All about the cannabinoid called cannabidiol (CBD)

Published Jun 3, 2019 01:31 p.m. ET
Credit: Aleksandr_Kravtsov

If you are at all familiar with cannabis than you have likely heard plenty about the famous cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the psychoactive element that is often believed to be the only recreational aspect to a marijuana plant’s chemical profile. It produces a more intense, euphoric effect that is expected from a typical cannabis high. CBD is the second most researched cannabinoid. If you're wondering why  you should spend your hard earned cash on products like CBD oil that are often taken for pain relief but cannot be immediately felt. To truly understand some of the benefits that a cannabinoid like cannabidiol might have to offer, you will need to know a bit more about how these powerful elements interact with the human body. Here you’ll find all the basics that we currently understand about the cannabinoid CBD.

What are cannabinoids?

A cannabinoid is a particular group of chemical elements that can interact with the cannabinoid receptors within the endocannabinoid system. This exchange dramatically alters the chemicals and reactions that are released in the brain. Cannabinoids are nearly identical to the phytocannabinoids that our bodies will naturally produce to regulate regular bodily functions like hunger, sleep, or pain, and can produce the same effects as our versions with little to no difficulty at all.

What is cannabidiol?

Cannabidiol AKA CBD was originally discovered back in 1940, but it wasn’t until after years of cannabis research that scientists, doctors, and specialists began to understand it’s relevance or possibilities in a pure form. CBD is non-psychoactive and can make up to 40% of the total cannabinoid profile of a marijuana plant.

How CBD is used

Cannabis research into cannabidiol thus far has discovered that CBD can help to treat the symptoms that are caused by a broad range of diagnosis, including movement disorders, anxiety, cognition, and pain. Most people use cannabidiol for medical reasons, as an aid or a replacement to other pharmaceutical options that are currently available. Especially when a diagnosis is in its early stages, CBD can be effective when used to treat uncomfortable symptoms. However, we now know that this cannabinoid also plays a significant role in what is called the entourage effect. The entourage effect is a theory that all of the cannabinoids, including the non-psychoactive ones can either produce or enhance the felt effects of cannabis, as long as they are used in the right combination.

How CBD interacts with the cannabinoid system to produce the expected effects

When cannabis or hemp products that contain CBD are consumed, they will travel one of a few different ways. Once the cannabinoids make their way to the consumer's endocannabinoid system, the CBD will begin to coat the CB1 And CB2 receptors, which will trigger a release of chemicals and reactions that provide the effects that are felt for anywhere from a few minutes to several days after the initial interaction occurs. This happens with either an immediate trigger and release of mood-altering chemicals like dopamine or other less noticeable sensations like a decrease in swelling or regulation of blood cell count, which can help to speed up healing. Below you will find out exactly how each type of CBD product is absorbed.

When using topicals, they are slowly absorbed into the bloodstream, and the majority of the applied cannabidiol will eventually wash away. Some people swear that they achieve instantaneous relief after applying a cannabinoid salve, but the documented evidence from prior years of cannabis research shows that the most success and relief is found once these products have been used long term.

Oral ingestion
When you consume a CBD product orally, the cannabinoid will travel down into the stomach with your food, and once it reaches the stomach, it is absorbed by the liver where it can finally interact with the CB receptors to provide some form of relief. Every bit of CBD is utilized this way, which is why it is one of the most recommended. Those who use cannabis oils by rubbing them into the gum line will respond much faster since it’s a direct injection of CBD into the bloodstream.

There are a variety of different ways that you could choose to smoke or vape CBD products, but all of them are absorbed essentially the same way and at the same pace. Once the smoke or vapor hits your lungs, it is immediately absorbed through tiny blood vessels that line the lungs. From there it is delivered to the endocannabinoid system and can almost immediately begin to take effect. The trouble with this method is much of the cannabinoid wasted by either floating away in the air or through remaining cannabinoids that aren’t entirely combusted during the vaping process.

Effects of cannabidiol

The effects of cannabidiol can vary from one person to the next, but there are a few specific qualities that we know it does have to offer. These are just a few of the most common diagnosis that CBD is often recommended for.

  • pain
  • chronic pain
  • schizophrenia
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • seizures
  • dystonia
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • multiple sclerosis

Safe doses of CBD


This cannabinoid is not the same as THC, and it often took in much higher quantities to be effective. Sometimes, patients will achieve the highest level of comfort and control over an ailment by combining both cannabinoids, but there are safe limits for each one. According to prior cannabis research, cannabidiol can be taken in doses of 300mg or less daily for up to six months, and more significant doses as high as 1500 mg daily have also been safely consumed for one month under doctor supervision.

The reason for the broad range of recommended guideline is because this cannabinoid has yet to show any kind of toxic abilities, so we don’t know if there even is an unsafe amount. What we do know is that there are specific amounts that have been given to patients under strict clinical supervision with little to no side effects, so those are the doses released to the public. Technically, most consumers start as low as 5mg and slowly work their way up until they achieve a desired level of relief, but that much might not be effective for more severe symptoms so it’s difficult to say precisely where any one person should begin.

Common CBD products

If you would love to try out some CBD products for yourself, but have no idea where to begin, this list should give you a good idea of what’s out there to choose from.

CBD topicals
Creams, salves, ointments, and oils are all made too use by rubbing it on an affected area for relief. Since so little of the cannabinoid is absorbed this way, this type of CBD product will have higher amounts of cannabidiol than most others.

CBD concentrates (smokable)
These cannabidiol products can come in many forms that THC does, including smokable oil, wax, budder, crystal, or crumble.

CBD concentrates (oral)
Be careful when shopping for these since there are so many oils out there that are made for smoking and sold for oral consumption. Always ask before you buy a product for directions on consumption.

CBD cannabis flowers
Dry cannabis flowers from a CBD pure strain can be used in a variety of ways to make almost any kind of CBD product you could imagine.

CBD edibles
CBD edibles will often look like a normal candy bar or brownie, but there is a not so secret ingredient included. For anyone who struggles with the taste of other options, this is the most enjoyable way to consume cannabidiol.

CBD tinctures
CBD tinctures are alcohol based, and often taken in pre-measured doses by drinking it either alone or combined with another favorite beverage.

CBD vape juice
Vape juice is one of the most discreet ways to enjoy cannabis products, especially if you need to medicate while in public and wish to keep your treatment to yourself. Vape juice can only be used in a proper juice vaporizer and should never be consumed any other way.

How long does CBD stay in your system?

Unlike THC, which will leave the body after a significant amount of time has passed, CBD will hang around for an undetermined amount of time. This is why so many people can lower their doses when using CBD as a treatment. After so long of a regular dosing schedule, less of the cannabinoid will be just as effective as a larger amount was, to begin with. After a long period of time, a patient can go from super dosing to micro dosing because of how much CBD remains in their body. Yes, it will eventually leave, but cannabis researchers still aren't certain how much or how quickly that will happen.



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