What Exactly Is CBD?

May 7, 2021

CBD is short for Cannabidiol, one of the 400 naturally occurring compounds in the Cannabis sativa plant family. 60+ of these compounds are called cannabinoids, and CBD is right up there among the most common ones.


CBD can be isolated from cannabis and used for health purposes without any of the psychotropic effects —the high— associated with cannabis. Occurring naturally in the leaves, stalks, and flowers of cannabis plants, CBD can be extracted and formed into an oil by diluting it with coconut, olive, or hempseed oil.


And while CBD oil is most frequently derived from hemp (that’s the legal designation for low-THC cannabis, for anyone wondering), it’s different than hemp oil. Hemp oil is an umbrella term often used to describe hempseed oil. While hempseed oil is still very useful and full of healthy fats, it doesn’t contain appreciable CBD. You’ve probably seen it show up in moisturizing products or healthy snack bars.



The typical cannabis high, doesn’t come from CBD. Instead it comes from a different cannabinoid called tetrahydrocannabinol, otherwise known as THC. While THC does have some health benefits, it’s also strongly psychotropic and federally illegal.


CBD oil often does actually contain a very small amount of THC (.3% or less). Don’t be concerned — this microdose actually helps the CBD compound itself work better! As is often the case, nature’s design is most effective.


What to know before trying CBD

A small percentage of the population does have an adverse reaction to CBD to some degree. This is why anyone considering CBD for the first time should ideally talk with their doctor first.


Likewise, anyone considering CBD should make sure that what they’re getting is third-party-tested for quality assurance. This is because CBD isn’t regulated by the FDA, which means certain products may vary in potency, or even contain THC.


It’s always a better idea to start small and work your way up in dosage. What what one person uses may be too much for another person.


How CBD Works

Humans have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) that helps us regulate our body’s balancing functions, like mood, blood pressure, sleep, pain, appetite, and our immune systems. Your ECS produces endocannabinoids, or neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors in your nervous system.


CBD’s medicinal qualities come from how it interacts with and helps regulate our endocannabinoid system’s receptors. The prevailing understanding is that by helping “balance” our endocannabinoid system, CBD can optimize your body and make you feel better.


How CBD is being used

Among CBD’s most interesting qualities is its ability to reduce seizures. In other words, CBD is a natural anti-epileptic agent — and this particular quality is among the compound’s best studied. Basically, CBD may help regulate neurotransmission at the micro level, which means the brain can stay electrically balanced.


When you take CBD oil, you won’t physically feel many explicit or immediate effects. However, you will likely notice a general relaxing of your nerves and a release of tension in your body. Over time, these feelings stack up and contribute to your overall well-being.


CBD oil is currently being studied for its ability to relieve common health issues, such as anxiety, acne, heart disease, and pain. And there is even research on whether or not it can help prevent or fight off cancers, though the results are still far from certain.


Is CBD legal?

Cannabis has been used medicinally for millennia, but scientists have only recently discovered that the specific compounds in marijuana, such as CBD, are what give the plant such powerful properties.


This is because cannabis has been illegal in the US for decades. Now CBD products made from hemp (with less than 0.3% THC) are legal at the federal level. And CBD products made from marijuana are becoming legal in more and more states.


This topic is incredibly complex, so we will dive into the intricacies of the CBD legalization in another article.


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