What is CBD and How Does it Work?

“What is CBD?” and “What does CBD stand for?” are two of the most common questions surrounding this plant-based remedy, but the curiosity does not end there. For those still completely out of the know, as well as those who have only heard about CBD in passing, our team is here to provide an in-depth education. Learn the basics, from CBD benefits and uses to how the body’s endocannabinoid system works, in the detailed guide below.

What is cannabidiol CBD, exactly?

CBD stands for ‘cannabidiol,’ and is a natural compound found in cannabis (both the hemp and marijuana plants). CBD is just one of the many cannabinoids defined and recognized by scientists, doctors and researchers today, and continues to gain popularity for its therapeutic properties. Although CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC (also known for its psychoactive effects derived primarily from marijuana), are the two-most talked about cannabinoids, there are hundreds of other beneficial cannabis compounds currently being examined under the microscope.

What is the endocannabinoid system and how does it receive CBD? 

When asking, “What is CBD used for, and how do our bodies absorb and process the molecule?” it is crucial to dissect the root of its uptake – the endocannabinoid system. “When we talk about these things, it’s important to understand that biological systems are infinitely complex,” says Denver-based biochemist Aaron Griffin, who has a background in protein biophysics and 12 years in the cannabis industry. “At its most general level, the endocannabinoid system is a series of biological pathways within humans which, when activated, causes various effects within our cells.”

Griffin says to think about the endocannabinoid system like a computer. “When you click on a program to open it, the computer executes a function based on user input, and yields an output; it opens the program. In our bodies, this takes various forms.” When a cannabinoid molecule (input) binds to one of the many corresponding receptors found on different cells within the body, it activates certain cellular pathways (output). Each pathway leads to a different health-related outcome.

CBD uses and benefits are expanding daily. Currently, patients are learning how to use CBD tinctures, hemp topicals and more to treat mental and physical health conditions.

Click here to read more about how and why consumers are using CBD.

When are our bodies ready to receive CBD?

We can reap the benefits of CBD oil and other formats as early as birth. “During the development of a fetus, the activation of certain pathways can affect genes, which changes how the fetus grows,” says Griffin. During adulthood, the activation of the cannabinoid receptors can create changes in cells that signal our immune systems to awaken pathways for our bodies to eliminate.

Griffin notes, however, that it is still unclear as to whether it is solely the activation of the cannabinoid receptor taking full charge, or if it is a combination of several actions, which is why researchers continue studying this fascinating and popular topic.

What happens to my body when I take CBD? 

For the body, how to use CBD oil is a science. When cannabidiol CBD enters the body, it will bind to receptors on the surface of a cell. “Actually, on millions of different cells simultaneously through your entire body,” says Griffin. “In your brain, your nervous system, your organs or any tissue system that has cells with receptors that accept the molecules,” he continues. This initiates a cascade of cellular reactions, which will differ depending on the type of cell – there might even be multiple receptors located on each cell.

What is CBD’s immediate response? The body then creates an enzyme called monoamine oxidase that starts to attack the CBD and breaks the molecules apart, until they no longer have an attraction to the receptors, and cease to activate the corresponding cellular pathways. “This is why the effects wear off after a while; because the enzymes are slowly killing off the active molecules. Eventually, the molecules disintegrate into smaller pieces, and the atoms are either recycled within your cells, or eliminated through your excretory [waste] system,” explains Griffin.

What is the best way to consume CBD?

Specifically, the amount of CBD hemp oil uses and users are growing by the day. According to Griffin, “CBD needs to be bonded onto a lipid in order to be taken orally.” What CBD oil is best, though? “The most popular seems to be MCT oil [which is fractionated coconut oil], since it is healthy.” Some of the other popular carrier oils for CBD include:

  • Hemp seed oil.
  • Olive oil.
  • Avocado oil.

If you are also wondering, “What is full spectrum CBD versus CBD isolate?” there are actually three types of extractions to consider:

  1. Full spectrum CBD: This type utilizes the full hemp profile, including CBD, other present cannabinoids, terpenes and trace amounts of THC
  2. Broad spectrum CBD: This varietal starts out as full-spectrum (with many beneficial cannabinoids and terpenes included), and is then stripped of its THC compounds
  3. CBD isolate: As the name states, CBD is isolated from the remainder of the hemp plant via winterization, and leaves behind waxes, additional cannabinoids and terpenes

So, which is the best CBD varietal to choose? “Research has shown that different cannabinoids have a synergistic effect with each other,” says Griffin. Also known as the “Entourage Effect,” full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD profiles both contain more than the CBD molecule, itself, which promotes such collaboration. Griffin notes that for chronic health conditions, a full spectrum extract containing a wide profile of cannabinoids will be of more use than pure CBD isolate, for example.

Click here to learn more about how to shop for the best CBD oil and other products.

Can I get high or overdose when using CBD? 

One of the major CBD health benefits is that you cannot get high, nor overdose from consuming any – or too much – CBD. “Once your receptors get 100 percent saturated with the molecules, taking extra will essentially do nothing,” says Griffin. “The amount is going to be slightly different for everyone, but within a general range. If you take too much, your body will eventually metabolize it all until the effects wear off.”

So, what is a good dose of CBD? This is a topic to discuss with your doctor. Although you may have better luck chatting with a doctor that has experience with medicinal marijuana, more and more physicians are educating on the topic, as CBD for mental and physical ailments is a widespread and fast-growing treatment alternative.

Where is CBD legal? 

Hemp-derived CBD is legal to purchase and consume throughout the U.S., and you do not need to reside in a medical or recreational state in order to buy CBD oil or products in other formats. Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, U.S. citizens can purchase all types of CBD products, and transport them across state lines, so long as they are tested and reported to contain 0.3 percent THC or less.

If you live in a state that has legalized marijuana, on the other hand, you may find CBD products that include more than the legal limit of THC. In this case, you must only consume higher-THC doses of CBD in your state of residency as a medical marijuana cardholder and/or a recreational user.