Everything You Need to Know About CBD

Dive deep as we explore cannabidiol, one of the world’s most talked-about organic chemicals.

The legal cannabis scene has been evolving in significant ways over the past five years. Once associated with slackers and tie-dye, cannabis is now being incorporated into healthy, active lifestyles as a natural way to address an assortment of everyday ailments, like pain, anxiety, and sleeplessness. Those of us interested in learning more might feel a bit intimidated—there’s a lot of information out there. We’re here to lay out the basics, and help you develop some understanding when it comes to the various components of cannabis, namely CBD.

The Basics

First things first: legalization. Cannabis is completely legal for anyone over 21 in eight states and medically legal in 29. Countries like Canada, Uruguay, and Israel have also decriminalized the plant, illustrating how people and government the world over are starting to embrace cannabis’s diverse qualities and benefits.

There’s also a difference in the various types of cannabis. Certain cannabis strains, notably CBD-dominant varieties, don’t produce the euphoric or psychoactive effects (also known as a high) usually associated with consuming cannabis. Instead, CBD-dominant strains—and products derived from them—only provide medical relief, which is great news for those looking for natural solutions to their ailments.

There’s also a difference in the various types of cannabis. Certain strains and products, like CBD-dominant varieties, don’t even produce the euphoric effects (also known as a high) usually associated with consuming cannabis. Instead, most CBD products only provide medical relief, which is great news for those looking for natural solutions to their ailments. 

CBD for Starters

So what exactly is CBD? Short for cannabidiol, CBD is a cannabinoid, one of 80 such chemicals—including the better known THC—that occurs naturally in cannabis. Cannabinoids work by interacting with our bodies’ own, natural endocannabinoid system (ECS) which is an important regulating system in humans. Its main purposes are neuroprotection, stress recovery, immune balance, and homeostatic regulation, and also plays a role in mood, memory, immune function, pain perception, appetite, sleep, and other bodily functions.

Until recently, the benefits of CBD have gone largely undiscussed. In 2013, though, CBD became a hot topic in the Unites States after a CNN documentary told the story of a six-year-old girl, Charlotte Figi, who suffered from a severe, intractable form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome. The documentary showed how strains of CBD-dominant cannabis helped to dramatically reduce her seizures, from 300 a week to just a couple a month without producing a “head high.”

But CBD can be used for more than just serious cases of epilepsy. Because it doesn’t get users “buzzed,” it’s a natural alternative for individuals interested in learning about the medicinal benefits of cannabis who don’t want a “mind altering”  experience.

Because of the role the ECS plays in pain perception and inflammation, CBD can be used for many different types of pain, including: chronic pain, nerve pain, joint pain, migraines, even fibromyalgia. In fact, according to a recent HelloMD survey, 42 percent of CBD users said they stopped taking traditional medications—think over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers such as Tylenol and prescription meds like Vicodin—in favor of CBD. Therefore, CBD could be crucial in helping our country fight a devastating opioid epidemic, as well as helping to avoid other health issues associated with taking too many OTC NSAIDs.

Having trouble getting some shut-eye? Dealing with a huge project at work, and looking for a new way to unwind? CBD is also commonly used to treat anxiety, depression, and insomnia. For those who considered cannabis as a supplement or alternative for treating these issues, CBD in combination with other healthy lifestyle choices, like exercise and healthy eating, can be a great option. It helps to relax the mind and body without producing dysphoria, panic attacks, or paranoia sometimes associated with products rich in THC.

Find Your Perfect Product

Interested in trying it out for yourself? When looking for a CBD product that’s right for you, there are tons of options. First of all, if avoiding a “head high” is your goal, be sure to buy a product that is CBD-dominant, meaning it has little or no THC. Many good options  will be CBD-dominant but still sourced from whole plant “marijuana,” to support the “entourage effect.” (Insider info: The entourage effect is a belief in the cannabis community that products provide the most relief when they are a combination of all 80 cannabinoids and other molecules that occur naturally in the cannabis plant, rather than isolated CBD molecules. Pretty cool, huh?)

There are also products that are “high in CBD” or 1:1 CBD:THC, which produce the entourage effect. Due to the presence of THC, though, these products can give users a buzz, albeit usually a mellow and functional one. For some ailments and individuals, having equal parts THC and CBD is more beneficial. Besides, THC is more than just psychoactive; it too has many medical properties.

The legal market hosts a wide array of CBD-rich options for treating ailments. You can choose from CBD-dominant cannabis flowers, like Charlotte’s Web (named for Charlotte Figi), or vape pen concentrates derived from these flowers. And if smoking or vaping doesn’t fit into your lifestyle, there are plenty of edible and topical options as well:

  • CBD tinctures, which can be dropped directly under the tongue or added to food and drinks are popular options, as well as pills and other, more fun edible products, like teas and even chocolate. CBD topicals like lotions and salves are also popular, especially for joint pain and post-workout soreness. There are even CBD lubricants and bath bombs—which sound perfect after an evening yin class.
  • Your dog can join in too. Because all mammals have endocannabinoid systems, CBD is also safe for pets. CBD dog treats are popular for pets in pain or who suffer from anxiety and hyperactivity.
  • There is a ton of potential for CBD, like inhalers that can help people quit smoking cigarettes and CBD chewing gum to help curb opiate cravings, but it is still federally illegal in the United States.
  • The powerful effects of CBD are also being recognized internationally. Our neighbors to the south, Mexico, just passed their first medical cannabis bill that, for now, only allows CBD products with 1 percent of THC or less.

CBD may seem like cannabis buzzword, but its benefits are very natural, and very real. In the future, vitamin sections of pharmacies could be loaded with CBD products for everything from trouble sleeping to pain, depression, and anxiety. Considering CBD is just a supplement to our bodies own natural endocannabinoid systems, it’s likely only a matter of time.