Mothers are using CBD to treat their children’s seizures. Veterans are hoping it will help them wean off opioids. Doctors are even recommending it for all manner of ailments. But what exactly is CBD? And should you join the estimated 64 million Americans who’ve already tried it?
Our comprehensive CBD guide will answer these questions and more!
What is CBD?
CBD is short for cannabidiol. It is a naturally-occurring compound, known as a cannabinoid, found in the Cannabis sativa plant. It’s important to recognize that the plant has two primary species, marijuana and hemp. Hemp-derived CBD contains trace amounts of THC (under 0.3%), whereas CBD derived from the marijuana species can contain larger amounts of THC, depending on how the plant is grown. More on this below.
CBD is just one of over 100 unique cannabinoids which are responsible for the plant’s therapeutic properties. The other main cannabinoid from the cannabis plant is THC.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the major psychoactive cannabinoid that causes the characteristic “high” associated with marijuana. Both CBD and THC have promising therapeutic potential. However, CBD does not contain any psychoactive properties, and attenuates the psychoactive effects of THC.
It’s due to this quality which makes CBD an appealing option for individuals who seek the therapeutic benefits of cannabis without the mind-altering effects of THC.
Is CBD legal?
With constant changes to the laws surrounding medical marijuana, the legal landscape of CBD can be, understandably, confusing. However, by learning about a few critical aspects of CBD, you’ll soon gain a clear picture of the compounds legal status in the United States.
Firstly, CBD derived from the hemp plant was legalized nationally in December 2018 when the Agricultural Improvement Act was signed into law. Also known as the Farm Act, this law removed hemp from the Schedule 1 Controlled Substances list, meaning hemp-derived CBD can now be purchased and consumed in all 50 states as long as it is grown and sold as per the Act.
But, what is CBD hemp? CBD can be extracted from either marijuana or hemp plants, both of which belong to the Cannabis Sativa family. As such, CBD-hemp and CBD-marijuana share many similarities. But, due to the distinct biological structure of each species, they have critical differences.
When comparing marijuana derived CBD vs hemp derived CBD, there is one key difference to be aware of; hemp contains very low concentrations of THC (less than 0.3%), while marijuana is rich in THC with levels ranging from 15% to 40%. For this reason, hemp is grown primarily for industrial purposes, whereas marijuana is grown for recreational and medicinal purposes.
Under the Act, CBD derived from the hemp plant must have negligible concentrations of the psychoactive phytocannabinoid THC (less than 0.3%), and companies cannot make unproven health claims about CBD.
Why use CBD?
CBD has been used as a natural therapy for centuries. Today, the cannabinoids many healing properties have been investigated and confirmed by thousands of studies taking place across the globe. Researchers have indicated that CBD is a safe, non-addictive alternative to some pharmaceutical medications, with applications as a natural analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, and anticonvulsant.
Anti-inflammatory and Immunomodulatory Effects
CBD can be used to alleviate chronic and acute inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and type 2 diabetes.  In one clinical study, CBD significantly reduced intestinal inflammation and permeability in humans with inflammatory bowel disease.  The anti-inflammatory properties of the non-psychoactive cannabinoid have also been examined in acne patients with results indicating that the cannabinoid can inhibit sebum production and reduce inflammation associated with acne. 
The analgesic effects of CBD are associated with its anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is one of the most common sources of pain. CBD has been shown to reduce joint pain in rats with arthritis.  Several clinical studies also show that CBD in conjunction with THC can alleviate symptoms of neuropathic pain that arises from nerve damage. These results suggest CBD as a promising adjuvant therapy for conditions, like multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and even chemotherapy.
Laboratory studies in animals and humans have demonstrated the anxiolytic effects of CBD, in particular, patients with social phobia.  In one study, patients with social anxiety disorder were treated with either CBD or a placebo before participating in a simulated public speaking test. Patients pre-treated with CBD demonstrated significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort compared to controls. 
Promising preliminary data has highlighted CBD as a potential treatment to stop the progression of Alzheimer's Disease, a debilitating neurodegenerative disorder that is becoming increasingly common to today’s society. 
High-quality human trials over the last three decades have repeatedly shown that CBD can reduce the frequency and severity of seizures. As a result, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took a bold step in June 2018, when the governing body approved the first drug (Epidiolex) containing cannabis-derived CBD for the treatment of severe forms of epilepsy. Two medications containing artificial CBD have also been approved by the FDA for use in America.
How Does CBD Work?
Cannabinoids interact with our body primarily through the endocannabinoid system, an immensely important regulatory system involved in the maintenance of nervous, digestive, and immune health.
It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that researchers made this ground-breaking discovery with the identification of two cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) and their “endocannabinoids.” Due to this discovery, cannabinoids were further distinguished as either phytocannabinoids or endocannabinoids.
Phytocannabinoids are those that occur naturally within the cannabis plant (examples include CBD and THC), while endocannabinoids are produced internally by the body. Both types directly interact with cannabinoid receptors throughout the brain and body to generate similar effects.CB1 receptors are dispersed predominantly throughout the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), whereas CB2 receptors are located predominantly on immune cells. Although both types can be found throughout the entire body, even in peripheral organs.
Mechanisms of Action:
CBD affects the body through multiple molecular pathways. Scientific research has identified four key mechanisms:
Blocks CB1 and CB2 Receptors
Surprisingly, CBD has little affinity for both known cannabinoid receptors. New research shows that CBD acts as a high-potency antagonist to CB1 and CB2 receptor agonist, meaning CBD blocks other chemicals that stimulate these receptors. By reducing the stimulating of CB1 receptors, CBD inhibits the release of noradrenaline. 
Noradrenaline is often referred to as our “stress hormone” as it increases our heart rate, raises our blood pressure, widens the pupils, and dilates the airways. As a result, CBD has a calming effect on the nervous system providing benefits for people who suffer from anxiety and insomnia.
Enhances Adenosine Signalling
Adenosine is a naturally occurring compound found within all cells of the body. Among other functions, adenosine regulates immune and inflammatory responses. Studies show that CBD decreases the uptake of adenosine, which has been shown to suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation during various inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and asthma. Several studies, including both human and animal trials, show that a single treatment of low-dose CBD decreases the production of proinflammatory cytokines, like TNF-a .
Regulates Serotonin Levels
The neuroprotective properties of CBD may be related to its effect on serotonin release, similar to anti-depressant medications, which stimulate serotonin release through 5-HT1A signalling. CBD stimulates 5-HT1A receptors found within the brain, which are known to regulate serotonin release .
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter involved in the regulation of mood, cognition, and memory. It is often referred to as the “happy chemical” as it promotes feelings of happiness. In fact, fewer 5-HT1A receptors have been found in suicide patients in post mortem studies. Similarly, a study using neurotransmitter testing showed that panic disorder patients have impaired 5-HT1A receptor function. 
CBD is a potent antioxidant, meaning it reduces oxidative stress by fighting free radicals within the body. Free radicals are unpaired molecules that can cause damage to healthy cells and contribute to the development of diseases, including heart disease, and some cancers.
Types of CBD products
CBD is available in a variety of products, allowing you to tailor your consumption method to suit your specific therapeutic needs. Most products are also available as combined CBD and THC, with different ratios on each. The most common types of CBD are:
Vaporizing is the rational choice for those who prefer the sensation of inhaling, but want to avoid the harmful chemicals associated with smoking. A vaporizer, or vape, gradually heats up a concentrated version of CBD so that it can be inhaled and absorbed immediately through the lungs. Vaporizing is the fastest acting method, although the effects are not as long-lasting.
Tinctures are liquid extracts containing a concentrated form of CBD, usually placed under the tongue using a dropper. The oral mucosa has an abundance of capillaries resulting in quick absorption and rapid effects that are typically felt with 5-15 minutes. Tinctures are preferred not only by consumers looking for fast-acting effects but also by those who seek dosage control.
Ingestibles include oils, capsules, dissolvable strips, and sprays that can either be directly consumed or added to foods and beverages. For example, capsules and sprays can be directly swallowed, while oils can be added to smoothies or baked goods. Either way, ingestibles offer a discreet, convenient, and portable solution. As ingestibles are slowly absorbed through the digestive tract into the bloodstream, they are preferred by individuals looking for long-lasting effects, such as pain relief. Effects are usually felt after 30 minutes and can continue for two hours.
CBD-infused lotions, creams, and patches can be applied directly to the skin and are used to target specific sites of inflammation and pain, such as muscular aches or arthritic joints. It may take at least an hour for topical CBD to take effect. However, results can last up to five hours.
Alternatively, you can purchase foods and beverages already infused with CBD, such as CBD coconut butter, CBD dark chocolate, or CBD hemp honey. Just like ingestible oils, pre-made edibles deliver a sustained effect and are often preferred for their discreetness.
How Much CBD Should I Take?
When first starting out on CBD, a low daily dose of between 50-150 milligrams is often recommended. You can then gradually increase your daily dose according to your desired effects. However, we highly recommend seeking the advice of a qualified physician who will take into account your individual circumstances and consider any potential drug interactions to determine the best approach for your specific condition.
CBD has a favorable safety profile, especially when compared to many pharmaceutical medications. A 2011 review of over 130 studies concluded that CBD is non-toxic and non-addictive. Even with long-term use and high daily doses of up to 1500 milligrams, studies repeatedly demonstrated that CBD was well tolerated by humans. 
However, CBD can result in some unwanted side effects. According to a more recent literature review, the most common adverse side effects appear to be tiredness, diarrhea, and changes in appetite/weight. Although compared to many other medications, these side effects are very minimal. 
Patients report the best results when taking about 1.5 to 2.5 mg of CBD per kilogram of body weight divided into two daily doses, one in the morning and one in the early evening
Recommended CBD Dosage by Weight
* Recommended to be divided into two daily doses, morning and night
What are Terpenes?
One thing you’ll notice when you start using CBD is the diverse array of fragrances, with scents ranging from citrus fruits to fresh pine needles. What you’re smelling are terpenes. These organic compounds, also known as terpenoids, are found in the oils of all plants and are responsible for their unique flavor and aroma.
The cannabis plant has at least 100 terpenes, which vary in concentration from one strain to the next. Different factors during the growth stage influence the terpenoid profile, such as temperature, humidity, and light.
Terpenes are not only responsible for the plant’s aroma but are also impart their own therapeutic benefits. You may already be familiar with some terpenes and their effects. For example:
- Linalool gives lavender its floral fragrance, which is known for its calming effects.
- Limonene gives lemons their citrus flavor but also acts as a powerful anti-bacterial.
- Pinene, gives pine trees a fresh, invigorating fragrance, while also improving airflow to the lungs, reducing inflammation and increasing alertness.
Several studies have also shown that cannabinoids and terpenes work together to provide complementary or synergistic results, known as the “entourage effect”. In fact, there are several promising therapies based on combinations of CBD and terpenes. For example, a combination of CBD with Limonene, Linalool, and Pinene is currently under investigation as a potential acne therapy. A blend of CBD with Myrcene (a natural sedative) and Caryophyllene (a natural pain reliever) is also being investigated as a sleep therapy. 
When choosing a CBD product, we recommend opting for a full-spectrum CBD that contains all active compounds (including terpenoids) present within the hemp or marijuana plant. Choosing a full-spectrum CBD product will increase the entourage effect. Some products may also include a terpenoid profile to provide a better understanding of the product’s therapeutic potential.
How to Choose High-Quality CBD?
With science elucidating the therapeutic potential of cannabis and laws surrounding marijuana becoming more relaxed each year, we are seeing an increasingly wide variety of CBD products on the market. However, consumers should understand that not all CBD products are created equal.
Firstly, there are different ways to extract CBD from cannabis, with the golden standard being supercritical CO₂ extraction. This process uses carbon dioxide under optimum temperatures and pressures to isolate, maintain, and preserve the purity of CBD. Admittedly, supercritical CO₂ extraction is more expensive for manufacturers, especially compared to alcohol extraction. However, it’s one of the best ways to ensure CBD products don’t contain THC or other toxic chemicals, which for many people is especially important for medical and legal reasons. Choosing hemp-derived CBD is another way to reduce your risk of accidentally consuming THC, as hemp plants naturally contain far less THC thus reducing the potential for contamination.
The best CBD oil products are also extracted from food-grade hemp grown under organic conditions. This ensures the hemp plant is free from contaminants, such as metals or harsh chemicals. Reputable growers will be completely transparent about their product. As a consumer, you should be able to easily view a Certificate of Quality Assurance and access the laboratory test results of each batch online.
Purchasing CBD Hemp Oil
Before purchasing a CBD oil, we strongly advise doing your research to scope out different CBD brands. We also recommend, looking beyond the price! Fortunately, high-quality CBD products are available for health-conscious consumers.
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