Cannabidiol, often referred to as “CBD,” is one of the cannabinoids found in the cannabis sativa plant. The cannabis plant can produce approximately 150 different cannabinoids.
Cannabinoids are compounds that influence the endocannabinoid system in the body, affecting both psychological health parameters, such as sleep, pain, mood, and appetite.
Two of the most researched cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and CBD. THC causes the “high” often associated with recreational cannabis use and is also used for medicinal purposes.
CBD does not provide a “high” and is used for its therapeutic effects, such as its ability to promote relaxation.
CBD can be manufactured synthetically but is most commonly harvested from industrial hemp. This involves using extraction solvents to separate and collect CBD oils from the seeds and stalks of the hemp plant.
The oil is then evaluated for its cannabidiol content and treated using a unique heating process called decarboxylation. This converts the inactive compounds in CBD into active compounds, which allows CBD to react with the body.
On This Page:
Types of Cannabidiol (CBD)
In the US, there are two main types of hemp-extracted CBD products available: CBD isolate and full-spectrum CBD.
CBD isolate has been purified to remove THC and all the other cannabinoids and terpenes from the hemp plant so that only high-quality CBD is left. To form a CBD isolate, the CBD must be extracted and isolated in a lab setting.
It is the purest form of CBD available and is typically used by people who want to avoid any traces of THC, such as when they need to pass a drug test.
CBD isolate can be purchased as an oil infused with isolate, or in “raw” BAD crystal or powder form. As the CBD industry continues to grow, there is an increasing number of types of CBD available, such as CBD edibles, CBD tea, CBD capsules, and topicals.
Full Spectrum CBD
Full spectrum CBD contains CBD and all the other cannabinoids. This can include small amounts of THC (0.3 percent or less), along with cannabinol (CBN) and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV).
Some studies have suggested that CBD in this form is more effective because of the synergistic effect of all the cannabinoids. More research is needed to determine the effectiveness of full-spectrum CBD more conclusively. However, this form is hugely popular, particularly among those looking for relief from severe pain or anxiety disorders. It is important to note that the trace amounts of THC in full-spectrum CBD mean that it could compromise a drug test.
Full spectrum CBD should not be confused with broad-spectrum CBD. Broad-spectrum CBD uses an extraction process that preserves all of the components within the plant except for THC. The process to produce full-spectrum CBD retains the THC in the compound.
Both of these forms of CBD are different from hemp oil, which comes from the fatty acids and nutrients extracted from hemp seeds.
Hemp seeds contain a broad range of vitamins and minerals and thus offer high nutritional value. However, hemp oil does not contain cannabinoids and therefore, does not influence the endocannabinoid system in the same way that CBD oil does or offers the same health benefits. Aside from using it for its nutritional properties, hemp seed oil is used for lubricants, paints, plastics, fuel, and other household products.
How to use CBD
There are several different ways that CBD can be used: via topical application, oral ingestion, sublingual administration, and inhalation. Choosing between these is not just a matter of preference; each form of CBD provides unique benefits.
CBD oil and tinctures are the most common forms to take, but there are a lot of other options.
CBD topicals include lotions, ointments, salves, balms, patches, and bath and body care products. These are rubbed onto the skin, where they react with the uppermost layer of cells without entering the bloodstream. The skin contains a lot of cannabinoid receptors, which allows the product to interact with the cells easily.
Topical applications are primarily used for pain relief, to ease stiffness, or reduce inflammation. This allows specific areas to benefit, rather than the CBD being distributed throughout the body. Topical applications can last for up to three hours.
Oral ingestion is one of the most popular methods of taking CBD, and is usually done with CBD oil. There is a vast range of products on the market for this purpose, which include CBD edibles such as gummies, baked goods, and drinks. CBD capsules and highly-concentrated tinctures can also be purchased. CBD tinctures are consumed by using a dropper and dropping the oil into the mouth or by mixing them with food and drinks.
When CBD is consumed orally, it passes through the digestive system and is metabolized in the liver before moving into the bloodstream. This is the way that dietary supplements are broken down by the body.
Compared with other methods, oral ingestion of CBD can take longer to work but typically lasts for a more extended period. These products tend to last for approximately three to four hours.
Oral ingestion of CBD is recommended for those seeking relief from anxiety or stress, or those looking to improve the quality of their sleep.
CBD tinctures can also be taken sublingually. Rather than mixing the oil into food/drinks or dropping it into the mouth, it can be dropped underneath the tongue. This reduces the time taken for the CBD to work.
When CBD is ingested sublingually, it is absorbed through the blood vessels underneath the tongue, which means that it bypasses the digestive system and goes straight into the bloodstream.
Oral ingestion of CBD typically takes between 30 minutes and two hours to provide its full effect. In contrast, the sublingual administration of CBD can begin to work between five and 20 minutes.
Sublingual CBD is ideally suited for pain management, migraines, or bouts of acute stress. The effect can last for up to eight hours.
One can also find relief via CBD vape oils. This typically involves using a vape pen or vaporizer device to inhale the oil directly into the lungs. This helps the body to absorb the CBD at a faster rate than other methods.
When the CBD is vaped, the CBD is sent straight to the lungs, where it is quickly distributed throughout the bloodstream.
This method is often used for those experiencing panic attacks or requiring fast and effective pain relief. The effects typically last between one and two hours.
How does CBD work in the body?
When CBD is ingested, it has a range of effects on the body as a result of it activating cannabinoid receptors, which form part of the endocannabinoid system.
This system is involved in many different processes in the body, which include thoughts and comprehension, pain, appetite, memory, sleep, and immune function.
Two of the most critical cannabinoid receptors involved in the regulation of these areas are CB1 and CB2.
CB1 receptors are primarily found within the amygdala and hippocampus in the brain. The amygdala is responsible for emotional responses, particularly fear, and the hippocampus is involved in memory.
CB2 receptors are found in the immune, lymphatic, and peripheral nervous system.
The entourage effect
One of the most significant findings from the research on CBD is the entourage effect. This is the idea that the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids found within the cannabis plant all work together to provide more significant benefits than if they were consumed separately.
The entourage effect occurs naturally when a full-spectrum CBD product is consumed, but it will vary depending on the type of cannabis plant used. This is why different strains of cannabis each provide unique benefits.
There is scientific evidence supporting the entourage effect. In 1999, a team of scientists, including Shimo Ben-Shabat, noticed that certain neurotransmitters in the brain could influence the degree of interaction occurring between CBD and the cannabinoid receptors.
The length of time that CBD stays in the system depends on the method of consumption, as well as other factors that affect how the human body processes it. Regardless of the form used, research has shown that it will not stay in the system for longer than one week.
The benefits of CBD on the body
CBD offers several benefits for mental and physical health. It has been shown to benefit the following medical conditions:
Cancer: Both CBD and other cannabinoids have anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effects, which means they can halt the spread of cancer and cause cancer cell death. CBD also acts as an effective antiemetic for those undergoing chemotherapy.
Heart disease: As a result of its anti-inflammatory properties, CBD can potentially help to prevent and treat heart disease by strengthening the cardiovascular system.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): CBD influences the neuroimmune system, a network of structures connecting gut microbes, immune system, and the central nervous system. It can, therefore, reduce intestinal inflammation, offering relief from the symptoms of IBS.
Glaucoma: In glaucoma, the increased release of glutamate is the primary cause of retinal ganglion cell death. CBD has been shown to protect neuron cultures from glutamate-induced death, offering a potential treatment for glaucoma.
Seizures and epilepsy: CBD and other cannabinoids have anticonvulsant properties, making them potentially useful for the treatment of seizures and epilepsy. Research is at an early stage, but existing evidence suggests that they may be particularly helpful for childhood-resistant epilepsy.
Acne: Due to its anti-inflammatory effects, CBD is a promising treatment for acne. For this reason, it is now found in several skincare products aimed at treating acne.
Chronic pain: Research has shown CBD to be effective in reducing pain and inflammation in a variety of conditions, such as arthritis and multiple sclerosis. Some clinical trials have also demonstrated CBD to help improve sleep in these conditions.
Anxiety: CBD is effective in treating generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder when administered acutely.
Depression: Studies have demonstrated that CBD has anti-depressive effects, making it a useful treatment for depression and other mood disorders.
Regardless of the reason for taking CBD oil, it is best to start slow. Take five to 10 mg to begin and then adjust as needed. Over time you’ll likely need more as you build up a tolerance, but this should also be done gradually.
CBD risks and side effects
A review has highlighted some potential risks associated with CBD use:
Limited data: Animal studies of CBD have provided positive results, but there is a lack of data on humans, particularly on the long-term effects of CBD.
Toxicology: CBD has low toxicity, but not all potential interactions have been studied.
Regulation: There is limited regulation of CBD, which means that products can vary significantly in terms of quality, labeling, purity, and reliability. CBD sold in the United States is currently not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Drug interactions: CBD can interact with certain drugs, such as anti-epileptics, steroids, and antihistamines, depending on the dose used.
Is CBD legal?
There is a lot of uncertainty around the legality of CBD. Currently, medical marijuana is legal in 33 states in the US, and recreational cannabis is legal in 10 states.
In 2018, the US Congress passed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the amended farm bill. This means that CBD is legal in all 50 states as long as it does not contain more than 0.3% of THC.
Outside the US, CBD is legal in most countries, as long as it contains minimal THC. However, laws can be complicated and are continually changing, so it is important to research the regulation in areas where you plan to purchase and consume CBD.
Aside from legalities, it is worth ensuring that CBD products that you buy are reliable, in terms of concentration and quality. Third-party lab-tested products are strongly advised. This helps to ensure that you know exactly what you’re putting into your body and what effects it will have.