Everything you ever wanted to know about CBD, including where it comes from, what it’s good for, and how to use it.
Anyone who’s been paying attention to the wellness scene in recent years will have likely noticed the letters “CBD” branded across anything from fizzy drinks to beauty products.
It’s the industry’s new buzz-word, but what does CBD actually stand for?
Simply put, CBD stands for Cannabidiol. Unless you’re already familiar with cannabis and its various properties, we’re guessing you’re going to need a little more information than that in order to understand the purposes and effects of CBD. That’s why we’re here.
To explain what cannabidiol does, how it’s manufactured, the benefits and potential risks of CBD, as well as the legalities of this booming new ingredient that has managed to make its way into a wide range of wellness products, we’ve put together this ultimate guide to CBD.
Table of Contents
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol, or CBD as it’s known, is a naturally occurring, cannabis-derived extract. While it has been suggested that there are multiple possible health benefits that are associated with CBD, there is no research to back up the advantages or even the safety of consuming CBD.
With that being said, in the states where CBD is now legal (this isn’t all of them, so do remember to check first!), it is used to ease the effects of anxiety, insomnia, and other ailments, despite not yet being approved by the FDA for medical treatment purposes.
According to the US National Library of Medicine, there are over 80 chemicals, known as cannabinoids, that have been identified in the Cannabis sativa plant, one of which being cannabidiol. CBD is also obtained from Hemp which contains much lower quantities of THC.
So, what’s the difference between CBD and some of its sibling cannabinoids?
Differences Between CBD and THC
Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC as it’s commonly abbreviated to, is another type of cannabinoid that is found in marijuanna. Along with CBD, these are the two cannabinoids you’ll have most likely heard the most about, yet they’re equally as much of an enigma.
The long and short of it is this: THC can get you high, whereas CBD is unlikely to have the same effect, but there’s a lot more to it than this.
Although they stem from the same plant, each of these compounds has different effects. This is due to the fact that differentiating the effects of CBD and THC will often come down to the endocannabinoids that humans are capable of producing (as are cats, dogs, and fish).
Not only do these neurotransmitters bind to receptors, but they also influence how you experience pain, your ability to sleep, mood swings, and appetite as well as other functions.
Differences Between CBD and Hemp Oil
Although they are often confused for one another, hemp oil is different from CBD oil both in terms of production and the effects felt after taking them.
The latter uses the stalks, leaves, and flowers of the hemp plant during its production and has a higher CBD content, whereas hemp oil is derived from Cannabis Sativa seeds and does not contain CBD, although it is rich in nutrients, fatty acids, and bioactive compounds.
Like CBD oil, you will not experience a high after using hemp seed oil. However, the benefits of using hemp oil are thought to include improving cholesterol levels, promoting heart health, lowering blood pressure, clearing up skin blemishes, pain relief, and reducing inflammation.
History of CBD Oil
Although still a relatively new trend, CBD itself is anything but new. It’s thought to have been used for centuries for treating both physical and mental illnesses.
Dr. Tom Ingegno, an expert in Chinese medicine, explains how “humans have been cultivating Cannabis Sativa for well over 5,000 years”, but it wasn’t until the 1940s and 1950s that pharmacological experiments began testing the effects of CBD oil.
It was in 1946 that Dr. Rapheal Mechoulam identified CBD’s three-dimensional structure and he is credited as the original discoverer of CBD. Mechoulam was also responsible for the 1980 breakthrough in which a study he conducted showed that cannabidiol could be a potential new way to help treat severe forms of epilepsy.
How is CBD Manufactured?
There are several methods for manufacturing CBD which start with harvesting hemp plants.
Harvesting the Hemp Plant
The first and arguably most critical stage of CBD production is harvesting the hemp plant, which must be carried out before mold or mildew starts to grow as this can lower the hemp biomass. Look out for changes in the plant, such as a shift from white to milky white buds.
Hemp is typically grown in warm, moist conditions as the plant originated in central Asia, and it can thrive in relatively small to medium-sized environments as it doesn’t need a lot of space to grow. Once harvested, the hemp must be dried at 60℉ to 70℉ at 60% humidity.
It’s also worth noting that the best CBD oils are made using hemp that hasn’t been treated with any pesticides during the growing process, as these will contain high levels of chemicals that are hazardous for human consumption, according to the World Health Organization.
Extracting the CBD
You can extract CBD in three different ways, including by:
- Using a solvent
- Using olive oil
- Using CO2
Although a slightly risky method due to it being a less stable process, you can extract CBD using a liquid solvent. This is run across decarboxylated hemp (hemp that has been dried under a heat source) to extract the cannabinoids and terpenes.
Solvent extraction is quite a cheap method so it tends to be popular with home growers.
Olive Oil Extraction
According to multiple sources, including PubMed, “olive oil preparation is the first choice as a concentrated extract of cannabinoids, even though standardized operative conditions for obtaining it are still not available.”
This method is when hemp is decarboxylated to activate the compounds necessary for CBD extraction. Once dried, the hemp plant is placed in a vat with the olive oil and heated for a few hours, during which time the CBD infuses with the oil. The plants are then filtered out.
Last but not least, there’s CO2 CBD extraction, which is when supercritical CO2 is fed through the leaves of the dried hemp plant.
This is one of the best methods to use if you want to extract the highest-quality CBD, but it requires industrial equipment and is incredibly expensive to perform. For these reasons, CO2 extraction is designed for producing vast quantities of CBD.
The blurred lines regarding CBD regulations mean CBD needs to be tested in a third-party lab to determine the strength, purity, and quality before it can be legally sold.
Quality control standards vary between states, but hemp grown under a USDA, State, or Tribal hemp production plan is subject to sampling and compliance testing for THC concentration, according to official government guidelines.
Like a lot of other plant-derived compounds, CBD can become unstable unless it is properly preserved. To avoid this happening, CBD must be stored in an airtight, opaque container.
You will usually find CBD sold in brown bottles, similarly to Vitamin C and Retinol packaging. CBD that has been packaged in clear bottles or containers may be disturbed and unfit for human use and are therefore best avoided.
Make sure to also check the packaging for the recommended dose and an ingredients list, as a 2017 study showed that only 31% of CBD products are labeled accurately.
Private Label Vs. White Label Products
If you’ve shopped for CBD products, you may have noticed the terms white label and private label and wondered what these phrases can tell you about the quality of a product. For a consumer, private label and white label products are virtually identical.
For a CBD brand, the difference is significant. Most supplement brands, including CBD, don’t produce their own products. The cost of maintaining a GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) production facility is prohibitive. Instead, they work with specialized manufacturing companies to produce their products.
With private label products, the CBD brand gets to choose their own formulation, exactly to their specification. With white label products, they choose an existing formulation from the manufacturer and put it into their own packaging.
It’s less important to worry about private label vs white label when purchasing CBD products than it is to focus on buying from a brand you trust.
Forms of CBD
Provided you live in a state where the use of CBD is legal, it can come in many different forms. How you choose to consume CBD is up to you, as is how much, and we’ll touch on the appropriate dosages in further detail a little bit later on in this article. This section will focus on the various forms of CBD, as well as how long it takes before they take effect.
CBD oil is one of the most popular forms of CBD and the majority are made using coconut oil or hemp seed oil as a carrier oil. CBD oil is ideal if you’re not a fan of taking tablets or vaping, but if you prefer to mask the taste, you can bake it into your very own edibles.
Most can be ingested by placing drops under the tongue or applied topically – just make sure you don’t confuse the two! CBD concentration can also vary between brands, so it’s always best to check the packaging and to do a dose test the first time you try a new CBD oil.
Another popular way of ingesting CBD is by consuming gummies or another type of edible.
CBD gummies can be used to treat a variety of ailments, including anxiety, pain, or sleep, and you can find low-sugar or vegan options to suit your dietary requirements in most cases. You can browse some of the best CBD gummies according to a dietitian’s advice here.
Like with all edibles, you can expect to wait for anything from half an hour to over an hour before the effects of the CBD will fully hit. They last for longer than other forms of CBD, however, and you can usually enjoy the effects for up to four or five hours after ingestion.
If you’re already a smoothie-lover or someone who enjoys adding herbal supplements to their food, CBD powder could be the best option for you to consume this substance.
In most cases, CBD powder is available either as a pure powder or you will find it mixed in with other ingredients. It’s important to keep a careful eye on the dosage you’re measuring out and to make sure you follow the recommended instructions on the packaging.
The only downside to CBD powder is that it can sometimes have a strong flavor which is designed to overcome that powdery taste you sometimes get with these types of products.
If you don’t like the flavor of your CBD powder, we’d recommend mixing it with something else that is equally as strong-tasting to mask the taste of the powder, such as hot cocoa.
Taking tablets isn’t for everyone, especially if you’re not already in the routine of taking daily medication at a set time, but if you prefer a no-fuss method of CBD use, this can be a good option.
You don’t necessarily need to take CBD capsules daily (this is something you will need to discuss with your doctor) and you can take them only as and when you feel you need them.
Like edibles, tinctures, or any other oral method of CBD ingestion, capsules or tablets will take a little longer for you to feel the effects compared to vaping or using a CBD spray.
One of the products you might have least expected CBD to show up in is lotions and creams, but there are some studies that suggest this can be useful in reducing inflammation.
This is another good option for anyone that is looking for an alternative to consuming CBD. Instead of ingesting it, you can apply a CBD cream or ointment to the affected area which could include muscles, joints, and ligaments for a localized release, per Dr. Chin’s advice.
Similar to a nicotine patch, yet simultaneously unique in its own way, CBD patches allow you to consume CBD through direct skin-to-skin contact. There’s no need to ingest or inhale the CBD if you prefer not to – simply stick on an adhesive patch and feel the CBD’s benefits!
You can typically find patches designed for specific purposes, such as to manage inflammation or insomnia. They can also offer relief while you sleep as they can be used at night, and the slow release of CBD is ideal for those who aren’t looking for an instant “hit”.
CBD sprays can be used orally similarly to how you would use tinctures or oils. Simply apply under the tongue and allow it to absorb into your bloodstream. Compared to other methods of CBD consumption, this is one of the ways to ensure the highest absorption rate of CBD.
They tend to take effect much quicker than edibles or CBD tablets so it might be worth using a spray if you’re looking for an instant hit rather than a slow-burning release of CBD.
Vaping itself has increased in popularity in recent years, rising through the ranks as a rival (read: healthier alternative) to cigarette smoking. With that said, there are more health risks associated with vaping CBD than consuming this substance any other way.
According to Vice, this is mainly due to the lack of strict regulation regarding vaping which can lead to lung and/or throat irritation if the carrier liquids are cheap or of poor quality.
It’s worth noting that cannabis vapes use different ingredients to nicotine vapes, so always make sure you read the label to check before purchasing a new CBD vape liquid.
You can experience the effects of vaping CBD after as little as 10 minutes but it tends to only last for two hours maximum. This makes it a good choice if you pull a muscle, for example, as you can experience immediate relief rather than having to wait a few hours.
Is CBD Legal?
It feels like CBD is popping up all over the place, but is it actually legal?
As we mentioned previously, the FDA has only actually approved one CBD product which is a prescription drug. Per the FDA’s regulations, it is “currently illegal to market CBD by adding it to a food or labeling it as a dietary supplement” due to the limited data on CBD safety.
However, hemp and hemp-derived products are legal in certain states under the Farm Bill if they have a THC content of less than 0.3%. This can lead to some confusion and leaves consumers unsure of the rules regarding CBD use, so always check the laws in your state.
Now you know about the different ways you can consume CBD, let’s take a look at how to make sure you’re taking the correct dosage for your needs.
As Health points out, “CBD products should be tested by a third party to confirm the label’s accuracy” when you purchase CBD products as many contain less than claimed.
For example, in a study conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2017, 26% of 84 products that were tested for CBD contained lower doses than what was stated on the packaging. To avoid such products, look out for a quality assurance stamp.
How to Calculate Dosage
It’s much easier to calculate the dosage for certain CBD products than it is for others.
Gummies, for example, are easy to work out as the packaging will usually state the dose per gummy. At the very least, you should be able to find the relevant information regarding dosage on the brand’s website – if you can’t, question their quality and legitimacy.
First, you need to establish what size dose you should be taking. You should take into account your size, weight, and overall body mass, as well as the reasons for taking CBD in the first place. For these reasons, the required dosage will depend on the individual.
If you’re thinking about starting on CBD, it’s worth talking to a doctor or a medical expert to work out what sort of CBD dose you should be taking.
Is it Possible to Take Too Much?
Although there is still research needed before we can fully understand the long-term effects of consuming CBD, initial efforts have been made to determine whether or not CBD is harmful. The results show that CBD poses no immediate threat, especially in small doses.
For example, research was conducted into the effects of consuming a 300 mg dose of cannabidiol by mouth for up to six months with no adverse effects. The same research also suggests that you can take a higher dose of 1,200 to 1,500 mg safely for up to four weeks.
This is the general belief held by experts in the field, hence why CBD has become a legal substance to use either recreationally or for medical purposes in certain states, yet more recent research and certain studies suggest large quantities of it can cause liver damage.
If in doubt, stick to a smaller dose. It’s always better to underdo it than to overdo it and remember, you can always take more if you’ve waited the recommended amount of time and you’re still yet to feel any effects from the dose of CBD that you’ve already taken.
Health Benefits of Using CBD
Although many people believe in the health benefits of CBD, there is little to no scientific evidence to back this up to the point of being irrefutable. That’s not to say that these benefits don’t exist – merely that there’s not enough data to confirm 100 percent truth in these claims.
According to the National Library of Medicine, the use of CBD has shown promise in being able to relieve pain, reduce the frequency of epileptic seizures, and alleviate anxiety. The Food and Drug Administration has approved just one CBD-containing drug, Epidiolex, and this is used to treat seizures associated with two different (and severe) forms of epilepsy.
Negative side effects of CBD can include dry mouth, low blood pressure, lightheadedness, and drowsiness as well as signs of liver damage in patients consuming higher doses.
Helps Ease Anxiety Disorders
In a cross-sectional study of cannabidiol users, 1483 respondents reported using CBD to treat one or more medical conditions. There were 3963 medical conditions included, with chronic pain, arthritis/joint pain, and anxiety being the top three reported.
Recent years have seen an increasing interest in CBD as a treatment for a range of neuropsychiatric disorders, including as a potential treatment for anxiety disorders, as preclinical evidence demonstrates CBD’s efficacy in reducing anxiety behaviors.
This is great news for anyone who has tried cannabis but couldn’t cope with the increased anxiety associated with long-term THC use.
Lessens Chronic Pain
People are turning away from your traditional paracetamol and aspirin in favor of more natural pain relief alternatives, which many people view CBD as.
Although further research is still needed, more and more evidence suggests that CBD could provide a new treatment for chronic pain. For example, a study on mice demonstrated a reduction in inflammation as the CBD blocked the release of compounds that trigger symptoms of inflammation in the body, hence the creation of topically applied CBD creams.
Sleep promotion is another presumed health benefit of taking CBD and there are many studies that look at the effectiveness of CBD products as a sleep aid.
One study showed an increased duration of sleep after taking a CBD dosage of 160 mg, although research also demonstrated that participants also fell asleep faster after the placebo, 5 mg of nitrazepam, and other doses of CBD (40 mg and 80 mg).
More recent research has further backed up these results, with 66.7% of 103 participants reporting that CBD has helped to improve their sleep. It’s worth noting, however, that 25% of participants reported worsened sleep. During a follow-up investigation, these statistics changed to a 56.1% rate of sleep improvement and 26.8% of worsened sleep.
Helps Those with ADHD
ADHD is one of the many conditions that CBD has been praised for helping, despite there being no evidence to support these claims. This is likely because CBD has had more luck when used to treat anxiety, a common symptom of ADHD among people with this condition.
Reduces Migraine Pain
An increasing amount of research is being conducted into whether or not CBD can help to relieve migraine pain and other types of neurological pain, Medical News Today reports.
According to Forbes, data collected “from a clinically validated survey showed that 86% of respondents reported a decrease in headache impact after using a cannabidiol (CBD) formulation for a 30-day trial period” which demonstrates its effectiveness for this purpose.
The successful use of CBD for migraine treatment shows further promise, with a 2018 study demonstrating the pharmacological properties of CBD, including being anti-inflammatory.
Can Help With Substance Abuse
It might sound strange to treat substance abuse with a drug, but as we’ve explained, CBD doesn’t give you a high like THC. Studies have shown that cannabidiol could be a potential treatment for addiction as symptoms crossover with many CBD-relieving symptoms.
CBD can also be used to help you quit smoking, as a 2013 pilot study indicated that those who switched to CBD smoked fewer cigarettes and eventually stopped craving nicotine altogether. This is supported by a study on the use of CBD in reversing tobacco withdrawal.
CBD for Pets
We share our homes, our love, and our lives with our pets, but when it comes to certain substances, they’re just not suitable for sharing. You’ll be pleased to know that CBD is not only okay for humans to consume, but it’s also something that your pets can enjoy with you!
Just like humans, animals can experience all sorts of ailments from anxiety to arthritis. CBD can theoretically be used just as effectively for pets (although again, these claims are somewhat unsubstantiated due to a lack of scientific evidence) as it can for human use.
There are a few things you need to know before giving CBD to your pets, but more and more people are coming around to the idea. The potential benefits of CBD use for pets include reducing:
- Cancer pain
- Inflammation of the joints
- Loss of appetite
Legally, vets are not allowed to discuss CBD products for your pet, according to Reader’s Digest. This is because marijuana is a Schedule 1 controlled substance, therefore vets could be penalized and potentially lose their license for even discussing CBD products with you.
The only state in which this does not apply is California, although vets are still limited to only discussing CBD products, and are not permitted to prescribe or recommend CBD products. Furthermore, the FDA has not approved cannabis for any use in animals, including CBD.
CBD has been sweeping the scene in the states where it’s now legal, so it can be enjoyed for both medical and recreational use by anyone over the age of 18.
No one has all the answers on the benefits and side effects of CBD yet – not even the scientists – but with no serious adverse effects reported after short-term use in the proper dose, and many people reporting positive experiences, more and more people are likely to turn to CBD to manage health.
If you’re keen to try CBD for yourself, please be sure to do thorough research and speak with a medical practitioner if you are able to.
Katie DeVoe is an in-demand educator, speaker, and thought leader in the hemp space. Over the last 12 years, she has started multiple, successful CBD businesses and been a guest speaker at numerous hemp and CBD conferences.