CBD Oil: 9 Essential Things to Know

CBD oil is emerging as an alternative therapy for many psychological and medical conditions for which conventional treatments don’t suffice. More people than ever are turning to this organic and natural remedy for its numerous health benefits and close to negligible side effects.

There are many factors contributing to the rapidly growing popularity of CBD oil. One is its legalization in most parts of the United States (and some countries around the world). Another factor is the increasing number of scientific studies proving the diverse medical benefits of CBD.

But what exactly is CBD oil? If you are new to the CBD world and are interested to learn more about this product – you are right where you need to be. In this article, you will learn:

  • What CBD is
  • Where it comes from
  • Which forms it comes in
  • How to take it
  • How it works
  • What it treats
  • What the side effects are
  • What its legal status is, and
  • How to get it.

Continue reading below and don’t forget to take down notes!

What Is CBD?

Cannabidiol, more popularly referred to as CBD, is a compound extracted from the Cannabis sativa plant. This is the same plant whose flowers (buds) are smoked for their psychoactive effects. However, CBD is not the compound responsible for getting people “high” – that’s THC or Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol. CBD has no consciousness-altering effects whatsoever and it does not cause physiological nor psychological dependence.

Both THC and CBD are phytocannabinoids. There are two types of cannabinoids: endocannabinoids, which naturally occur inside the bodies of mammals, and phytocannabinoids, which are found in plants.

Most commercially grown Cannabis sativa plants are cross-bred to maximize the concentration of THC, while not particularly caring about the levels of CBD. This is done because the demand for cannabis comes mostly due to its psychoactive effects.

As such, CBD is rarely extracted from cannabis plants that are grown for recreational use. It is mostly extracted from those plants that are grown to maximize CBD levels (in which the THC concentrations are lower yet still significant), but also from hemp – Cannabis sativa plants which have less than 0.3% THC levels and which are, since the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, legal to grow industrially in the US.

A Brief History of CBD

When you look at the big picture, it’s easier to make out the moving pieces of the cannabis puzzle over time. Here is how the timeline roughly goes:

  1. Hemp has been used by humans since ancient times for non-psychoactive purposes. Nutritional oil was made from its seeds, medicinal oil from leaves and flowers.
  2. Marijuana is, after a long time of being grown and used legally, made illegal. Since then, it’s grown illegally for recreational use. Because it’s illegal, research into its therapeutic effects is difficult to conduct.
  3. Marijuana contains THC, which is psychoactive and illegal. It also contains CBD, so CBD, even though it’s not psychoactive at all, must also be illegal, right? Right.
    And research into CBD should also be difficult, even though it’s harmless, right? Right.
  4. Illegal weed is smoked for decades and nobody is dying from it nor developing addictions or diseases. So, it’s okay if science starts taking a closer look, yes? Okay.
  5. Finally, science finds a number of benefits of THC, which slowly starts dissolving the stigma around marijuana, along with numerous celebrity proponents as well as its many cameos in pop culture.
  6. Medical marijuana slowly starts getting decriminalized, and even legalized in one state after another.
  7. Now science can finally start looking further than THC, so CBD starts to seem appealing as its health benefits start getting validated one after another. CBD still holds basically the same legal status as THC. Many different CBD products are created and marketed, including CBD oil, CBD edibles, topical CBD creams, and CBD tinctures.
  8. The CBD market rapidly skyrockets from a small niche into a huge alternative healing scene as its non-psychoactivity is fully recognized by science and popularized by the media, while the public slowly starts dissociating it from (the still somewhat bad and illegal) marijuana.
  9. Relatively small CBD indoor grows, which were once serving the limited customer base, are no longer sufficient. The 2018 Farm Bill is passed, allowing industrial-scale growing of hemp. CBD extracted from legally grown hemp is legal, while CBD extracted from marijuana and CBD-rich cannabis plants still conforms to federal and state-specific regulations.
  10. CBD is incredibly popular and almost everyone distinguishes it from THC, although few are aware it comes from hemp, too (you’re welcome). More and more people start consuming it for its vast health benefits, which are gaining more scientific attention and validation by the second. A vape with CBD oil becomes a staple item in the breast pocket of all hipsters.

Most Common Forms of CBD Products

The CBD-rich cannabis plant is often dissolved in a mixture of water and alcohol for a few weeks and then strained to get a CBD tincture. Tinctures are often combined with other ingredients such as cinnamon or peppermint oil for flavoring, and vegetable glycerin to create a vaporizable tincture.

If the CBD is instead extracted from the cannabis plant, it can be processed in a few ways:

  • Diluted with a carrier oil like coconut oil or hemp seed oil to create CBD oil.
  • Inserted into softgels or capsules.
  • Infused into edibles such as chocolates, cookies, brownies, caramels, or gummies.
  • Infused into creams and balms for topical application.

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How to Take CBD

Different forms of CBD products are consumed in different ways, resulting in different times of onset and effect durations.

CBD tinctures are applied sublingually (under the tongue for 30-90 seconds); this way of administration allows the CBD to relatively rapidly enter the bloodstream (in about 5 to 30min). Sublingual absorption rate is estimated at 12-35%. The effects last four to six hours. This is the best way to administer CBD to pets, too.

Vaporizing CBD oil is probably the most effective way of intake. It is the quickest-acting (almost immediately or in a matter of minutes) because CBD molecules go directly into the bloodstream through the lungs. Absorption rate is estimated to be 34-56%. However, CBD is also quickly metabolized when inhaled, so the effects don’t last as long as they do when taken in other ways.

Ingesting CBD orally (in the form of capsules or edibles) takes the longest to work (30min to an hour) because it goes through the digestive tract and gets metabolized in the liver, like regular dietary supplements. The advantage is that the effect duration is significantly longer than when it’s inhaled, but, due to low absorption rate, estimated at 4-20%, they end up lasting for a similar or lower amount of time as in sublingual application.

The effects of topical application of CBD products should take up to 90min to start. Absorption rate is relatively low, at 13-14%, but CBD’s permeability is high, so effects typically last for several hours.

CBD is not a federally approved and standardized therapeutic substance, which means that the dosages, form, and frequency of intake are up to you to ascertain. Depending on what you’re taking CBD for, you should consult with your provider and experiment to find your optimal CBD regimen.

In the following sections, we will focus mostly on the use of CBD oil, as it’s the most popular way of CBD intake.

How Does CBD Oil Work?

CBD stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for promoting rest, healing, rejuvenating and regenerating, and inhibits the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for eliciting stressful responses as well as triggering the fight-or-flight mechanism. These processes are understood to be the basis of CBD’s overall calming neural effect.

Unlike its cannabinoid relative THC, CBD isn’t an agonist for the CB1 and CB2 endocannabinoid (eCB) receptors. However, it does indirectly interact with the endocannabinoid system, which was found to play a key role in regulating pain sensation. Through this action, CBD’s effects extend into suppressing pain and inflammatory processes. The eCB system is understood to also play a role in the processing of emotional memories. CBD is somehow able to alter aversive memories and prevent their reconsolidation, thus promoting improvements in the symptomatology of PTSD. It’s assumed that the interaction with the eCB system is responsible for this process.

CBD also seems to indirectly prevent THC from affecting the CB1 receptor, thereby reducing its psychoactive side effects such as anxiety and paranoia. This is called the “entourage effect” and you can read more about it in our full article here.

Most of CBD’s neurochemical activity, however, seems to be centered around its activation of the 5-HT1A receptor. This is a receptor of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is understood to be responsible for catalyzing states like anxiety and happiness, and generally regulating the mood. Research indicates that this is how CBD achieves its anxiolytic and antidepressant effects.

CBD has also been shown to activate the TRPV2 receptor, the orphan G‐protein coupled receptor (GPR55), and peroxisome proliferator‐activated receptors (PPARs). A combination of these is thought to account in part for its antitumor effects.

These are some of the main neurobiological processes CBD has been implicated in. There are many other mechanisms of action it is part of, and which science is slowly unraveling.

CBD Oil Benefits

The medicinal potential of CBD oil is enormous. 

So far, some of the main CBD oil benefits thus far examined by scientific research include, but are not limited to:

  • Reducing nausea and vomiting
  • Treating cancer and tumors
  • Breaking addictions
  • Treating acne and other skin disorders
  • Reversing type-2 diabetes and preventing type-1 diabetes from forming
  • Protecting against neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Reducing seizure frequency
  • Treating autism
  • Pain suppression
  • Anxiety relief
  • Managing depression
  • Treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Regulating sleep and suppressing insomnia
  • Treating arthritis
  • Reducing psychoticism and symptoms of schizophrenia
  • Fighting autoimmune diseases such as Lupus, Fibromyalgia, and Multiple Sclerosis
  • Alleviating IBS and IBD (Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis) symptoms
  • Vasorelaxation and general cardiovascular protection

If you’d like to learn more about how CBD can help all these conditions and review the research behind it, read our complete guide to CBD oil benefits here.

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Although all these purported medicinal benefits have been, and are being researched, none of the listed conditions have received federal approval for being treated clinically with CBD. The first and the only CBD-based therapy approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the Epidiolex (cannabidiol) [CBD] oral solution for the treatment of epileptic seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome in patients who are two years old and older.

CBD Oil Side Effects

A research study conducted in 2017 found that the most common CBD side effects on the human body were tiredness, diarrhea, and changes of appetite or weight. Some more rarely reported adverse effects include dry mouth, low blood pressure, lightheadedness, and drowsiness.

Another CBD side effect is drug interaction. CBD can interact adversely with certain pharmaceuticals. This is why you must consult your physician before taking CBD while on other medication. Still, these potential interactions can also be considered as minor when compared to other drugs or medications’ adverse effects.

Finally, because CBD products aside from Epidiolex have not received FDA approval, their safety, purity, and concentration are as of now still unregulated, and the dosages and treatment regimes for specific illnesses are unspecified. Although CBD has rare and mild side effects, we still urge caution in using a substance that has not received sufficient scientific validation and large-scale clinical trials.

Is CBD Legal in the United States?

With the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill on December 20, 2018, industrial-scale hemp growing was legalized in the United States. With it, CBD extracted from hemp (cannabis with under 0.3% of THC) also became federally legal.

CBD extracted from cannabis plants grown for recreational or medicinal purposes (CBD- or THC-rich cannabis), however, undergoes the state-specific regulations for marijuana.

How to Get CBD Oil

CBD oil and other products can be purchased online or in medicinal marijuana dispensaries, depending on your local cannabis regulations. As long as they contain less than 0.3% of THC (which they must in order to be legally sold in the first place), CBD products are perfectly legal to ship via mail across the United States.


About Xavier Francuski

Born in India, grew up in Serbia, lived and traveled throughout the world, Xavier's uprooted existence fuels his instinct for exploration. With a masters degree in research psychology, he is a passionate educator on the topic of psychedelics, trying to reconcile the astounding nature of the realms beyond with what sense we can make of them in this one. Currently living in Southeast Asia and working as a staff writer for several major psychedelic websites.

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