What Is CBD Oil? A Complete Guide to Benefits, Uses & More
What are CBD oils and what benefits do they offer you? Learn everything you need to know!
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the term “CBD oil”?
For some people, that phrase elicits images of drug-addled stoners. Others may draw a blank. And still others may associate the term with natural healing, pain relief, and other benefits.
The wide range of potential responses speaks to the fact that CBD oil still has a long way to go before it’s well understood by the general population—in spite of the fact that CBD has been used for centuries as a natural remedy.
It wasn’t until the 1940s that modern-day scientists started to study CBD in earnest—and even after decades of research, there’s still a lot to learn about CBD.
What we know so far is incredibly promising. The potential benefits of CBD are well regarded enough that CBD oil is already legal in 30 states, the FDA approved the first marijuana-derived prescription drug earlier this year, and CBD’s legality is only expected to grow.
In the meantime, CBD oil needs some help clearing up its reputation. So let’s dive into exactly what it is, how it affects the body, its potential benefits, and the best ways to take CBD for natural relief.
CBD oil is derived from particular chemical compounds that are present in cannabis plants (aka marijuana plants) and hemp plants. These compounds are known as cannibinoids. There are more than 100 known cannibinoids in the cannabis plant.
Two of the most well-known (and most researched) cannibinoids are CBD and THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol. THC is the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana, and it accounts for marijuana’s (in)famous “high”.
CBD, on the other hand, is not psychoactive. That means it does not cause a “high” sensation when consumed. What it does do is influence the body in several potentially beneficial ways. (More on those below.)
CBD oil is produced by extracting CBD from a plant and then diluting that extraction with a carrier oil such as coconut oil. Different manufacturers of CBD oils utilize different extraction methods and carrier oils. Products made with CBD oil take a variety of forms and can be found in a range of potencies.
What does CBD stand for?
This is a common question, so let’s clear it up once and for all. CBD is simply an easier way of saying cannabidiol, which is a type of cannabinoid. As noted above, CBD and other cannibinoids may be derived from cannabis or hemp plants.
Researchers are still working to determine precisely how CBD affects the human body. Per Medical News Today, what they know so far is that CBD (and all other cannabinoids) influences certain receptors within the body to evoke a range of effects.
Cannabinoids may easily synergize with these receptors because human bodies already produce some cannabinoids on their own as part of the endocannabinoid system, or ECS. This system has two built-in cannabinoid receptors—CB1 receptors and CB2 receptors—that are responsible for receiving and translating signals from different cannibinoids.
CB1 receptors can be found throughout the body, but they’re especially concentrated in the brain, where they play a role in appetite, coordination, emotions, memories, mood, pain, and more. CB2 receptors, meanwhile, are mostly concentrated in the immune system. They play a role in inflammation and pain.
While more studies are needed in this area, researchers believe that CBD might stimulate the body to use more of its own cannabinoids, thus influencing the cannabinoid receptors.
- Alleviate pain. Research suggests CBD can help relieve pain for two primary reasons: It influences the brain’s neurotransmitters in ways that may minimize perceived pain, and it has anti-inflammatory effects. Together, these factors help explain why CBD has been shown to help reduce chronic pain, including pain brought on by rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
- Relieve anxiety and depression. Studies have found that CBD may be helpful in alleviating social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, and generalized anxiety. This is largely thanks to CBD’s interaction with the neurotransmitter serotonin, which plays a big role in mood and social behavior.
- Assist in the management of other mental health issues. Though more research is needed, some studies have suggested that CBD might have antipsychotic effects that could be useful in the treatment of mental health conditions such as schizophrenia. Additionally, there’s some evidence that CBD might assist in substance abuse treatment and recovery.
- Improve skin health. Thanks in large part to its anti-inflammatory qualities, CBD oil may assist in the treatment of acne. It’s also been shown to reduce the production of sebum, an oily substance that is naturally produced by our skin and can contribute to acne when it’s produced in excess.
- Boost cognitive health. There’s some evidence that CBD may have “neuroprotective” effects, which is a fancy way of saying it may keep the brain healthy. This helps explain why research suggests CBD may be useful in the management of neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy. One review also suggested CBD may help protect the hippocampus (a brain region responsible for learning and memory, among other important functions) when a person is stressed.
- Improve sleep. Several studies have suggested that CBD may assist in the treatment of insomnia. This is most likely thanks to its antianxiety and stress-relieving effects.
- Bolster heart health. Recent studies have found that CBD might help protect heart health in several ways, from lowering blood pressure to reducing inflammation and cell death (which is linked to heart disease).
- Ease cancer treatment side effects. Evidence suggests CBD may help ease cancer symptoms, most notably pain brought on by cancer. It may also help relieve some of the side effects of cancer treatment, by, for example, limiting nausea and vomiting brought on by chemotherapy. Limited research has even suggested that CBD might have antitumor effects.
- Prevent diabetes. A growing (albeit still small and often on mice) body of research suggests CBD might help prevent Type 1 Diabetes. That’s because it may reduce inflammation in the pancreas, which is associated with diabetes.
As noted above, CBD does not have psychoactive properties, which means it does not produce a “high.” In fact, it doesn’t produce much sensation at all. Rather, it’s more likely to relieve unwanted sensations.
For example, CBD is likely to relieve nausea, pain, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and so on. In their absence, people may feel enhanced physical comfort, greater relaxation or calm, improved mood, better sleep, and so on.
All that being said, it’s important to note that everyone experiences CBD’s effects a little differently. For example, CBD may take effect more or less quickly or stay in a person’s system for shorter or longer. The feelings produced by using CBD may also vary depending on how CBD is ingested and how much CBD is ingested at a given time.
CBD oil is frequently incorporated into a wide number of products and can be used in a variety of ways. To date, here are some of the best ways to take CBD:
Gummies and other edibles
CBD-infused food products and beverages are an extremely effective method for taking CBD, because they involve something that people already do every day: Chewing and swallowing. That’s really all it takes to ingest CBD-infused edibles, which can range from gummy candies to cookies, ice cream, smoothies, or even infused cooking oils. Some people also choose to add a few drops of CBD oil to their water or another beverage.
This method involves a delay between when the CBD is ingested and when its effects start to kick in. Once they do kick in, these effects tend to last longer than the ones experienced via vaping. For this reason, many people with chronic conditions prefer the long-lasting relief offered by ingesting CBD oil.
Gel capsules function in much the same way as gummies and other edibles, only no food or beverage is required. Instead, you simply swallow the capsule with some water just as you would a non-chewable vitamin.
Many people like using gel capsules because the doses are already pre-measured. As with edibles, gel capsules take some time to kick in, but their effects tend to last longer than other delivery systems.
Vaping involves using a vaporizer (which is typically about the size of a pen) to heat up CBD oil and inhale the resulting vapor. This method of taking CBD requires a bit more of a learning curve than consuming CBD in edible form. (Translation: You may cough the first few times you use a vape pen until you figure out how long to drag on it.)
Coughing aside, vaping is one of the quickest ways to feel the effects of CBD oil, because the CBD enters directly into the lungs and then spreads throughout the bloodstream. For this reason, some folks choose vaping to address acute symptoms. While it’s quick to take effect, vaped CBD tends to pass through your system more quickly than it does when consumed as edibles or tinctures.
Sublingual tinctures—that’s a fancy way of referring to CBD products that are meant to be taken under the tongue—are another popular CBD delivery system. Using a tincture involves dropping the recommended serving size of the oil or tincture underneath your tongue, waiting for a minute, and then swallowing.
Not only is this delivery system quite simple, but it also tends to produce effects fairly quickly. Effects tend to kick in within a few minutes and last for a few hours.
People who are in need of localized pain relief and/or skin healing may choose to use topical creams, lotions, and salves. For the most part, these products work externally (meaning they’re less likely to produce mental or full-body effects). They’re primarily designed for relief from neck and back pain, arthritis pain, muscle soreness, skin conditions, and so on.
Bottom line? There are several ways to utilize CBD oil. The best method will vary depending on the condition(s) that a person is hoping to treat, their optimal dose, and how long they want to feel CBD’s effects.
CBD is a naturally occurring, non-psychoactive compound that is found in hemp and marijuana plants. It doesn’t produce the “high” that’s typically associated with marijuana—but it is associated with plenty of positive effects.
For example, research suggests CBD oil may help alleviate pain, relieve anxiety and depression, assist in the management of mental health disorders, improve sleep, and bolster brain, heart, and skin health. What’s more, it can provide these benefits without any of the nasty side effects (or potential dependencies) that are common among pharmaceutical drugs.
As CBD gains popularity, it’s also gaining more attention from researchers. With any luck, growing interest from the general public and the scientific community will help ensure that more and more people develop an accurate concept of CBD oil and its many potential benefits.