Cannabidiol (CBD): What We Know and What We Don’t
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of many active compounds in cannabis. It’s non-psychoactive, unlike its counterpart tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This means that CBD does not cause a “high.” Cannabis-derived CBD products may be more effective than those from hemp, but industrial hemp-derived CBD still provides many health benefits.
CBD, found in cannabis along with THC, doesn’t cause a high. It may help manage certain health conditions, improve mood, and reduce pain. Side effects and drug interactions are possible. Go slow and start low when it comes to dosage.
By now, you’ve probably heard someone mention CBD, especially if you live with a chronic condition like pain or anxiety.
If you’re looking to try CBD but aren’t sure where to start, this guide can help answer your questions and clear up some of the common misconceptions surrounding CBD and its uses.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of many active compounds in cannabis. It’s non-psychoactive, unlike its counterpart tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This means that CBD does not cause a “high.”Cannabis-derived CBD products may be more effective than those from hemp, but industrial hemp-derived CBD still provides many health benefits.If you live in a state that hasn’t yet legalized medical cannabis or these products are unavailable, you can still benefit from products containing industrial hemp-derived CBD.

What exactly does CBD do?

It’s not quite clear how CBD works, but it’s thoughtTrusted Source that it may activate or block cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2. These receptors regulate processes such as sleep, mood, and appetite as part of the endocannabinoid system (ECS). CBD may also interact with certain serotonin or opioid receptors and may stimulate a process that decreases cholesterol and blood sugar levels. It may also impact PPAR gamma activity. This activity affects the release of intracellular calcium, which is responsible for certain cellular activities. 

What can CBD help treat?

There’s not a lot of research on CBD, but the results of what has been studied are promising. Some studies have found CBD may be effective in providing relief from various mental health and physical conditions. One studyTrusted Source on rats found that CBD oil may treat pain associated with arthritis, while another studyTrusted Source on human cells found that CBD cream was an effective anti-inflammatory. Likewise, CBD has also been shown to help treat childhood epilepsy and other seizure disorders. Some evidenceTrusted Source points to CBD’s anticancerous properties and benefits in managing the side effects of cancer treatment. More research is needed to truly understand the potential benefits of using CBD as a treatment for mental and physical health conditions.

Are there any side effects or risks to consider?

CBD can cause some side effects. These include nausea, irritability, sleepiness. It’s important not to mix CBD with alcohol or any medications that have a sedative effect. It’s also a good idea to watch for any changes in your mood or thinking patterns. CBD is available in several different forms. This allows people to tailor their method of use to their specific needs. Here are the most common forms of CBD. 

Oils and tinctures

These liquids, usually oils, are infused with CBD and placed under the tongue with a dropper. The oral mucosa is full of tiny capillaries that absorb the compounds quickly. Oils and tinctures may be a good choice for people who can’t take pills or capsules.

On the skin

CBD-infused topicals can be used to treat muscle and joint pain. They can also treat some skin conditions, like eczema and psoriasis. CBD patches work similarly to nicotine patches.

Capsules and pills

CBD capsules and pills can be used for the systemic treatment of seizure disorders and digestive issues. There’s one drawback with capsule forms, though: The time from ingestion to the onset of effect can take a while.


Inhaling vaporized CBD oil, like e-cigs for CBD, is the fastest way to experience the effects. Compounds are inhaled and absorbed directly from the lungs into the bloodstream. However, there may be a risk of damage to lung tissue, so proceed with caution.

How much CBD should you take?

The maximum dose people can tolerate orally, according to a 2017 studyTrusted Source, is 1,500 milligrams (mg) per day. In addition, since CBD is relatively new to the market and not well-regulated, there’s always a risk that a CBD product may contain more THC than indicated. There may also be variations in actual CBD content between products. “It’s important to start with a low dose until you know how your body will react to CBD,” explains Lindsay Slowiczek, PharmD. “A wide range of CBD dosages has been tested in clinical studies, but more evidence is needed before safe and effective dose recommendations can be made for specific uses. “For now, use the product’s recommended dose unless your doctor gives you the go-ahead to take larger doses,” she continues. “People with certain health conditions, such as liver disease, may need lower doses to avoid serious side effects.”

Topical CBD

Topical CBD products, such as lotions, are only absorbed by the skin and have a local effect. Transdermal products penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream, thus delivering CBD to your deeper muscle tissues. An example of a transdermal product would be a CBD patch. Exactly how much CBD enters your system when you apply a product externally depends on whether it’s topical or transdermal and can vary greatly. For this reason, you may want to test out a topical on a small area first. Monitor your skin for any irritation or changes. Follow a similar principle when trying out a patch. Remove it if any allergy symptoms develop.

Frequently asked questions

Is CBD the same as cannabis? CBD and THC are substances found in the cannabis plant. They’re both cannabinoids, but they affect the body differently. CBD does not have the psychoactive effects of THC. Is CBD considered a drug? In 2018, the FDA removed CBD from its list of controlled substances. While it’s no longer considered a drug on its own, CBD can be found in the drug Epidiolex, which the FDA approved to treat seizure disorders.

Is CBD bad for you?

CBD can be harmful, depending on how you use it. It can interact with certain medications, may negatively affect your liver, and could impact male fertility, according to some animal studies. Although it’s becoming more popular and has several benefits, it’s a good idea to speak with a qualified healthcare professional before trying it.

What is the difference between hemp and cannabis CBD?

Hemp and cannabis are two varieties of the Cannabis sativa plant. Hemp contains higher levels of CBD and little THC, which is why most CBD is made from hemp crops. 

What is the difference between CBD and CBN?

CBN is another type of cannabinoid, although not much of it is found in the cannabis plant. It’s derived from the exposure of CBD to heat and light. Like CBD, CBN doesn’t produce a high. It has similar effects on the brain as CBD, though more research is needed to understand it.

The bottom line

CBD is a cannabinoid substance found in the cannabis plant along with THC. Both cannabinoids affect the brain, but CBD doesn’t cause a high. Research has found that CBD can help improve mood and reduce pain. It may also help children with seizure disorders, as well as help people undergoing cancer treatment manage their symptoms. That said, there are some potential side effects to taking CBD, and the risks aren’t fully known. It’s important to be aware of what other medications you are taking so they don’t interact with CBD. Always start with a small dose to see how your body reacts to it.