If CBD still isn’t working for you, or if it’s not working as well as you’d like, you might be doing it wrong. One common mistake that users make, according to Fuentes, is taking too high of a dose. It’s best to start with a low dose—as low as 5 to 10 mg—and increase gradually.

“If you take too high of a dose of CBD too quickly,” says Fuentes, “your receptors become supersaturated, and it just won’t work any longer. You won’t get any effects from the CBD, and you have to take what is called a drug holiday, where you stop taking it for about 48 hours. That will wash out your receptors and you can start over. But if you start at a low dose and increase slowly, you don’t really get that over-saturation of the receptor.”

Fuentes recommends starting with a low dose once a day just before bedtime. Then gradually increase to twice a day, and three times a day, and continue increasing the dosage just a little bit at a time until you get the desired effect.

Another common mistake that Fuentes notices is when consumers and patients mix CBD products into their foods. For example, some CBD tinctures actually contain instructions noting that the oil can be added to food and beverages. Some consumers will just add a dose to their hamburger, ice cream, or whatever else they happen to be eating.

Fuentes believes this is a mistake, and she uses vitamin D as an example of why it’s a less efficient delivery system. “If you are deficient in vitamin D, you supplement with a vitamin. We make our own CBD-type chemicals in our body. And if we’re not making enough, then we have to bring it in from the outside source. So we bring it in from the plant, just like vitamin D.”

And you wouldn’t put vitamin D on a hamburger, would you?

The existing science certainly seems to confirm what Fuentes is saying. Research shows that placing CBD oil under the tongue doesn’t just contribute to a faster onset of action. It also preserves more of the cannabidiol than if you subject the product to your digestive tract.

Your CBD Lab Results May Be Lying to You

Choosing the right CBD product is of paramount importance; research shows that the #1 reason why people don’t try CBD is because they don’t trust the product or manufacturer, and it’s a well-founded concern. CBD is still largely unregulated, and there are a lot of poor-quality products flooding the market. So how do you choose a CBD oil that actually delivers?

As Fuentes notes, there are a few factors involved:

Where the CBD is grown

Fuentes notes that it’s extremely important to purchase only CBD made from U.S.-grown hemp. For starters, U.S. farmers are required to follow strict USDA cultivation guidelines and are subject to oversight and inspection. And as some experts have noted, internationally sourced CBD products are often made from cheap synthetic compounds.

As Fuentes further observes, there’s also an important environmental benefit to supporting U.S.-grown hemp: soil remediation. “You can grow hemp plants in toxic soils like they did at Chernobyl or Japan, and the hemp will actually take out the toxins from the soil. So we can clean up a lot of our lands that are not flourishing any longer.”

Where the CBD is manufactured

For even greater quality assurance, look for CBD products that are extracted and processed in FDA Registered Manufacturing Facilities. This is a facility whose production process has been inspected by the Food and Drug Administration.

This doesn’t mean that the product itself is FDA-approved, but it does mean that the production process has been found to meet all applicable good manufacturing practice regulations.

It’s simply a higher level of accountability for manufacturers. “There are a litany of things you have to go through to get an FDA-registered lab. Here in Florida, the Florida Department of Health will come in and inspect your facility. They want to make sure that you’re keeping correct batch records. They want to make sure that you’re following the following proper protocols. They have a whole list of things that you have to follow.”

Fuentes further emphasizes that having an FDA-registered facility is a step above having a cGMP facility (a facility that follows Current Good Manufacturing Processes). If a CBD company advertises itself as following Current Good Manufacturing Processes, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the products are manufactured in an FDA-registered facility or inspected by the FDA.

Which manufacturer is making the CBD

Are you buying from a manufacturer that actually takes the time to produce and formulate its own CBD? This is surprisingly rare, as Fuentes reveals.

“Most of the products that you typically get off the shelf are just made by some manufacturing facility that has made thousands of products. They make them all the same way all the time, but they really don’t put the effort in to make sure that their products are efficacious.”

While manufacturers make some big claims about the care they put into their products, the majority use a white-label business model whereby they all purchase the same mass-produced CBD preparations and place their own labels on them. In fact, Fuentes notes that as much as 90% of the products on the market are just the same source material packaged with different labels.

“The biggest problem with the white label is that a lot of people want to get into the CBD space and they don’t have any kind of a background as far as nutraceuticals or dietary supplements. So they just jump in blindly and trust that the manufacturer is doing the right thing and providing them with good products.”

Fuentes further explains that manufacturers need to be diligent about conducting their own testing to ensure that products have the right concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenes and are free from hidden adulterants.

This level of oversight is commonly missing in the white label space, and that carelessness ends up getting passed down to the consumer. That’s why, in her own business, Fuentes stresses that all products are pharmacist-formulated. “I have a team of myself and two other pharmacists, and we put a lot of time into making sure that our products actually do work.”

When buying from any CBD manufacturer, it’s important to research the company’s background. Where are they getting their products? What are their production methods? Do they personally oversee the production and quality control?

Where the test results are coming from

Pretty much every major CBD product now claims to be lab-tested for purity and quality. A good lab test will confirm that the product has as much CBD as advertised and is free from heavy metals and other impurities. But can you trust those lab results?

Fuentes observes that, in many cases, lab results can be deceiving. Some manufacturers use their own in-house testing protocols (which immediately calls the test results into question), some make it difficult to access a product’s test results, and some have even falsified test results.

First, don’t rely on any manufacturer that conducts its own in-house testing. All testing should come from a reputable third-party lab. And if possible, try to obtain the lab results from the lab’s own website and not from the CBD manufacturer. Fuentes explains that many manufacturers are now using QR codes to make this easy. Just scan the code, and go straight to the lab’s website to review the test results.

Beyond that, how can you know that the lab itself is reputable? According to Fuentes, “Do research into the lab. Do they have credentials? Some labs are pay-to-play. If I give you so many dollars, you’ll give me the results I want. It’s just a problem with this industry that the consumer really has to do their homework. And it’s unfortunate because there are a lot of bad actors out there.”

Thankfully, the internet has made it easier than ever to research labs and determine how reputable they are. You can browse reviews, press releases, and news mentions, and also determine if the lab has received any public complaints or disciplinary action.

CBD May Not Be Safe for Everyone

Numerous studies have found CBD to be well-tolerated even at high doses. Occasional side effects (particularly with high doses) can include drowsiness, dry mouth, diarrhea, and reduced appetite. But does that mean CBD is safe for everybody? The answer, as Fuentes notes, is complicated.

For example, when it comes to pregnant women taking CBD oil, the research is extremely limited. That’s why she recommends that pregnant women avoid taking any medications or supplements that aren’t essential or advised by a doctor. “You need to just stick to your vitamins, eat healthy, try to exercise, and don’t take anything because the truth of the matter is anything you take could potentially cause a problem.”

There have been some highly publicized concerns about potential birth defects, premature deliveries, and low birth weight, but there’s still limited research to determine the level of risk and whether there’s a direct causation. In the meantime, Fuentes recommends that expectant mothers play it safe and avoid CBD altogether.

Fuentes also expresses concern for people mixing CBD with certain prescription medications. As she explains, “CBD is metabolized in the liver. There’s a system in your liver enzymes called cytochrome P450 system. And within that, there are two specific enzymes that are altered by CBD. So some drugs that you take that are metabolized in the liver could be affected by the combination of CBD.”

Because CBD can impact how drugs are metabolized, the concurrent use of CBD and specific drugs may increase or decrease the amount of the drug in your body, leading to serious dosage concerns. For example, Fuentes explains that certain seizure medications like clobazam are of particular concern, as are certain blood thinners. Research has shown that combining CBD with the blood thinner warfarin can increase a patient’s bleeding risk, particularly at higher doses.

For these reasons, Fuentes recommends speaking to your doctor beforehand if you’re taking prescribed drugs but are interested in pursuing CBD oil.

CBD Can’t Get You High, But It Is Psychoactive

There are a lot of CBD myths out there, but Fuentes notes that one myth in particular remains dominant above all the rest: The myth that CBD can get you high.

“CBD has been around in a big way for at least five years now. And still consumers are concerned that they’re going to get high from the products, or they’re going to have some kind of a cloudy feeling and they’re not going to be able to function.”

To provide a bit of clarity, CBD is psychoactive (to address another common misconception), but it’s not intoxicating. In other words, CBD may be mood-altering or calming. It does influence activity in your brain. But it should never alter your state of consciousness, leave you feeling cloudy, or give you any kind of psychotropic buzz.

“If you do get a hold of a CBD product, and that happens to you, then you probably weren’t taking CBD,” according to Fuentes. “You probably were taking something else. It could be a synthetic form of CBD, or it could have a lot of THC in the product.”

The misconception comes from the fact that CBD comes from cannabis, an herb best known for eliciting an intense high. But the high doesn’t come from CBD; it comes from a different compound in the plant, THC. While full-spectrum CBD products may contain up to .3% THC, this isn’t nearly enough to be intoxicating. But it does raise another very important question.

Yes, CBD Can Make You Fail a Drug Test

There has been a lot of speculation that certain CBD products may cause you to fail a drug test, namely those products that contain trace amounts of THC. To Laura Fuentes, there is no question.

“THC is a fat-soluble product, and it gets stored in your fat. So it takes you longer for your body to metabolize. And the more you take it, the longer you take it, the more is in your fat cells and the longer it takes your body to rid those [fat cells]. You would definitely test positive.”

The good news is that not all high-quality CBD products contain THC. There are generally three types of CBD oil on the market: full spectrum, broad spectrum, and isolate. Full-spectrum is the one you have to be careful about, as it contains all of the cannabinoids from the plant—including up to .3% THC. Broad-spectrum contains all of the same cannabinoids, but the THC has been removed, making it a safer choice for anyone subject to drug testing.

CBD isolate products contain only CBD and no other cannabinoids, making them another safer choice. The only way an isolate product would trigger a positive drug test result is if the test is searching for cannabinoids in general (and not just THC).

But while there are a lot of THC-free options on the market, a lot of consumers prefer full-spectrum because of the so-called entourage effect. This is the idea that all of the cannabinoids (including THC) work together to promote a greater benefit than you could get from CBD alone. But are full-spectrum products actually better?

The Entourage Effect May Just Be a Lot of Hype

The entourage effect works like this: When you consume a CBD (or cannabis) product with hundreds of individual compounds, each one of those cannabinoids and terpenes brings its own benefits to the table. When you combine all of those benefits, you enjoy a better result than you’d get with just CBD alone.

The entourage effect is one of the key selling points of full-spectrum CBD, but not everyone believes the hype. Scientific American notes that “the conventional science on this topic is scant,” and “many scientists see the whole thing as a pipe dream” (if you’ll excuse the pun).

In Fuentes’ view, more research is needed. “There are so many chemicals in the plant. We just don’t know what they all do yet and what their functions are and whether some of them work better alone or in conjunction with each other.”

This is actually good news for people concerned about failing drug tests, as it suggests that full-spectrum may not be the be-all-end-all of CBD products. There may still be tremendous value in taking THC-free alternatives like broad-spectrum and even isolate.

Fuentes uses Epidiolex as an example. Epidiolex is an FDA-approved epilepsy drug made from CBD. It contains no THC, no other cannabinoids, and no terpenes, but it has still proven highly effective for treating seizures in patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome—no entourage effect required.

According to Fuentes, “We’re not able to distinguish right now, through our patient profiles, the difference between an isolate, a broad-, and a full-spectrum. People get results all the way across the board. So there really needs to be a lot more in-depth research so that we can discover what is affecting what. I know that when I take an isolate product, I get results, but then again, I can take a full-spectrum product and get results.”

Question Everything When Buying CBD

As our interview with Laura Fuentes revealed, there is a lot to be skeptical about when buying CBD products: Where do they come from? How are they made? Can you actually trust your lab results?

The whole process can seem overwhelming, but the good news is that there are manufacturers who take the time to do it right. Laura Fuentes and Green Roads CBD are proof of that. You just have to do your homework to ensure that you’re getting the right product and using it in the most effective way possible.

We hope that this eye-opening interview helps you to be a more informed and discriminating shopper. And we hope that it helps you to get the most from your own CBD experience.

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