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What is Cannabidiol (CBD)?

Updated July 25, 2022

CBD is the abbreviation for cannabidiol, a natural compound found in cannabis. This is the non-psychoactive component of the cannabis plant, and it has numerous applications, from relieving pain to minimizing the risk of seizures. CBD offers the same benefits that people experience from marijuana, but without the “high” that can interfere with school or work, or cause positive drug tests.

Specifics on the Source

CBD is present in both hemp and cannabis plants, specifically the stalks, flowers, and seeds. CBD is one of over a hundred cannabinoids found in cannabis, and it is the most prominent. To make CBD oil, manufacturers extract the cannabidiol from the plant before diluting it in hemp seed oil, coconut oil, or another carrier oil.

You can find CBD in hemp, a plant that has almost no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or none at all. Hemp is also commonly used for creating textile products as well as fibers. You can also find CBD in cannabis plants, and those versions may contain THC.

As mentioned, CBD does not have any psychoactive effects, but THC does. THC is the cannabinoid responsible for the “high” associated with marijuana. Since CBD can come from hemp that does not contain THC or from cannabis that does contain it, the levels of THC in CBD can vary. CBD products will always state their THC levels or a limiting description, and you can easily find THC-free CBD products.

CBD Works With the Endocannabinoid System

Humans can enjoy the benefits from CBD because of its ability to interact with the endocannabinoid system. This system is crucial for regulating our immune system response, pain, sleep, appetite, and other functions. Neurotransmitters called endocannabinoids bind to the nervous system’s cannabinoid receptors to help with the system’s functionality. The cannabinoids in cannabis, such as CBD, function in a manner similar to those endocannabinoids, producing benefits.

Conditions That CBD Can Treat

There are dozens of potential applications of CBD, including pain relief and minimizing the risk of seizures. Taking cannabidiol can relieve the following symptoms, which are part of a long list of conditions.


One of the most commonly used benefits of CBD is for pain relief. This is particularly true in the case of pain due to inflammation, such as in the case of arthritis. CBD can help multiple types of chronic pain. Different studies show it helps with neuropathic and inflammatory pain as well. Specific studies have shown promise for CBD in treating the pain linked to multiple sclerosis as well. In those cases, the CBD helped with muscle spasms and walking.

The pain relief benefit of CBD is nothing new as humans have been using marijuana for pain relief since at least 2,900 B.C. based on records.


Many people who experience nausea also experience relief thanks to the consumption of CBD. CBD also tends to produce quicker relief than pharmaceuticals that come in pill form, as there is no need for the body to digest the pill.


There is also extensive evidence that CBD can help treat seizure disorders. This includes both epilepsy and general seizure disorder. Patients of all ages suffering from seizures can experience relief from CBD. As such, some states approved medical cannabis or CBD use by adolescents as a way to prevent seizures.

Notably, CBD has helped those with some of the worst childhood epilepsy syndromes, including Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. This is important because not only are the conditions severe, but they do not typically respond to traditional treatments. Multiple studies show that CBD can either dramatically reduce the seizures of patients with these conditions or stop them entirely. The FDA even approved a cannabis-derived medication, Epidiolex, for treatment of these conditions.

Other Neurological Disorders

In addition to treating seizures, CBD has shown other neuroprotective properties, including the ability to reduce symptoms related to multiple sclerosis. Those with multiple sclerosis have experienced reduced muscle spasticity thanks to a combination of CBD and THC.

There are also early studies that show promise for using CBD to slow Alzheimer’s disease. These studies indicate that CBD may help stop neurodegeneration in those patients.

Heart Problems

Recent research also indicates that those who suffer from heart problems may experience improved health heart with CBD. One study showed that CBD could help reduce blood pressure. This is important since high blood pressure can cause metabolic syndrome, stroke, and heart attacks. Researchers guess that this may be due to the ability of cannabidiol to reduce stress and anxiety, as those factors are related to heart health.

Anxiety and Depression

It is also common for those who suffer from anxiety or depression to experience relief when taking CBD. Both anxiety and depression can have a life-altering impact, both mentally and physically. Depression is the world’s biggest contributor to disability, according to the World Health Organization.

CBD offers an excellent alternative to traditional pharmaceutical drugs used to treat anxiety and depression. Those drugs are known for side effects like agitation, insomnia, headaches, sexual dysfunction, and drowsiness. Certain medications for anxiety and depression are even addictive. By contrast, CBD is non-addictive and comes with almost no side effects.

Studies have found that consuming CBD before public speaking can reduce anxiety as well as discomfort and cognitive impairment. Other studies, mostly focused on animals, have also shown that CBD has effects similar to those of antidepressants.


Some studies suggest that taking cannabidiol may be able to reduce the psychotic symptoms associated with schizophrenia and other types of mental disorders.


Multiple studies, as well as anecdotal evidence, indicate that CBD can help people with insomnia fall asleep and then stay asleep.

Substance Abuse

Not only is CBD non-addictive, but it also shows promise in treating addiction. CBD can slowly modify the brain’s circuits involved in drug addiction. Studies with rats indicated that CBD could reduce heroin-seeking behavior as well as morphine dependence.

Many of the previously mentioned problems that CBD can help with are common symptoms associated with cancer. Specifically, it is common for cancer patients to experience nausea, pain, and vomiting. While there are medications available to treat these issues, they have varying effectiveness and typically come with side effects. By contrast, CBD can relieve those symptoms without side effects in most cases. It is even sometimes able to overcome pain or nausea that prescription medications cannot relieve.


There is also some evidence that CBD can help treat acne, reducing its presence. Cannabidiol could reduce the production of sebum as well as inflammation, both of which contribute to acne. Studies have found that treating acne with CBD can be effective and safe, although most studies so far were done in test tubes, not with humans.


In studies with mice, CBD was able to help prevent diabetes, showing promise for its ability in a similar role in humans.

Tumors – Maybe

Some very early research shows that CBD may even be able to prevent the spread and growth of tumors. Animal studies and test-tube studies showed this in relation to lung, colon, brain, prostate, and breast cancer. While scientists conduct more research, it is best to stick to traditional tumor treatments that are proven effective.

Methods of Consuming CBD

There are multiple methods of consuming CBD to take advantage of its benefits. This lets patients choose the method they prefer as well as their ideal concentration.


Tinctures are CBD oils combined with alcohol. Patients of almost any age can use CBD tinctures, which you can take alone.


You can easily find a topical product infused with CBD. These typically combine the CBD oil with beeswax and natural essential oils. They can also include other ingredients common in lotions and creams. Topicals are a good choice for those who suffer from chronic pain and want to target specific areas for relief.


Just like there are edibles containing cannabis, there are also edibles with just CBD and no THC or other substances. You can find these already made, with the most common form being gummies. Alternatively, you can make your own CBD edible using tinctures or oils. Just keep in mind that if you make your own edibles, it will be hard to control the dosage in each serving.

Edibles are a strong option for those who want long-lasting benefits, although the effects take longer to start.

Smoking Cannabis

If you live in a state where medical or recreational marijuana is legal, you can smoke cannabis to take advantage of its CBD content. If your goal is to take advantage of cannabidiol benefits, consider a strain that has a high CBD percentage. Common examples include Charlotte’s Web, Arianna, and AC/DC.

Safety and Potential Side Effects of CBD

There is no evidence that CBD shows any potential for abuse or dependence, according to the World Health Organization. This makes it incredibly appealing, especially as an alternative to prescription medications that do come with a risk of addiction.

CBD very rarely comes with side effects, although some are possible, depending on the individual. Side effects can include irritability, weight changes, appetite changes, diarrhea, nausea, and fatigue.

CBD might also interact with certain medications, so you should discuss any potential drug interactions with your doctor or pharmacist before you start taking cannabidiol. One example of this is that it may increase the level of Coumadin, a blood thinner, in your blood if you are taking that medication. It can also increase the levels in your system of certain other medications.

Not FDA Regulated

The biggest safety concern about CBD is that the FDA does not regulate it. This is due to the FDA classifying cannabidiol as a supplement and the fact that the FDA does not regulate dietary supplements for purity or safety. This means that you need to do your research before buying a CBD product to confirm that it is safe.

Because of the lack of FDA-regulation, you should always opt for CBD products that offer third-party test results. This is very common among the most reputable CBD product manufacturers, so it should not be hard to find a product with the relevant tests. Whenever possible, choose products that have Certificates of Analysis from independent labs, including purity, concentration, and ingredients. Testing from the company itself is better than nothing but not ideal.

Legality of CBD

You can usually find cannabidiol in most areas of the United States and many other countries around the world. CBD is illegal federally, but the federal government gives each state the ability to make it legal. As such, each state has its regulations and laws related to CBD, ranging from complete bans to complete acceptance. Middle-ground situations include allowing CBD products without THC or with THC limits, requiring special permission, or age limits.

Unfortunately, the legality of CBD is currently confusing, and it can even vary based on whether the CBD comes from marijuana or hemp.

Should You Use CBD?

The decision of whether you should try using CBD is a personal one. CBD tends to be an excellent option for most people, providing benefits like pain relief, stress relief, and treating symptoms of some disorders. Additionally, the extremely low risk of side effects combined with the possibility of getting CBD without THC makes it very appealing.

Unless you are taking a medication that interacts with CBD negatively or you have a medical condition that puts you at a higher risk of side effects, there is no reason not to try CBD. You can try it once and see how you react to decide whether to incorporate it into your daily or weekly routine.


Cannabidiol (CBD) is a natural substance found in the cannabis plant. It is non-psychoactive and can provide relief from a range of symptoms and disease with minimal to no side effects. Due to the lack of side effects, those with a range of conditions could potentially benefit from trying CBD.

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