There are over 100 types of cannabinoids, but the ones you’ve most likely heard of are CBD and THC.
So what is CBD, and how does it work? There are many types of CBD products out there and ways to use them. It can be overwhelming if you’re beginning to explore your options for taking CBD.
Today, we’re answering those questions and more. If you’ve ever been curious to learn more about CBD, then this is the guide for you.
Table of Contents
- 1 What Is CBD?
- 2 How Does CBD Work?
- 3 Benefits of CBD
- 4 Side Effects of CBD
- 5 Forms of CBD
- 6 Types of CBD Products
- 7 CBD Legality
- 8 Your CBD Options Are Vast
What Is CBD?
CBD, short for cannabidiol, is one of the many cannabinoids naturally produced by cannabis and hemp plants. While THC is known for causing the “high” associated with cannabis, CBD does not contain THC’s psychoactive properties.
Instead, CBD is known for its anti-inflammatory, anti-nausea, anti-depressant, and anti-spasmodic properties. Due to its medicinal properties and variety of applications, CBD is a promising treatment option for many conditions.
Where CBD Comes From
To understand how CBD comes from cannabis, we need to look at the chemical compounds that precede it. The three main cannabinoid precursor compounds are CBCa, CBDa, and THCa. These precursor compounds get converted from CBGa through enzymes found in the cannabis plant.
CBDa converts through the heat process known as thermal decarboxylation, which causes CBDa to lose its acidic carboxyl group. This process will occur over time if the raw plant is left at room temperature or through other heating methods such as cooking, smoking, or vaporization.
If you wanted to use CBDa, particularly for severe inflammatory conditions, you would need to consume it through raw cannabis juice or cold processed tinctures and topicals.
Why Cannabis Produces Cannabinoids
The exact reason why the cannabis plant produces cannabinoids is unknown; however, theories suggest that cannabinoid compounds protect the plant’s cellular structure. This is due to the fact that these compounds have antioxidant properties that neutralize free-radicals from UV rays.
Another theory is that these cannabinoids, notably THC, were developed to prevent animals from consuming the plant. A majority of animals are susceptible to THC’s psychoactive effects, discouraging them from eating the cannabis plant.
How Does CBD Work?
The human body contains protein-based chemical structures, called receptors, that receive signals for the cells to which they are attached. Cannabinoids interact with the CB1 and CB2 receptors in particular.
The CB1 receptors reside in the central nervous system, and CB2 receptors reside in the peripheral nervous system. These receptors are part of our endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a cell-signaling system within the human body that aids in the regulation of a multitude of functions and processes such as:
- Learning and memory
- Appetite and metabolism
- Motor control
- Immune system responses, such as inflammation
Our ECS consists of three main parts, enzymes, receptors, and endocannabinoids. The primary endocannabinoids that experts have identified so far are AEA and 2-AG.
These endocannabinoids in the human body are similar to the cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. This is what allows CBD to interact with our ECS receptors (CB1 and CB2).
Why Humans Produce Cannabinoids
All animals that have a backbone have an ECS, and this includes humans. The development of the ECS traces back to roughly 600 million years ago when sponges were considered a complex life form. The evolution of the cannabis plant evolved approximately six to 34 million years ago, which means it evolved after the ECS began developing invertebrate species.
We still don’t know everything about the ECS; however, researchers theorize that its development is due to the abundance of CB1 receptors in the brain. They play a crucial role in the signaling the central nervous system sends to the rest of the body. While the ECS didn’t develop solely within humans to help us function better, it means that we can make use of the medical benefits of the cannabis plant.
We’re still learning more about the ECS and its role in the human body; however, there is research suggesting that low endocannabinoid levels or dysfunction of the ECS may be a contributing factor in certain conditions. For example, conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, migraine, and fibromyalgia often occur alongside one another and are resistant to pharmaceutical intervention.
More research is still needed, but if clinical endocannabinoid deficiency plays a role in these difficult-to-treat conditions, it could revolutionize treatment for these diseases.
Benefits of CBD
While CBD does not bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the ECS in the same way that THC does, it can interact more readily with other receptors such as serotonin. It may boost the levels of endocannabinoids that naturally occur in the human body. This helps to explain why CBD has such a broad range of uses. CBD can be useful in treating anxiety, inflammation, and chemotherapy’s side effects, but let’s explore its benefits in more detail.
Anxiety and Depression
Because CBD can interact with serotonin and other receptors that regulate fear and anxiety, CBD can be an effective treatment for anxiety disorders such as:
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
The adenosine receptors are responsible for regulating a person’s anxiety levels. When they are not functioning correctly, your anxiety levels will fluctuate and elevate. Through its stress-relieving properties, CBD aids in regulating your adenosine receptors and lowers your anxiety levels.
The culprit behind depression is your serotonin receptors. When these receptors malfunction, your mood can fluctuate between manic and depressed states. CBD aids in regulating your serotonin receptors to stabilize your mood.
Conditions that cause chronic pain, such as arthritis, migraine disease, and fibromyalgia, are challenging to treat. The most common method of treatment is to use pharmaceutical medication to manage the patient’s pain levels. Unfortunately, these medications can come with adverse side effects and don’t work for every patient.
Because CBD works with our body’s endocannabinoid system, it can reduce inflammation associated with chronic pain. CBD offers patients an alternative to pharmaceutical medications if they experience side effects or do not see a reduction in their pain levels.
Sleep loss is one of the most insidious side effects of chronic pain, PTSD, anxiety, and numerous other conditions. While low doses of CBD can promote wakefulness for those suffering from fatigue, higher doses show an improvement in treating insomnia, our ability to stay asleep, and REM sleep abnormalities.
REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is the sleep stage where we dream, and our bodies become paralyzed. Someone experiencing REM sleep abnormalities may physically act out and potentially cause injury to themselves or others or feel unrested when they wake.
We recommend that someone who has insomnia use a full spectrum CBD product to capitalize on CBD, CBN, and THC’s combined benefits, which shows some promise for reducing sleep apnea.
Side Effects of CBD
CBD has very few side effects, which makes it an excellent treatment option. The most common side effect of CBD is dry mouth, which is standard no matter the method of consumption.
CBD can potentially decrease the metabolization of other medications through your liver, so it is crucial to speak with a medical professional before taking CBD daily.
Some natural supplements can also interact negatively with CBD, such as 5-HTP, skullcap, valerian, melatonin, and St. John’s Wort. When speaking with your doctor about using CBD, be sure to mention any supplements you are taking in addition to pharmaceutical medications.
Forms of CBD
CBD products come in three different types depending on what kind of CBD is in them. There are full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate versions of CBD so let’s explain each one.
CBD products labeled as full-spectrum include all of the chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant, including essential oils, cannabinoids, and terpenes. This means that they also contain some THC though the amount of THC present in these products is often less than 0.3%.
The benefit to using full-spectrum CBD products is that all of the chemical compounds extracted from the cannabis plant work together and provide better results than isolated CBD can on its own. As a note of caution, you may need a higher dose of CBD for some conditions, and because full-spectrum CBD also includes THC, it may show up on a drug test at higher dosages.
If you’re looking for products that deliver the benefits of multiple cannabinoids working together without the risk of showing up on a drug test, you’ll want to use broad-spectrum CBD. Products labeled as broad-spectrum have had the THC removed but retain the other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids, including in full-spectrum products.
CBD isolates are pure CBD with no other flavonoids, terpenes, or cannabinoids. While this is the most concentrated form of CBD, it lacks the more extensive benefits provided by utilizing the other components of the cannabis plant. However, this form of CBD is ideal for adding to food and drinks.
Types of CBD Products
When most people think of CBD products, they think of products such as tinctures, topicals, and edibles. These products are abundantly available, and nearly 50% of CBD users prefer to use them. Between their availability and ease of use, they are an excellent way for people new to CBD to give it a try.
You can find all sorts of edible CBD products from gummies, foods, and drinks. As we mentioned above, CBD isolates are ideal for adding CBD to these products. They come in various dosages, allowing you to experiment with how CBD will affect you in different amounts.
Tinctures and Supplements
Tinctures and supplements are the most common and widely available methods for taking CBD. There are many differences in the dosages and forms of these supplements. We recommend starting with a low dosage level, like what is expected for edible products, to see how these products will affect you.
Topical applications of CBD include salves, roll-ons, creams, and lotions. These products are most useful for people struggling with muscle pain and skin conditions that result in itching or discomfort. As we’ve discussed, CBD has strong anti-inflammatory properties that work in both topical and consumable applications.
Skin Care Products
Due to CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties, it is also a great addition to skincare products. Some of the skin conditions CBD may be helpful for include:
- Atopic dermatitis
- Skin cancer
In the case of acne, initial research has shown that CBD prevented some overactivity of the sebaceous glands, which control oil production in our skin. More human studies are needed to confirm these initial results, but it is a promising discovery for anyone suffering from acne.
The Farm Bill removed CBD from the Controlled Substances Act in 2018. The CBD and hemp industries now fall under the FDA’s jurisdiction. While the FDA is developing its CBD regulations, these industries are in a gray area.
CBD derived from hemp is legal at the federal level; however, CBD derived from cannabis that contains 0.3%, or less THC is not. Cannabis-derived CBD is legal in some states, so check with your local regulations before purchasing these products.
The FDA has approved one CBD-based medication, Epidolex, which is for the treatment of epilepsy. With Epidolex’s approval, we will likely see further guidance from the FDA in the coming years on CBD regulations.
Your CBD Options Are Vast
We’ve explored the different types of CBD and their multitude of uses. Now that you have a clear picture of all of your CBD options, there’s no reason not to give it a try.
What CBD products have you tried out or are excited to try? Let us know in the comments below.