Is CBD a legit natural medicine, or another gimmicky health fad? Here’s all you need to know.
Given the recent widespread increase in medical cannabis legalization across the US, it’s certainly no surprise that CBD oil has seen a meteoric rise in both use and popularity over the last few years. And of course, given the fact that a few of its success stories have been covered by the likes of CNN, Forbes, and USA Today, the attention of millions have started to seriously turn onto this all-natural, 100% plant-based therapy.
Admittedly, however, coming to terms with what exactly CBD oil is is no cake walk – especially if you’re a complete newcomer to the world of cannabis. Is it marijuana? Is it hemp? (And what’s the difference between the two, if there is any?) Is it safe to use? Is it effective? Is it legal?
In this article, (which you might consider a complete, one-stop guide to anything and everything CBD oil), we aim to answer all of these questions — and more.
CBD is a natural and wonderfully powerful medicinal tool that thousands upon thousands of people are using on a daily basis, and we’re here to help make sure that you understand how it works so that you can get the most out of its therapeutic potential.
CBD (Cannabidiol) Hemp Oil: What Is It?
First and foremost, it’s important to understand that CBD is a 100% naturally-occurring compound (called a cannabinoid) located within the cannabis plant. Dozens of other cannabinoids (such as THCV, CBC, CBG, etc) exist and have been identified in cannabis, but they typically aren’t thought to have much effect in terms of medicinal therapy. As a matter of fact, THC and CBD make up to be 90% of the total cannabinoid content studied in the marijuana plant.
DID YOU KNOW: THC and CBD make up 90% of the cannabinoid content in most marijuana strains?
As such, it’s generally regarded that CBD and THC are the most important active marijuana components, at least with regard to the effects that they have on the human body. As you’ll see shortly, though, there are major differences between these two compounds — primarily in the fact that one of them (CBD) does not get you high.
Is CBD Marijuana?
Since CBD is simply an active chemical compound of the marijuana plant, it wouldn’t be correct to say that “CBD is marijuana” – it’s just a part of it. When most people think of marijuana, they think of regular “weed” that you would roll up into a joint and smoke to get high. This is NOT how CBD works.
When most people think of marijuana, they think of regular “weed” that you would roll up into a joint and smoke to get high. This is NOT how CBD works.
Rather, CBD (after it has been extracted from the plant, of course) is typically taken as an oil rather than smoked. As we’ll see here shortly, though, there are actually several different ways that CBD can be taken for medicinal therapy – none of which produce the stereotypical marijuana “high.”
What Are the Effects of CBD?
The effects of CBD are 100% therapeutic in nature – like we’ve mentioned a few times now, it produces no psychoactive or intoxicating effects whatsoever.
As such, people who take CBD on a day-to-day basis generally do so to find relief from a medical condition. While a lot of individuals use it to entirely replace over-the-counter or prescription drugs, it is (usually) fine to take along with other medications as well, without the risk of serious side effects or contraindications.
The effects of CBD are 100% therapeutic in nature – it produces no psychoactive or intoxicating effects.
Some of the most common conditions that people use CBD oil for are chronic pain, anxiety, depression, arthritis, and insomnia. However, as we’ll talk about here shortly, CBD has also been known to effectively treat (not cure) dozens upon dozens of other disorders as well.
What Is the Endocannabinoid System?
In order to have an idea of how CBD oil works in the body to produce its pain-relieving and therapeutic effects, one has to have a general understanding of the endocannabinoid system, or ECS.
Basically, the ECS is the human body’s very own “internal” cannabis system. It includes a network of neurotransmitters and receptors that, believe it or not, are virtually identical to the active compounds found in marijuana. These compounds work together with cell and tissue types all throughout the body to help mediate, regulate, and control things like inflammation, the pain and immune response systems, neurogenesis (new cell production), apoptosis (programmed cell death), and even psychological behavior and response.
CBD works with the body’s endocannabinoid system – an “internal cannabis system” that helps regulate things like inflammation, pain, sleep, and stress response.
In fact, the naturally-occurring neurotransmitters and receptors that make up the endocannabinoid system are so widespread throughout the body that doctors have labeled it as perhaps the most “central component of the health and healing of every human being.” The only reason we haven’t heard much about it over the years is because it’s only recently been discovered – in the 1990’s to be exact, by famous Israeli scientist Dr. Raphael Mechoulam.
On a therapeutic level, CBD works by interacting with ECS receptors in the body’s various cell, organ, and tissue systems. And since its receptors are found literally all throughout the body, it makes sense that cannabis – and CBD oil in particular – has the ability to effectively treat any range of medical challenges.
What Are the Health Benefits of CBD?
Since CBD interacts on a cellular level with essentially every system in the human body, it’s no stretch of the imagination to say that its health benefits are truly endless. In fact, in the more than 20,000 published scientific studies involving cannabinoids (cited below in an article released by NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), it has been documented that CBD oil may have potential to help treat:
- Seizures / Epilepsy
- Anxiety / Depression
- Insomnia (and other sleep disorders)
- Pain / Inflammation
- Cardiovascular disease
- Spasticity / Muscle spasms
- Multiple Sclerosis
And this is by no means a complete list – like we mentioned earlier, the simple fact that CBD oil interacts with endocannabinoids and their receptors in every cell and tissue type in the body, truly does give it the potential to be an all-encompassing therapy for any range of medical issues.
CBD Oil: What Is It?
CBD oil, of course, is simply the end product of pure CBD that has been extracted from the raw cannabis plant.
Actually, truth be told that is a bit of an over-simplification — it’s worth mentioning that 100% pure CBD actually exists as a crystalline solid, not dissimilar from salt in terms of appearance. The oil, then, is simply used as a molecular “carrier” of sorts that allows the body to ingest the compound easily, and metabolize it thoroughly and efficiently.
DID YOU KNOW: 100% pure CBD actually exists as a crystalline solid?
And in any regard, multiple studies have shown that CBD oil actually works better than pure CBD isolate in terms of therapy. This is because of something called the “entourage effect,” which basically means that cannabis compounds work better when working together; in addition to the CBD, for instance, a quality full-spectrum CBD oil should contain plenty of terpenes, flavonoids, and phytonutrients — all essential molecular componentry of therapeutic marijuana.
How CBD Oil Works
Again, CBD oil works by interacting with the internal pathways of the body’s endocannabinoid system. The two primary endocannabinoids that are produced by the body are anandamide and 2-AG (otherwise known as 2-arachidonoylglycerol). These molecules function by binding to their corresponding endocannabinoid receptors, which include both the CB-1 and CB-2 receptors (CB-1 is known to primarily be located in the brain and central nervous system, while CB-2 is abundant in organ tissues and the immune response system).
Under normal circumstances (i.e. in a healthy, normally-functioning body), there is a perfect maintained ratio of endocannabinoids to their receptors. When in sync, this ratio works tirelessly to ensure homeostasis on every single level. In fact, as Dr. Dustin Sulak defines it in an educational article produced for NORML, endocannabinoids are responsible for ensuring homeostatic regulation on “every level of biological life – from the sub-cellular, to the organism, and perhaps to the community and beyond.”
Cannabinoids [like CBD] are responsible for homeostatic regulation on ‘every level of biological life’: from the sub-cellular, to the organism, and perhaps to the community and beyond.
However, disruptions in the endocannabinoid/receptor ratio can (and do) arise when the body experiences sickness or other “malfunctions,” which of course can come in any range of forms, incuding physical injury, disease, tissue inflammation, and so on. When there are not enough endocannabinoids present in the body to bind to their corresponding CB-1 and CB-2 receptors (and thereby carry out their role of maintaining whole-body homeostasis), CBD oil can restore the natural cannabinoid/receptor ratio, and thus return the affected system(s) back to proper homeostatic health.
Is CBD Oil Legal?
Given the fact that it is indeed a component of the cannabis plant (which of course is 100% federally illegal), one of the major concerns is whether or not CBD oil is actually legal to buy, ship, possess, and use. The answer to this, unfortunately, is kind of ‘yes’ and ‘no.’
Whether or not CBD oil is legal depends entirely on where it comes from – in other words, whether it comes from hemp or actual marijuana (both hemp and marijuana are classified under the scientific genus “Cannabis”).
Industrial hemp is actually a legal plant under the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill. Hemp does not contain high amounts of THC, which of course is the high-inducing, psychoactive ingredient of cannabis. In fact, if a cannabis plant is less than 0.3% THC by weight, it is referred to as hemp. All other forms of cannabis are referred to as marijuana.
Fortunately for medicinal cannabis users, legal hemp actually contains useful quantities of CBD, as well as the other compounds (like terpenes and flavonoids) that give the plant its therapeutic effects.
DID YOU KNOW? Cannabis that contains less than 0.3% THC can be classified as industrial hemp.
As such, if a CBD oil product has been sourced from legal industrial hemp, then it is, of course, legal. If it has been sourced from actual marijuana plants (i.e. cannabis plants that contain high amounts of THC), then it is illegal. For legal purposes, of course, the vast majority of therapeutic CBD oil on the market is hemp-based.
However, while hemp does contain functional amounts of CBD, it doesn’t contain it in very high volumes. As such, large amounts of the raw plant material needs to be processed in order to extract a CBD oil that will be effective in terms of medicinal therapy. This isn’t a problem, of course, as long as the extraction process is done right.
Unfortunately, quality CBD extraction is not a very easy – or cheap – thing to do. The pressurized CO2 equipment that’s used is extremely expensive, and thus there are really only a handful of manufacturers out there at the moment with the means to produce a truly quality CBD oil from raw hemp plants. So in short, you really need to do your homework when it comes to selecting the best oils, as there are currently A LOT of sub-par products out there on the market.
[Related article: 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying CBD Oil]
Is It Safe to Take CBD Oil?
One of the main draws to using CBD oil over other pharmaceutical (or even over-the-counter) drugs, is that it has shown to be extremely safe in terms of its almost complete lack of side effects.
In fact, just last year (2017) the World Health Organization issued a massive statement to governments all over the world, essentially proclaiming its effectiveness as a medicine and the fact that it is not associated with any adverse side effects. Here is one of the official statements that was released at the Expert Committee on Drug Dependence in November 2017:
…[based on evidence from studies, it has been determined that CBD oil] is safe, well tolerated, and not associated with any significant adverse public health effects.
Moreover, WHO went on to say that the active cannabis compound is “not associated with abuse potential, does not induce physical dependence, [and is] is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile.”
In short, to answer the question of “is it safe to take CBD oil,” the answer is a resounding YES.
Of course, this makes it all the more crazy when you realize that the US government still deems it illegal under federal law.
What Is the Difference Between Cannabinoids?
Even though CBD and THC are by far the two most active cannabinoids in cannabis, there are actually upwards of 100 other cannabinoids that are known to exist in the plant. However, it’s known that the majority of these are non-functional “pre-cursor” molecules, that are simply involved in the synthesis of the “more important” cannabinoids like cannabidiol and THC.
That said, there have been a few other cannabinoids other than THC and CBD that are known to produce therapeutic effects on the body. Compounds like THCV and THCA, for example, have shown promising potential for use in a wide range of medical ailments. Likewise, cannabinoids like CBDV, CBN, CBG, and CBC have all shown to produce anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory effects on the body. We did an article not too long ago, in fact, that talked about the potential of CBC becoming “the next” CBD in terms of its ability to treat so many medical ailments without producing a high.
Of course, in regard to the ultimate question of ‘what is the difference between cannabinoids,’ the key difference lies between the “big players,” CBD and THC.
Since we have already talked about it extensively here in this article we won’t go into much detail again here, but basically the #1 difference between THC and CBD is that CBD does not get you high. Since it interacts primarily with CB-2 receptors in organ tissues and the immune system (rather than CB-1 receptors in the brain), it does not produce any mind-altering, intoxicating effects.
The #1 difference between THC and CBD is that CBD does not get you high.
What Makes Hemp CBD Oil Unique?
With the ridiculous amount of “CBD” products that are out there on the market, one of the most frequently asked questions that we get here is “what makes hemp CBD oil unique.”
Indeed, with thousands upon thousands of products online marketed as “hemp CBD oil,” “cannabis CBD oil,” “marijuana CBD oil,” and so on and so forth, it can be virtually impossible to tell the difference between one oil and the next.
The key thing that you want to consider in regard to what makes hemp CBD oil unique is that, first and foremost, the product actually contains therapeutic amounts of cannabidiol. There are SO many companies out there who are currently marketing glorified “snake oil,” that has little to none of the active cannabinoid even in it.
In fact, in each of the past three years, the federal government has issued official warning letters to dozens of cannabis companies, for advertising “CBD oil” products that, after being tested in the lab, contained virtually zero of the active ingredient.
A true, quality full-spectrum hemp CBD oil will have upwards of 3% CBD by volume, in addition to other active hemp ingredients like phytonutrients, flavonoids, and terpenes. And of course, hemp cbd is most “unique” from regular marijuana because of the fact that it contains zero THC, meaning it will NOT get you high.
Does CBD Oil Make Me High?
So like we just mentioned above, the answer to the question “does CBD oil make me high” is a 100%, resounding NO. Since cannabidiol is not known to interact significantly with CB-1 receptors in the brain, its effects in terms of psychoactivity are negligible.
Instead, CBD interacts both directly and indirectly with CB-2 receptors in other parts of the body, including organ systems, the immune system, the pain response system, and even the hormonal system which is crucial in terms of regulating all aspects of our health.
Since CBD is not known to interact significantly with CB-1 receptors in the brain, its effects in terms of psychoactivity are negligible.
However, it’s important not to confuse the terms “psychoactive” with “intoxicating.” CBD oil has been shown to have great results on symptoms of anxiety, depression, insomnia, stress, and even psychosis and schizophrenia, so “technically” speaking it does possess a psychoactive influence on brain behavior. The key word to use, then, rather than “non-psychoactive” is “non-intoxicating.”
(For a more detailed description of psychoactivity and CBD oil, check out our article on Dr. Adie Poe’s research for HABU health).
What Are the Differences Between CBD and THC?
Again, since we’ve talked about it so in-depth in previous parts of the article, we won’t go into much detail here with regard to what are the differences of CBD and THC.
Essentially, the #1 thing to understand is that CBD is a CB-2 receptor agonist, rather than a CB-1 agonist like THC. In layman terms, this simply means that it doesn’t have intoxicating, mind-altering effects on the brain. Or in other words, that it doesn’t produce a high.
Does CBD Oil Have Side Effects?
To reiterate what we talked about earlier in terms of does CBD oil have side effects, the answer is a definitive, 100% “no.”
Scientists, physicians, and patients alike have all known this for years, but the World Health Organization’s definitive proclamation at last year’s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence essentially verified the information.
In a statement to health officials all over the world, WHO claimed that scientific evidence showed CBD oil to be safe … and not associated with any significant adverse public health effects.
You’re not going to find a more definitive answer than that one in terms of whether CBD is safe or not.
CBD Oil Benefits
The most common medical conditions that have been shown to respond effectively to CBD oil are pain (both chronic and acute), arthritis-induced pain and joint swelling, inflammation, anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
However, there have been dozens upon dozens of other medical conditions and disorders showing that cannabidiol may also be able to help with multiple sclerosis (MS), fibromyalgia, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s disease, among many others. Here are some conditions in which definitive research studies have shown positive results in terms of CBD oil being used as a therapy:
Natural Pain Relief or Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Not a lot of people realize that the U.S. government currently holds a patent on CBD oil for its use as a neuroprotectant (meaning it protects the brain and its cells from nerve degeneration which are common due to old age, and from diseases like alzheimer’s, MS, and fibromyalgia).
DID YOU KNOW? The U.S. government holds a patent on cannabinoids [such as CBD] for their use as a neuroprotectant.
Moreover, though, one of the most well-studied aspects of CBD therapy has been for its use as a pain reliever and an anti-inflammatory.
Project CBD, in fact (which is a non-profit organization dedicated to the transparency of cannabidiol research), lists no less than 19 published studies on CBD for inflammation, and a further 21 on CBD oil for pain relief. And of course, these are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the vast resources that have been put into researching cannabidiol for these specific uses.
CBD for inflammation, in particular, is an extraordinary use due to the fact that inflammation is the underlying cause of dozens upon dozens of disorders and medical challenges. Conditions ranging from diabetes to obesity to chronic pain, for example, have all shown excellent response to the natural, anti-inflammatory effects of CBD oil.
Quitting Smoking and Drug Withdrawals
Research into CBD’s use a means to wean off addictive substances has likewise been extraordinary.
For instance, addiction to alcohol, tobacco, pharmaceutical drugs, and deadly opiates have all been scientifically shown to be much easier to overcome (and ultimately wean off of), when using CBD oil as a daily therapy. While the exact reasons for its anti-addictive properties are not yet fully understood, it’s believed that restorative properties in serotonin and dopamine production lie at the root of the complex physiology.
Major publications into CBD’s use as a means to help save lives of opioid addicts, in particular, have been groundbreaking.
Epilepsy and Other Mental Health Disorders
You may recall a major story that CNN did several years back about a young girl named Charlotte Figi. To (literally) make a long story short, Charlotte was basically a victim of one of the most rare forms of epilepsy known – a condition called Dravet Syndrome. Since birth, she would suffer gran mal seizures literally every single day of her life, sometimes hundreds in a single day.
After exhausting every single form of known medication and treatment available, and consulting with all the top epilepsy doctors from across the US, her parents finally decided to try CBD as a last-ditch attempt. And the results, to put it mildly, were no less than a miracle. While her seizures didn’t stop altogether, they were reduced from hundreds per week down to one, two, or three per day – and many days were even 100% seizure-free.
CBD oil for epileptic seizures has proven to be a reliable treatment option, [and has recently been] approved by the FDA.
Likewise, CBD use for mental disorders like anxiety, stress, and depression have been similarly promising, with dozens of studies being published showcasing the compound’s ability to moderate psychological responses to environmental change that result in brain chemistry abnormalities.
Along with its use for pain, inflammation, depression, and arthritis, CBD oil for anxiety is certainly one of the most popular and most well-understood uses for the cannabis-based therapeutic compound.
Over a dozen high-profile published studies have been listed on Project CBD, which is known across the country as the #1 resource with regard to collecting and organizing current scientific data on cannabidiol.
If you have been wondering if CBD oil for anxiety may be a practical treatment for your specific condition, take some time to read a few real-life testimonials. To put it lightly, you will likely be in awe of the positive results people have seen.
Type 1 Diabetes
To be clear, it has never been clinically documented that CBD oil for diabetes is a cure for the disease.
However, it has been relatively well-documented that CBD may have the potential to help treat the onset of diabetes-induced symptoms.
For instance obesity, glucose regulation, inflammation, and insulin resistance have all been scientifically documented to respond positively to the administration of CBD oil. And in fact, in one particular study in mice, it was shown that cannabidiol altogether lowers the incidence of diabetes in non-obese diabetic mice. This is believed to be due to the fact that the compound interacts with CB-2 receptors, which are known to be in abundance throughout the islet cells of the pancreas.
Though far less medically significant than most other disorders that it is known to help treat, CBD for acne is also one of the most common and popular uses for the cannabis-based compound.
This is kind of ironic, of course, as for years there’s been the thought that smoking marijuana actually causes acne. Not too long ago, however, we published an in-depth article that basically exposed this as no more than an urban myth. In terms of treatment, a lot of people have seen very positive results in acne reduction with both topical CBD salves, as well as traditional CBD tinctures.
Alzheimer’s Disease is another condition that has benefited immensely from the neuroprotective properties of CBD, and like we mentioned above, the U.S. federal government currently holds a patent on cannabidiol for this exact purpose (i.e. protection from brain cell degeneration).
While not necessarily known to cure the disease, CBD oil for Alzheimer’s could possibly be viable in terms of a therapy, as its interaction with ECS receptors results in a chemical protection (and even regeneration) of nerve cell fibers, which are inherently important to the health of all types of brain cells.
How to Use CBD Oil
In addition to so many other things, one of the sheer joys of CBD as a health supplement and medical therapy is how simple, effective, and safe it is to use.
For medical conditions (i.e. for the symptomatic treatment of pain, anxiety, stress, arthritis, depression, etc), most patients find that the best (or at least the easiest) form of administration is to take an oral CBD oil.
Many patients find that the best (or at least the easiest) form of administration is to take an oral CBD oil.
With these oils (otherwise known as tinctures), all you do is place several drops (usually 15) under your tongue, hold for between 60-90 seconds, and then swallow. The active CBD is absorbed through sublingual (under the tongue) glands, and eventually is taken into the bloodstream where it can travel to any point in the body that it’s needed. If you’re wondering how to use CBD oil or (more importantly) how much of it to take, check out it this extremely thorough article on CBD dosing.
In addition to CBD oils, though, there are several other effective ways to take CBD. It is commonly used in vape pens as a CBD e-liquid, as an infused topical in creams, lotions and salves, ingested as edibles (CBD gummies especially are really popular), and even cooked with!
And of course, there are several specific cannabis strains out there (such as ACDC, Charlotte’s Web, and Cannatonic) that have been bred to specifically contain high amounts of CBD and virtually no THC. So if you want to use CBD but like the “traditional” method of smoking your cannabis, than that’s probably the way to go for you.
Where Can I Get CBD Hemp Oil Products?
Like we talked about earlier, given the current unregulated nature of the cannabis industry you really have to watch out for shoddily-manufactured CBD products. Many of the less expensive products out there use techniques other than CO2 to extract CBD from the raw hemp, and this can actually be really dangerous in terms of health.
In fact, one of the cheapest and most widely-used extraction methods involves the use of butane and propylene glycol, which has been known to break down into the carcinogenic (cancer-causing) compounds formaldehyde and acetaldehyde – definitely not something that you want to be consuming in your CBD oil.
DID YOU KNOW? CBD oils with propylene glycol have been know to produce carcinogenic formaldehyde when heated in vape pens.
As such, you really need to be wary of where you can get CBD hemp oil products. While we’re not ones to play favorites, we have from time to time done reviews on some of the best CBD oil brands out there, so that may be a good place to start looking if you’re feeling a little bit overwhelmed.
There are a lot of really great companies and high-quality, effective products out there, but it can take some time and due diligence to sift through all the garbage “snake oil” products first. Do your homework, spend the extra money and go with a reputable brand, and you won’t be disappointed.
Final Thoughts About CBD and Cannabis
Well, that just about does it – we certainly hope this article has been both engaging and informative, and has answered many (if not all) of the questions you had about CBD oil, where it comes from, how it’s used, how it differs from marijuana, and whether or not it’s actually safe (and/or legal).
CBD oil is a wonderful, safe, highly effective therapeutic compound that is helping thousands of individuals all over the country — and indeed, all over the world.
And of course, we only expect it to gain more popularity as clinical research continues to filter into the industry, and doctors become more and more accustomed to the cannabinoid’s far-reaching therapeutic effects.