If you spend any time following health news online, you’ve probably heard of CBD. Short for cannabidiol, CBD comes from hemp, or the Cannabis Sativa plant. In recent years, interest in CBD has skyrocketed.

This is partly due to the fact that its psychoactive counterpart, THC, has been legalized to varying extents in a majority of states. While the legal debate over marijuana continues on a national level, people have looked into alternative ways to enjoy the health benefits without the high. Enter CBD.

Because CBD and THC both come from cannabis, the plant source for hemp and marijuana, there’s a lot of confusion about CBD, how it works, and what makes it different from THC. However, CBD is distinct from THC. For one thing, it doesn’t get you high. That’s a big reason why CBD is becoming so popular. CBD provides a wealth of health benefits without the “stoned” effect of marijuana.

There’s a lot more to know about CBD, though. To determine whether CBD can help you, and understand what it can treat, you need to wade through the hype to get at the truth.

That’s what this article is for. We break down everything you need to know about CBD, from how it affects your body to how you can purchase safe and legal CBD products.

What is CBD?

CBD is one of over 100 naturally occurring chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant. Since these compounds were discovered in the cannabis plant, they were named after it: cannabinoids. Another well-known cannabinoid is THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol.

The cannabis plant itself is categorized into two main families: Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Sativa. CBD and THC appear in both types of cannabis. However, the concentration of CBD or THC depends on whether the plant was sourced from marijuana or hemp.

Marijuana, which contains between 15 to 40% THC, comes from either Indica or Sativa. Hemp, on the other hand, comes from Cannabis Sativa alone. Hemp only contains 0.3% THC or less, and instead has a much higher concentration of CBD.

Typically, when you purchase CBD oil, it comes from industrial hemp. Although, occasionally, CBD products can also be sourced from marijuana. These will have a higher amount of THC, and may even cause you to test positive for marijuana use.

Does CBD get you high?

No. Unlike THC, CBD is a non-psychoactive component of cannabis. When you ingest CBD, you will not get high. In fact, CBD can counteract or lessen the high of THC.

Because CBD lacks the psychoactive effects of THC, many individuals view CBD products as a preferable alternative to marijuana. They can enjoy the health benefits of CBD, which range from pain and anxiety relief to reduced migraines and inflammation, without feeling stoned. This is especially appealing to those who are prone to experience the negative side effects of THC, such as increased anxiety.

Besides the intended benefit, such as pain relief, ingesting CBD may also cause you to feel a general sense of relaxation, lightness, or clarity.

What are the benefits of CBD?

CBD has many therapeutic properties. It can act as an anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antiemetic, and anti-anxiety agent. While the research is still developing, thus far the studies suggest that CBD can relieve or treat a variety of conditions, including:

  • Chronic pain and arthritis
  • Inflammation
  • Anxiety
  • PTSD
  • Depression
  • Psychosis, specifically that associated with schizophrenia
  • Nausea
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Migraines
  • Nicotine and opioid addiction
  • Muscle spasticity
  • Low appetite, such as from cancer treatment
  • Epilepsy and seizures

To date, CBD has only been officially approved by the FDA for treating epilepsy. Epidiolex is a CBD oral solution prescribed to treat two severe forms of epilepsy. Various states have approved CBD for treating other medical conditions, such as New Mexico, which approved it for PTSD.

How does CBD affect your body?

CBD, and other cannabinoids like THC, affect your body’s endocannabinoid system. Your endocannabinoid system is involved in regulating a variety of functions, including your mood, motor control, sleep, digestion, pain and inflammation.

Your endocannabinoid system is made up of endocannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors, and enzymes. The endocannabinoids your body produces are similar to external cannabinoids like CBD, which allows them to respond to each other.

When you ingest CBD, it binds to cannabinoid receptors throughout your brain and body. These are located throughout your nervous system, digestive system, and immune system. In binding to these receptors, CBD helps your endocannabinoid system communicate better with these other systems, enabling it to create the positive health effects like reduced inflammation and pain relief.  

How do you take CBD?

Although CBD oil is one of the most popular CBD products, CBD is available in many forms. There are four main ways to ingest CBD, including:

Which CBD product is best for you depends largely on personal preference. However, the way you ingest CBD can determine how quickly it affects your system, as well as how long those effects last.

For example, it can take longer to feel the effects through oral ingestion, since your body has to digest and absorb the CBD. Of all four methods, inhalation delivers the effects most quickly, but they’ll diminish sooner, too. The effects of CBD tend to be longer-lasting with oral, sublingual, and transdermal administration.

How much CBD should you take?

The dosage of CBD also plays a role in how strongly you feel the effects of CBD. When used in clinical studies, oral doses tend to range from 100 to 800 mg/day. However, the rule of thumb is 1 to 6 mg per 10 pounds of body weight.

Any CBD products you purchase will provide dosing guidelines. Use these for guidance. Because there are no official dosing guidelines, it’s safest to start with the minimum dose and work your way up until you feel the effects. Your dose may vary depending on your body weight, tolerance, and other factors like medication you may be taking.

If CBD is legal in your state, you can speak to your doctor or your pharmacist about how much they’d recommend, and if they expect CBD to have any adverse side effects with any of your prescription medications.

Once you find a dose that works, stick with it. Unlike THC, individuals do not develop a tolerance to CBD. That means your dose should continue to work for you, unless other variables change significantly (like your body weight).

Is CBD safe to use?

CBD is generally considered safe. It’s rare to experience side effects from taking CBD. When side effects occur, it’s typically from the interaction between CBD and other medications the person is taking, as opposed to being caused directly by the CBD itself.

However, because it’s not yet regulated by the FDA, that gives manufacturers some wiggle room in how accurately they label their products. According to a 2017 study of 84 CBD products sold online, only about a third were accurately labeled in regards to the amount of CBD. Worse, THC was detected in over 20% of the products. Vape liquids were the largest offenders, while CBD oils tended to have the most accurate labels.

Besides THC, there may be other ingredients in the CBD product that you don’t wish to ingest. Always carefully read the label when purchasing CBD online, and use these products with caution.

Is CBD legal?

Due to varying state and federal laws, the legality of CBD is cloudy at best. Because it contains less than 0.3% THC, in theory CBD should be legal in most states. However, since cannabis is still illegal at a federal level, that creates some uncertainty around its legal status.

Typically, if you live in one of the states where medical or recreational marijuana is legalized, CBD is likely to be legalized as well. If you have concerns about the legality of CBD where you live, review the CBD laws in your state.