What is CBD? Effects, Benefits, Uses

what is cbd

CBD is the latest craze, yet a lot of people still don’t know what it actually is other than it is supposed to be good for you. Products containing CBD are cropping up everywhere. You can find the compound in tinctures, capsules, edibles, topicals, vape products, and more.

Even larger brands are trying to cash in on CBD’s popularity, with companies like Mondelez (makers of Chips Ahoy, Oreos, and Cadbury Chocolate) talking about getting on board. There have even been rumors of CBD infused beverages from Coca-Cola and Pepsi swirling around for the past several months.

The potential that CBD has is exciting for everyone involved. This amazing hemp-based compound has therapeutic properties that researchers are only beginning to understand. The pharmaceutical industry took note; a year ago the first ever cannabidiol (CBD) based drug was approved by the FDA. Epidiolex is being used to treat medication-resistant childhood seizure disorders like Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome with more success than any other treatments to date.  

Still, with all the hype around CBD, there remains a lot of misunderstanding about what it is and even whether it is legal or not. In this article, we will walk you through the basics of CBD so you can gain a better understanding of what it is, how it is made, and how it might benefit you.


Some people claim that CBD is a form of medical cannabis. This is partially true. But when most people hear the word “cannabis” they think of the marijuana plant– which contains a cannabinoid known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). In addition to the medicinal properties of THC, it is most well-known for its use as a recreational substance. It is this cannabinoid that is responsible for the high or the stoned feeling that accompanies its use. Both medical marijuana and recreational marijuana is permitted in several states across the US, but it remains illegal at the federal level.

CBD comes from cannabis sativa as well, but it is found in high concentrations in the hemp species of cannabis. The hemp plant contains only trace levels of THC; not enough to have any psychoactive effects. This distinction is important for anyone who wants to take advantage of the therapeutic benefits of cannabis without the accompanying high.

Additionally, the 2018 Farm Bill legalized industrial hemp at the federal level. This means that CBD is legal provided it is sourced from hemp that contains less than the permitted trace amount of 0.3% THC. Notably, there are some areas of the United States that have chosen to ban CBD at the state or county level, so you may wish to check the laws in your area if you are interested in trying CBD.

How is CBD Made?

There are two primary extraction methods used to craft high-quality CBD.

The first method is accomplished by using a solvent, and the most popular way of doing this is by using CO2 as the solvent. CO2 extraction is considered the gold standard in the cannabis industry as it is highly efficient at extracting not only CBD, but the 100+ beneficial compounds also found in the plant. Among these are essential terpenes, flavonoids, and other minor cannabinoids.

The second-best method is arguably the use of clean or kosher ethanol. This method also produces a quality product, and some connoisseurs swear by it. Other, more caustic chemicals like butane and kerosene are also used to extract cheaper, low-quality CBD, and these should be avoided.

Another less common method of  CBD extraction is accomplished by using steam.

What remains after the extraction and evaporation process is CBD oil, the primary product that you find on shelves. It can vary in color, consistency, flavor, and amount of CBD—depending on the strain of hemp, growing conditions, or process used.

CBD oil is the main product that has garnered the most attention. It can also be referred to as drops, tincture, or hemp oil.  Other popular products include capsules, vape liquids, gummies, infused beverages, salves, lotions, and even beauty products.

It is important not to confuse hemp oil with hemp seed oil.  Because of the lack of regulation surrounding the labeling of CBD products, some sellers attempt to label hemp seed oil as a CBD product. While hemp seed oil is a healthy MCT oil that is often used as a carrier oil in CBD products, it is a food grade ingredient that does not have the same properties as CBD.

How Does CBD Work?

CBD works by interacting with the endocannabinoid system, also called the ECS. The ECS is a relatively new biological discovery made only within the past couple of decades. Just like we have a respiratory system, a nervous system, a digestive system, and so forth—all mammals (and even some crustaceans) possess an endocannabinoid system.

The ECS consists of a vast network of receptors located throughout the body and the brain. What makes the discovery of the ECS so remarkable is that its receptors outnumber all other receptors in the body combined, including neurotransmitters. These receptors—called CB1 and CB2 receptors—control some of the most important of the body’s many functions.

The ECS regulates pain, appetite, temperature, mood, reproduction, memory, inflammation, and more.  Its job is to ensure the body stays in balance, or homeostasis. When you yawn, your ECS is telling your body it is tired. When you are overheated and you start to sweat, your ECS is at work. When your stomach growls, that is your ECS as well. In short, without this vital system in place, it would be impossible to live.

Many researchers believe that some of the most prevalent conditions in our society—especially ones related to inflammation— are responsible for a breakdown in this system resulting in a condition that has been called an endocannabinoid deficiency.

Like the cannabis plant, our bodies make their own cannabinoids which interact with the ECS, called endocannabinoids. If we don’t make enough or if the ones we have are not working too well, illness may be the result.

Introducing cannabinoids from a plant source (phytocannabinoids) like cannabis has been shown to restore the body to homeostasis as well as help nudge our own cannabinoids back into working order.  The incredible discovery that we, as humans, share the same key chemical with a plant that has been maligned for decades is one of the most important developments in natural health to date and is why there is so much excitement about CBD and medical cannabis at this time.

What Can CBD Do For You? Benefits of Cannabidiol

Before we go into the details of what conditions CBD can help with, it is important to know that because the FDA has not established parameters around CBD yet, we are limited as to making any health claims.

There is no shortage of anecdotal evidence about some of the fantastic things CBD has done for people with different ailments. There are also many new studies being performed each day about the various conditions that may be helped by using CBD.  In this next section, we will list just a few of these studies so you will have a general idea of the scope of therapeutic benefits of the compound.


People who use CBD to combat anxiety and panic attacks claim that it works remarkably well. Studies have proven it reduces experimentally induced anxiety on otherwise healthy subjects. Its anxiolytic effects on the body may help restore relaxation and a sense of calm.  


There is little doubt that CBD is effective at reducing inflammation. It has qualities that speed up healing, reduce swelling, improve blood flow, and more. Athletes swear by it, and multiple studies have illustrated the far-reaching implications these

anti-inflammatory qualities may have when it comes to healing certain conditions.

Pain Management

It is hard to keep up with the amount of research around CBD and pain, but it has analgesic qualities proven to help relieve both chronic pain and acute types. People use it for multiple sclerosis (MS), arthritis, neuropathy, migraines, post-workout pain and more.  


Sleep is critical for both physical and mental health. Studies have illustrated that taking CBD can reduce the amount of time it takes to get to sleep as well as influence sleep quality in general. It is useful for both insomnia and circadian rhythm disorders.

This is just a short list of some of the conditions that may be helped by using CBD. There is much more research on dozens of conditions available at Project CBD.

Is CBD Safe?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated its position that CBD is safe for human consumption. Side effects have rarely been reported, and it is being used for children, the elderly, and even pets.

Still, some medications can become more or less potent when taken in conjunction with CBD. Therefore, you should consult with a doctor, preferably one who specializes in medical cannabis before you take it, especially if you are on other medicines.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


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