Even though CBD, cannabis, marijuana, and hemp are all related, the effects they have on the human body differ. In this article, we’re going to break down how CBD works, and how it makes you feel when you use it.
First, let’s go over some background information about CBD.
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What is CBD and How Does it Work?
CBD (Cannabidiol) is a direct derivative of hemp, a plant closely related to marijuana. Although not possessing any psychoactive properties in itself, CBD is the second most commonly found active ingredient in cannabis.1
When CBD is ingested, it exerts a litany of physiological effects that are made possible through activation of ‘cannabinoid receptors’ – receptors that are activated by CBD and are part of a system in the body called the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is responsible for the regulation of many functions of the human body that we experience daily. This includes (but is certainly not limited to): our thought processes and comprehension, pain, appetite, memory, sleep, mood, and immune function. Two of the most important cannabinoid receptors involved in the regulation of these functions are CB1 and CB2 (cannabinoid receptors 1 & 2).2
CB1 receptors are primarily found in two critical areas of your brain: the amygdala and hippocampus. The amygdala is responsible for emotional response and, in particular, fear. The hippocampus is involved in memory.
CB2 receptors are found within the body’s immune system and lymphatics (ex. Lymph nodes) along with the peripheral nervous system.
CBD oil is available in many forms and therefore can be consumed in a variety of ways. Some of the most popular CBD products include tincture, vaporization, infused skin cream, and edibles, and capsules.
The Effects of CBD Oil
To classify the result per individual based on a purely objective metric in which that standard can be generalized to an entire population is simply unfeasible. To feel, or to experience are solely subjective reflections that most certainly have the potential to vary per user. However, we can begin to understand the effect of CBD on the individual based on the science described above. It is important to note that CBD is a non-psychoactive agent, unlike cannabis. This means that the user will not feel a traditional “high” as that felt while consuming marijuana. This also means that CBD does not impair the user. Taking note of the areas in which CBD acts within the brain, it is congruent that most users report a sense of general well-being, calm, and relaxation after consumption. Others report elevations in mood with a decrease in anxiety.
Does CBD Get You High?
Despite sharing similarities to marijuana in terms of chemical makeup, CBD does not produce the same psychoactive “high” that is usually associated with its more colorful cousin. CBD is a non-psychoactive substance that does not contain THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the chemical compound responsible for the psychoactive “high” felt by marijuana.
However, many CBD users have reported feeling what can be described as a “body high,” which can have several manifestations, all of which can be arguably conglomerated under the overarching sense of “relief” that many users feel.
Whether it is a relief from physical pain, mental and emotional stress, or anxiety, users of CBD will report a temporary sense of amelioration from any mental or physical anguish that might be plaguing them. This sense of relief is not overwhelming, nor is it impairing (like THC). However, it is still palpable and tangible enough for the user to report some sense of mild to moderate improvement after consuming CBD.
What Does CBD Feel Like?
You’re probably wondering, how does CBD oil make you feel? This is highly subjective, and therefore very challenging to derive a consensus on. Many have described CBD to have a calming, relaxing effect with an enhanced mind + body connection. Some have used the analogy of a “runners high” to describe how CBD makes them feel. Others report a heightened sense of awareness and well-being within the mind.
Despite its subjective nature, the side effects of CBD have been consistently reported to improve sleep, increase focus, relieve pain, nausea, and anxiety, as well as elevate mood.
A study conducted in 2017 in the National Academies of Science, Engineering & Medicine pointed towards an associated between oral consumption of CBD as an effective antiemetic for those who are undergoing chemotherapy. This same study displayed patterns suggestive of the positive application of CBD consumption in patients seeking relief from chronic pain.
Another study conducted in 2011 in the Journal of Psychopharmacology showed how CBD had a positive effect on those patients suffering from social anxiety disorder. Those patients who were given CBD, in comparison to those who were given a placebo, demonstrated an overall decrease in their anxiety levels.
Effects of CBD vs THC
Arguably, the most significant difference between the effects of CBD and THC is the degree of impairment each substance will cause, with CBD causing virtually none. In states that have legalized marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes, there is strict law in place that views driving while intoxicated with marijuana in the same light as that of being under the influence of alcohol.
The main active chemical compound in cannabis plants is THC, the compound responsible for producing the characteristic psychoactive “high” felt by marijuana users. However, cannabis plants with less than 0.3% THC are classified as “hemp.” Hemp plants can be used to extract CBD.
Hemp and marijuana both fall under the family of “Cannabis Sativa” plants, which grow cannabis buds. Hemp, however, produces such an insignificantly small quantity of THC compared to cannabis that it’s used mainly for its stalks and leaves. To put this into perspective, hemp has 33 times less THC than even the weakest marijuana strains. For this reason, you can see hemp being used to make anything from clothing to nutritional supplements and even biofuel. Marijuana, on the other hand, is primarily cultivated for its THC effects.
When we look at hemp and marijuana plants, we can also see some visible differences between the two. Hemp plants are noticeably taller than marijuana plants, ranging anywhere from 2-4 meters in height. There are only a few strains of marijuana, in particular, C. Indica and C. Sativa, that will grow to this height. 4
Both hemp and marijuana will contain varying levels of CBD. Marijuana typically has lower levels of CBD than THC, whereas the converse is true for hemp. In states where marijuana is still considered illegal, it is classified as a schedule 1 substance due to the impairing and psychoactive effects of THC. In those states in which marijuana has been deemed legal for either recreational or medicinal purposes, growers will cultivate the plant for its flowers (which contain the highest levels of THC). This is in contrast to growers who will grow hemp for mainly its stalks and fibers. CBD is legal in all 50 states, but it still not regulated by the FDA.
Although CBD is extracted from hemp, it is important to realize that hemp and CBD oil are, in fact, not the same. Hemp oil is made from hemp seeds and does not contain any cannabinoids. It is mainly used for proteins and other sources of nutrition.
CBD oil is made from the hemp flower and stalks, which contains more significant levels of active cannabinoids.
How Much CBD Should You Take
Start slow. Everyone’s body reacts to things differently, so start with a few drops under the tongue and see how you feel. There is some medical literature that says the standard dose for a beginner is 5-10mg, and it’s what the researchers used in the study, but that is a very controlled environment.
Keep in mind that as you build up a tolerance for CBD you will likely need to move the amount of CBD you take upwards to compensate. Again, do that slowly and carefully.
Since there are no federal regulations on the consumption of CBD, it requires a bit of trial and error to find the dose that works best for you. The good thing about CBD is that if you feel that you’re not achieving your desired results, you can always take a little bit more and see if you feel a difference.
How Long Does it Take CBD to Work (and How Long Does it Last)?
The latency of onset regarding effect is dependent on the method in which CBD is consumed.
If taken sublingually (i.e., tincture placed under the tongue and swallowed), the effect of CBD can be felt within 5-10 minutes. Holding the oil in your mouth for 60-90 seconds before swallowing can shorten the time in which CBD takes to make a tangible effect for the user, allowing the onset of effect to arrive quicker. The effects can last for up to 8 hours.
If consumed in the form of edibles/capsules, the time of onset is 30-60 minutes, due to our (variable) ability to metabolize compounds within the digestive tract. These products tend to last for approximately 3-4 hours.
If taken via topical oil application, CBD takes 15-30 minutes to begin exerting health benefits. This is due to the amount of time it takes for the oil to absorb through the skin and start acting with the appropriate receptors. The benefits of CBD can last for up to 3 hours.
The fastest method of consumption is through vaporization. As this allows the CBD chemical to rapidly pass through the blood-brain barrier (through which humans can feel the effect of chemical compounds), the onset of action is almost immediate. The duration of effect can last for up to 1-2 hours.
- Grinspoon, Peter. “Cannabidiol (CBD) – What We Know and What We Don’t.” Harvard Health Blog, Harvard University, 27 Aug. 2019, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-know-and-what-we-dont-2018082414476.
- “Cannabidiol.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Compound Database, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Cannabidiol.
- Li, Xiaoxue, et al. “The Effectiveness of Self-Directed Medical Cannabis Treatment for Pain.” Complementary Therapies in Medicine, vol. 46, 1 Oct. 2019, pp. 123–130., doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2019.07.022.
- Greg Green (2003). The Cannabis Grow Bible: The Definitive Guide to Growing Marijuana for Recreational and Medical Use. Green Candy Press. p. 47. ISBN 978-1-931160-17-9.