CBD (cannabidiol) is a therapeutic compound produced by cannabis. It is commonly extracted and processed into oils, gummies, topicals, and other products that have no doubt sparked your curiosity. And with curiosity comes a load of questions.
This guide is here to lend a hand and provide answers to consumers’ most common questions about CBD, starting with the most basic so you never feel lost. You can start from the beginning or jump straight to whichever CBD question is currently burning hottest for you.
What is CBD (cannabidiol)?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-intoxicating compound found in cannabis and hemp. CBD oils, gummies, and other products are continuing to grow in popularity as ways to manage anxiety, stress, pain, and other symptoms.
We typically associate cannabis with getting stoned, but CBD can be extracted from the plant to make products that come without the high or the smoke. The molecule in cannabis that gets us high is called THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), and nowadays, you can turn to cannabis-derived CBD products with little to no THC for clear-headed symptom relief.
It’s not just THC and CBD, either—cannabis produces dozens of potentially therapeutic compounds called cannabinoids. We’re slowly getting to know them as legalization spreads, and so far, they seem pretty friendly to us humans and our many ailments.
How does CBD work in the brain and body?
Each of our bodies has a set of receptors that interacts with cannabis compounds called cannabinoids, like CBD. These receptors, found throughout the body, comprise the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a complex signaling system that ensures our bodies maintain homeostasis.
Put another way, the endocannabinoid system keeps us in balance by directing the communication traffic in our bodies. Cannabinoids such as CBD interact with this system, mimicking natural compounds (called endocannabinoids) produced by the body.
In the human body, CBD influences cannabinoid receptor activity and encourages production of the body’s natural endocannabinoids. Interestingly, CBD also affects activity beyond the endocannabinoid system and can also interact with opioid, dopamine, and serotonin receptors. The ability of CBD to interact with so many different systems throughout the body suggests it has the potential to open new frontiers in psychiatry and medicine.
Can CBD make you feel high?
Unlike THC, CBD is not intoxicating. Why? Both THC and CBD are cannabinoids, but they behave very differently in our bodies.
THC stimulates what are called CB1 receptors. When CB1 receptors are activated, humans generally experience feelings of euphoria—or, for some, anxiety and paranoia. CBD doesn’t activate CB1 receptors, so we don’t feel euphoric, anxious, or stoned when taking it.
In fact, CBD can actually reduce THC’s ability to stimulate CB1 receptors, helping to block some of THC’s not-so-fun side effects. For those prone to anxiety and forgetfulness when consuming cannabis, CBD is a good tool to keep on-hand.
Does CBD show up on drug tests?
When taking a drug test, you are not being screened for CBD. But you can still fail a drug test by only using CBD products. That’s because drug tests screen for THC, and many CBD products have trace levels of THC.
Even full-spectrum CBD oils derived from hemp can test up to 0.3% THC. That’s not enough to get you high, and you’d likely have to ingest a lot of CBD oil to fail a drug test for THC. But it’s worth knowing that the risk is technically there.
Does that mean you have to avoid CBD forever? Thankfully, nope. Look for broad-spectrum CBD oils or CBD isolates—these two product types have THC stripped out, but maintain the presence of other cannabinoids and compounds found in the plant.
What’s the right dose of CBD?
There is no ideal, one-size-fits-all dose with CBD. Your perfect CBD dose depends on a few different factors, including your individual biology, the delivery method, and the specific nature of your symptoms. For example, high doses of CBD (upward of 600mg daily) seem to be more effective for conditions like epilepsy, whereas low doses are potentially effective for anxiety.
Research is beginning to show that there’s a sweet spot when it comes to dosing cannabinoids like CBD: Consume too much or too little, and you may feel limited relief or side effects.
More research is needed to develop specific guidelines around CBD dosing for different medical conditions. Until then—if you’re using CBD oils, edibles, or other products to treat symptoms like anxiety, stress, pain, or insomnia—consider starting with a low dose of CBD (around 5mg) and slowly increasing until you’ve found the optimal dose for you.
How do I take CBD oil and other products?
CBD comes in many different forms—you can smoke it, swallow it as an oil, vaporize it, or apply it as a lotion. With so many options, it’s easy for anyone to fit CBD into their lifestyle.
But even though all these products deliver CBD, they don’t all work in the same way. Some delivery methods are more suited to different conditions, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with every available option.
CBD oil is an umbrella term for many different products. It’s most commonly found as a liquid extract in bottles with a dropper built into the lid—also called tinctures. CBD oil can be dropped under the tongue for fast absorption or mixed directly into food or drinks.
CBD oil may also come in a gelcap that you swallow like a supplement, with effects that take a bit longer to kick in. CBD oils are commonly used for a wide variety of symptoms including pain, anxiety, stress, and sleeplessness.
CBD edibles describe food and beverages that are infused with CBD oil or isolate. Infused gummies and chews are the most commonly found food items, while CBD sodas and water dominate the beverage space. Because they can be long-lasting in effect, CBD edibles are most popular among people managing pain, inflammation, and stress.
It’s worth noting that Leafly’s CBD potency investigation found that CBD gummies were the most reliable form when it comes to delivering the advertised dose. CBD-infused waters, meanwhile, were the least reliable, with three out of four products testing at 0% CBD.
CBD topicals and lotions
CBD topicals are products you can spread on the skin for localized relief of pain, inflammation, soreness, and potentially headaches. Lotions, balms, gels, sprays, oils, creams, lubes … CBD topicals come in many forms. Some absorb faster (water-based), and others absorb more deeply (oil-based).
Along with CBD, you’ll also frequently find ingredients like menthol, capsaicin, cayenne, camphor, or anti-inflammatory cannabinoids like THCA in CBD topicals. If you have a cannabis-free topical you already enjoy, consider finding a CBD topical with similar ingredients.
CBD vapes refer to pre-filled CBD oil cartridges that attach to vape batteries or CBD “juice,” which is intended for use with e-cigarettes. Vaporized CBD can deliver fast-acting effects, making this delivery method great for those in need of quick relief from symptoms like anxiety and stress.
Only CBD vapes sold in legal cannabis stores undergo mandated testing. CBD vapor products sold online or in smoke shops, gas stations, or other non-licensed shops are not currently held to the same strict regulations. It’s vitally important to be aware of the ingredients and additives in these vaping oils.
If you’re concerned about the ingredients in CBD oils, consider herbal vaporizers. These devices allow you to enjoy pure CBD flower—find some grown locally, organically, and without pesticides for a reliably clean product. If you live in a state with legal cannabis, we recommend finding a high-CBD strain at your local cannabis shop, but smokable hemp flowers containing CBD can also be found at a few online retailers.
BY Bailey Rahn