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A Beginner’s Guide To CBD

As knowledge about the benefits of cannabidiol (otherwise known as CBD) continues to grow, interest in the compound does as well. It’s no wonder you’re asking yourself “what is CBD?” given all you’ve probably heard about it up to now. This is especially true for those who have chronic conditions they may be hoping CBD oil benefits could help.

The short answer is CBD is a compound found in the cannabis plant that offers some therapeutic benefits, without the ‘high’ its better-known cousin THC produces.

But there is certainly more to this incredible substance than just that.

Someone dripping CBD oil to receive proper dosage for nausea

What are Cannabinoids?

CBD is a therapeutic cannabis compound, part of a larger group of compounds called cannabinoids.

The cannabis plant naturally produces hundreds of chemicals. In terms of human consumption, the most important of these compounds are cannabinoids. These chemicals interact with your body’s endocannabinoid system to produce a broad range of effects, including things like regulating appetite, mood, and sleep, as well as numerous medicinal and psychoactive effects.

So that technically answers the question of, “What is CBD?” But it leaves us with the question of “What are cannabinoids?”

These organic compounds are naturally found in plants and mammals, including humans. Cannabinoids can be further broken down into two categories: endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids.

Endocannabinoids are produced inside mammals’ bodies (endogenously) while phytocannabinoids are produced by plants (Phyto- means relating to a plant). Within the world of cannabinoids, the two most well-known phytocannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). These two compounds are responsible for most of the effects produced by the cannabis plant.

Nearly 150 phytocannabinoids have been identified to date, and there are several (beyond THC and CBD) currently being investigated for potential benefits 1 A novel phytocannabinoid isolated from Cannabis sativa L. with an in vivo cannabimimetic activity higher than Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol: Δ9 Tetrahydrocannabiphorol. Citti, C., Linciano, P., Russo, F., Luongo, L., Iannotta, M., Maione, S., … Cannazza, G. (2019). A novel phytocannabinoid isolated from Cannabis sativa L. with an in vivo cannabimimetic activity higher than Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol: Δ9 Tetrahydrocannabiphorol. Scientific Reports, 9(1). Citti, C., Linciano, P., Russo, F., Luongo, L., Iannotta, M., Maione, S., … Cannazza, G. These include cannabigerol (CBG), tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) and cannabichromene (CBC) 2 Cannabigerol Action at Cannabinoid CB1 and CB2 Receptors and at CB1-CB2 Heteroreceptor Complexes.  Navarro, G., Varani, K., Reyes-Resina, I., Sánchez de Medina, V., Rivas-Santisteban, R., Sánchez-Carnerero Callado, C., Vincenzi, F., Casano, S., Ferreiro-Vera, C., Canela, E. I., Borea, P. A., Nadal, X., & Franco, R. (2018). Cannabigerol Action at Cannabinoid CB1 and CB2 Receptors and at CB1-CB2 Heteroreceptor Complexes. Frontiers in pharmacology, 9, 632. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2018.00632 Navarro, G., Varani, K., Reyes-Resina, I., Sánchez de Medina, V., Rivas-Santisteban, R., Sánchez-Carnerero Callado, C., Vincenzi, F., Casano, S., Ferreiro-Vera, C., Canela, E. I., Borea, P. A., Nadal, X., & Franco, R. 3 The cannabinoid Δ(9)-tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) ameliorates insulin sensitivity in two mouse models of obesity.  Wargent, E. T., Zaibi, M. S., Silvestri, C., Hislop, D. C., Stocker, C. J., Stott, C. G., Guy, G. W., Duncan, M., Di Marzo, V., & Cawthorne, M. A. (2013). The cannabinoid Δ(9)-tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) ameliorates insulin sensitivity in two mouse models of obesity. Nutrition & diabetes, 3(5), e68. https://doi.org/10.1038/nutd.2013.9 Wargent, E. T., Zaibi, M. S., Silvestri, C., Hislop, D. C., Stocker, C. J., Stott, C. G., Guy, G. W., Duncan, M., Di Marzo, V., & Cawthorne, M. A 4 Pharmacological evaluation of the natural constituent of Cannabis sativa, cannabichromene and its modulation by Δ(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol. DeLong, G. T., Wolf, C. E., Poklis, A., & Lichtman, A. H. (2010). Pharmacological evaluation of the natural constituent of Cannabis sativa, cannabichromene and its modulation by Δ(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol. Drug and alcohol dependence, 112(1-2), 126–133. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2010.05.019 DeLong, G. T., Wolf, C. E., Poklis, A., & Lichtman, A. H. .

Common Phytocannabinoids: CBD vs THC

While terms like “phytocannabinoids” and “endocannabinoid system” may be new to you, you’ve probably heard of THC and CBD before. Even if you are here asking, “What is CBD?”

CBD is a single molecule cannabinoid. There are only slight structural differences between CBD and THC, but they have very different effects. THC is the cannabis compound most widely known for its euphoric side effects or “high.” Meanwhile, scientists widely agree that while both compounds have potential benefits, CBD is of the most therapeutic interest 5 Even High Doses of Oral Cannabidol Do Not Cause THC-Like Effects in Humans: Comment on Merrick et al. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research Grotenhermen, F., Russo, E., & Zuardi, A. W. (2017). Even High Doses of Oral Cannabidol Do Not Cause THC-Like Effects in Humans: Comment on Merrick et al. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research 2016;1(1):102-112; DOI: 10.1089/can.2015.0004. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 2(1), 1–4. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2016.0036 Grotenhermen, F., Russo, E., & Zuardi, A. W. .

The main difference between CBD and THC is that THC produces marijuana’s psychoactive effects while CBD is responsible for most of the therapeutic properties of the plant.

CBD and THC have a very interesting relationship. One could easily target the therapeutic, non-psychoactive aspects of cannabis by consuming a purely CBD product. However, many believe the cannabis plant functions most effectively when the full range of chemicals in the plant—CBD, THC, and the hundreds of other cannabinoids and terpenes produced by cannabis—interact together inside your body.

This symbiotic relationship between marijuana’s numerous chemicals is called the “entourage effect.”

Since the discovery of CBD in 1940, researchers have been asking themselves, “What is CBD?” Studies have suggested it may have health and therapeutic benefits when used to treat a variety of conditions and diseases, including inflammation, nausea, anxiety, depression, mild pain, stroke risk, certain seizure disorders, oxidative stress on neurons, and acne 6 The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: The current state of evidence and recommendations for research. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2017). The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: The current state of evidence and recommendations for research. The National Academies Press. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 7 Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. Russo E. B. (2011). Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. British journal of pharmacology, 163(7), 1344–1364. Russo E. B. .

Similarly, THC has properties that help with nausea, inflammation, nerve oxidation, and several forms of pain (chronic, cancer, and neuropathic) 8 An Introduction to the Biochemistry & Pharmacology of Medical Cannabis. DOH DCRx. (2015). An Introduction to the Biochemistry & Pharmacology of Medical Cannabis. [PowerPoint Slides]. Retrieved from: https://dchealth.dc.gov/dcrx DOH DCRx. . However, there are many people that avoid THC due to the possible side-effects of sedation, euphoria, increased heart rate, anxiety, panic, and dry mouth 9 Medical cannabis adverse effects & drug interactions. [PowerPoint Slides]. Government of the District of Columbia: Department of Health Fugh-Berman, A., Wood, S., Kogan, M., Abrams, D., Mathre, M. L., Robie, A., … & Kasimu-Graham, J. (2019). Medical cannabis adverse effects & drug interactions. [PowerPoint Slides]. Government of the District of Columbia: Department of Health. Retrieved from: https://dchealth.dc.gov/dcrx Fugh-Berman, A., Wood, S., Kogan, M., Abrams, D., Mathre, M. L., Robie, A., … & Kasimu-Graham, J. .

CBD can be taken on its own, but as already mentioned, there is a decent collection of evidence to show that taking CBD boosts the therapeutic effects of THC while reducing some of its unwanted side-effects 7 Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. Russo E. B. (2011). Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. British journal of pharmacology, 163(7), 1344–1364. Russo E. B. . CBD is believed to block the formation of 11-OH-THC, which is a form of THC about four times more powerfully psychoactive, resulting from digesting THC-infused edibles 10 How does cannabidiol (CBD) influence the acute effects of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in humans? Freeman, A. M., Petrilli, K., Lees, R., Hindocha, C., Mokrysz, C., Curran, H. V., Saunders, R., & Freeman, T. P. (2019). How does cannabidiol (CBD) influence the acute effects of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in humans? A systematic review. Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews, 107, 696–712. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2019.09.036 Freeman, A. M., Petrilli, K., Lees, R., Hindocha, C., Mokrysz, C., Curran, H. V., Saunders, R., & Freeman, T. P. . A review of 16 studies further concluded that CBD may diminish some short-term negative effects of THC, to include intense experiences of anxiety or psychosis-like effects 8 An Introduction to the Biochemistry & Pharmacology of Medical Cannabis. DOH DCRx. (2015). An Introduction to the Biochemistry & Pharmacology of Medical Cannabis. [PowerPoint Slides]. Retrieved from: https://dchealth.dc.gov/dcrx DOH DCRx. .

How does CBD work?

With claims that CBD can provide numerous medicinal benefits—without getting you high—CBD is becoming a huge market in the health and wellness space. But despite its rapidly growing popularity, many of the details about CBD remain unclear. Which is exactly why people are still asking, “What is CBD?”

CBD is one of the most important cannabinoids within the cannabis plant. Instead of producing a high, CBD delivers a number of subtle, yet very powerful, therapeutic, and health benefits.

So, how does CBD work?

Remember that there are two types of cannabinoids: endocannabinoids, the cannabinoids our bodies naturally produce, and phytocannabinoids, the ones that come from plants.

Cannabinoids, whether endo or phyto, interact with our body’s endocannabinoid system. This system has two main cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are found all throughout our bodies and are concentrated in the brain and spinal cord. They play a role in things like appetite, pain, and our perceptions 6 The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: The current state of evidence and recommendations for research. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2017). The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: The current state of evidence and recommendations for research. The National Academies Press. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. . CB2 receptors are found largely in our immune cells and can change our response to inflammation and pain.

There are no CB receptors in our brain’s breathing centers, likely explaining the nonexistence of overdose deaths from cannabinoids 11 Central effects of the cannabinoid receptor agonist WIN55212-2 on respiratory and cardiovascular regulation in anaesthetised rats. Pfitzer, T., Niederhoffer, N., & Szabo, B. (2004). Central effects of the cannabinoid receptor agonist WIN55212-2 on respiratory and cardiovascular regulation in anaesthetised rats. British journal of pharmacology, 142(6), 943–952. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.bjp.0705874 Pfitzer, T., Niederhoffer, N., & Szabo, B. 12 Injury and Death National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice; Committee on the Health Effects of Marijuana: An Evidence Review and Research Agenda. The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2017 Jan 12. 9, Injury and Death. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK425742/ National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice; Committee on the Health Effects of Marijuana: An Evidence Review and Research Agenda. The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US) .

While THC can partially activate CB1 and CB2 receptors, CBD does not directly activate either CB receptor. This may explain the lack of a “high” experience with CBD use.

Instead of interacting with these receptors, CBD increases the levels of our own endocannabinoids and changes their effects. It may also interact with a greater variety of other receptors in our body, causing a wider range of therapeutic benefits 6 The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: The current state of evidence and recommendations for research. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2017). The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: The current state of evidence and recommendations for research. The National Academies Press. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. .

CBD: Types, Sources, and Hemp Oil vs CBD Oil

What are the types of CBD?

You will find a wide array of CBD products on the shelves of CBD retailers and dispensaries. This can be intimidating for a first-time user, especially those still asking, “What is CBD?” But choosing which type of CBD you buy really boils down to what cannabinoids you want to take and if the seller has third-party testing to prove their worth.

The three most common CBD labeling terms are isolate, broad-spectrum, and full-spectrum.

A CBD isolate product should contain only purified CBD, with all other cannabinoids and plant impurities removed. Isolate products will contain no detectable THC and are less than 99 percent pure CBD. This is the most sure-fire way to ensure your product does not contain THC and you will not get high.

Still, you may wish to abstain from CBD products altogether if you are subject to THC drug screening. While no detectable amounts of THC may be present at lab testing, there is still a very small chance that tiny amounts of THC can build up over time in your body when taking cannabis products.

Taking CBD by itself as an isolate has many benefits, but as we’ve already discussed, taking CBD with other cannabinoids can boost the therapeutic effects. A broad-spectrum product will contain CBD plus a wide range of other cannabinoids, while still eliminating the inclusion of THC. Broad-spectrum CBD products may also contain beneficial terpenes. Terpenes are organic compounds found in many species of plants that may improve the actions of cannabinoids 7 Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. Russo E. B. (2011). Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. British journal of pharmacology, 163(7), 1344–1364. Russo E. B. .

Finally, full-spectrum products (like those offered by Hemplucid) contain many of the same cannabinoids as broad-spectrum products, plus the addition of THC.

Sources of CBD

CBD can come from two plants: marijuana or hemp. Both hemp and marijuana belong to the same cannabis plant species, but they differ greatly in their production strategies and cannabinoid content. Most notable is their difference in THC content.

Cannabis plants that have a greater CBD to THC ratio are called hemp, whereas plants that have a greater THC to CBD ratio are considered marijuana. In general, hemp contains very little THC; it is a more fibrous and non-intoxicating relative of marijuana. In the U.S. and Canada, hemp is required by law to contain less than 0.3 percent THC, with no specified amount of CBD 8 An Introduction to the Biochemistry & Pharmacology of Medical Cannabis. DOH DCRx. (2015). An Introduction to the Biochemistry & Pharmacology of Medical Cannabis. [PowerPoint Slides]. Retrieved from: https://dchealth.dc.gov/dcrx DOH DCRx. 13 Government of Canada. Health Canada. (2019). Government of Canada. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-medication/cannabis/about/cannabidiol.html Health Canada. . Levels of THC less than 1 percent cannot get you high.

Hemp is most commonly cultivated for its industrial, cosmetic, and cooking benefits, whereas marijuana is cultivated for its therapeutic benefits and its recreational, psychoactive effects. The ratio of THC to CBD produced determines the plant’s recreational potential, medicinal uses, and even legality.

Hemp Oil vs CBD Oil

How is hemp oil different from CBD oil? And how do hemp oil benefits differ from CBD oil benefits?

When choosing between hemp and CBD oil, keep in mind that the hemp oil you see at commercial retailers is typically made using only hemp seeds. The seeds are cold-pressed into an oil, which can provide health benefits, but does not offer the same therapeutic effects of CBD, since the hemp seeds contain virtually no detectable amounts of cannabinoids.

So what is CBD? Well, it’s mostly concentrated in the female flower buds of the plant, but it can also be found in the leaves and other plant parts as well. For these reasons, CBD is typically extracted from the whole plant (just not the seeds).

CBD oil is made by heating and passing a solvent or oil through cannabis plant material.

It is important to look for third-party testing results before buying any CBD oil. While hemp oil is required to contain less than 0.3 percent THC, CBD oil made from whole cannabis can contain all sorts of cannabinoids (including THC) at various levels. A reputable CBD brand should have test results available for their products that show what levels of CBD and THC are present, as well as any impurities.

How Much CBD Should I Try?

There’s no single right answer when it comes to dosing CBD. That’s because CBD dosage depends on a number of variables, including why you’re consuming CBD, the potency of your CBD product, and the means through which you’re consuming it.

As a general guideline, beginner CBD consumers should start slow and build up in dosing until they identify how much CBD they need to meet their goals. Oils and tinctures often come in 1-milligram droppers, so it’s easy to track your precise CBD dosage and simple to scale up or down as needed.

Similarly, edibles and drinkables typically mark how many milligrams of CBD is in each serving.

When it comes to vaping concentrates or smoking CBD flowers, your CBD dosage is a bit less clear. The best advice here is to start slow, especially since vaping and smoking produce fast-acting effects. If you feel good after a hit or two, then that’s a good dosage for you. But if you don’t feel anything, or if you want to heighten the effects after a few initial hits (and are still wondering what is CBD’s main impact on you personally), go ahead and do another one and see how you feel.

The beauty is brands like Garden of Life offer all of the above (and more), allowing you to test different products out and decide if CBD softgels, gummies, or sprays are right for you.

CBD Oil Effects and Safety

If you’re a beginner CBD consumer, it’s important to remember that you won’t feel a high from CBD. In fact, many consumers don’t really feel anything at all—likely prompting even further questions of “What is CBD?”

Think about an over-the-counter drug like aspirin. You know it’s working even if you don’t feel a pronounced difference in your lived experience. Many of the effects of CBD work much the same way. Most of CBD’s therapeutic effects are subtle yet powerful. The most noticeable effects of CBD tend to be its relaxing, anti-anxiety properties.

It is important to be aware of the laws and regulations in your area before purchasing, consuming, or transporting CBD or other cannabinoids. Keeping in mind certain jurisdiction restrictions, any plants that are grown with the intention to sell require a license. Things are a bit more complicated in the U.S., as many U.S. states have their own laws on CBD.

According to the World Health Organization, CBD is generally safe, well-tolerated, and does not cause dependence 14 Cannabidiol Critical Review Report. World Health Organization. (2018). Cannabidiol Critical Review Report. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/CannabidiolCriticalReview.pdf World Health Organization. . However, it can interact with important medications 9 Medical cannabis adverse effects & drug interactions. [PowerPoint Slides]. Government of the District of Columbia: Department of Health Fugh-Berman, A., Wood, S., Kogan, M., Abrams, D., Mathre, M. L., Robie, A., … & Kasimu-Graham, J. (2019). Medical cannabis adverse effects & drug interactions. [PowerPoint Slides]. Government of the District of Columbia: Department of Health. Retrieved from: https://dchealth.dc.gov/dcrx Fugh-Berman, A., Wood, S., Kogan, M., Abrams, D., Mathre, M. L., Robie, A., … & Kasimu-Graham, J. .  .

These reasons, among others, are why it is important to speak with your healthcare provider first before beginning a CBD regimen—especially if you hope to stop other prescribed medications. You may be able to answer the question of what is CBD now, but you still need your doctor’s guidance to determine how to best add CBD to your life.

The information provided is for informational purposes only. We do not claim to treat or cure any health ailment or condition. Please consult your doctor or healthcare provider before trying any new product. We are not responsible for any adverse reaction(s) you may have to any of the products featured on this site. See our T & C for more information.

Sources
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  2. Navarro, G., Varani, K., Reyes-Resina, I., Sánchez de Medina, V., Rivas-Santisteban, R., Sánchez-Carnerero Callado, C., Vincenzi, F., Casano, S., Ferreiro-Vera, C., Canela, E. I., Borea, P. A., Nadal, X., & Franco, R. (2018). Cannabigerol Action at Cannabinoid CB1 and CB2 Receptors and at CB1-CB2 Heteroreceptor Complexes. Frontiers in pharmacology, 9, 632. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2018.00632
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  4. DeLong, G. T., Wolf, C. E., Poklis, A., & Lichtman, A. H. (2010). Pharmacological evaluation of the natural constituent of Cannabis sativa, cannabichromene and its modulation by Δ(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol. Drug and alcohol dependence, 112(1-2), 126–133. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2010.05.019
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