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What is CBD? Here’s the Complete Guide

What is CBD? Here’s the Complete Guide

By now you’ve heard about CBD. You’ve probably even passed by stores with CBD advertisements in the windows, or maybe you have friends who swear by CBD’s satisfying effects. But you have questions, like what is CBD exactly? Is it safe? Is it effective? How does it work? Is this stuff even legal?

Let’s tackle the most important questions.    


What is CBD?

Let’s first understand what CBD is not; CBD isn’t a plant in its own right; it’s part of the plant called cannabis sativa. Some people think CBD is synonymous with marijuana. But CBD is not marijuana nor does it contain marijuana’s psychoactive effects. The letters C, B, and D are an abbreviation for cannabidiol, a particular cannabinoid that’s found in the hemp plant. So what’s a cannabinoid? 

Cannabinoids are chemicals found in the plant Cannabis sativa, from which both hemp and marijuana are derived. The human body also produces its own cannabinoids  termed endocannabinoids, most notably, Ananamide and 2-AG (Arachidonoylglycerol) that bind to cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2 receptors) in our bodies that regulate homeostasis.  However sometimes humans/animals can become deficient in these endogenous cannabinoids and they need to be replaced by introducing outside cannabinoids termed phytocannbinoids (from plants), such as the popular CBD and THC. 

While botanically hemp and marijuana are form the same species of plant, Cannabis sativa, they are different varieties or cultivars and have different chemical and genetic compositions. Hemp and marijuana have different definitions under the law.

The cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is found in the marijuana plant and is responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana. However, the hemp plant has only trace amounts of the cannabinoid THC and must contain 0.3% or less THC to be legally considered a hemp plant. Because of hemp’s low THC level, it’s impossible to get high from smoking or ingesting hemp. There are actually over 113 different cannabinoids in the cannabis sativa plant; however, THC and CBD are the two most researched. 


How does CBD work?

The human endocannabinoid system was discovered by scientists in 1992 and is found to exist in all animals. This system governs a host of biological functions, including sleep, mood, stress, and pain, and works on controlling homeostasis, which is the balance of our body’s physiological well being. If you like to run or participate in intense exercise, that good feeling you get after a hard workout, often referred to as a “runner’s high,” is your endocannabinoid system at work. 

CBD interacts with our own endocannabinoid system, which constantly works to regulate our body’s homeostasis. CBD has been FDA approved to treat two rare forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. But before you go chewing on a stalk of hemp, thinking that’s all it takes to achieve the benefits of CBD, there’s something you should know. Ingesting raw cannabis sativa will not give you any of the benefits of CBD. Surprisingly, raw cannabis sativa doesn’t contain CBD. All right, maybe that’s an oversimplification . . .    

As stated, CBD and THC are different cannabinoids that induce differing effects, but they share one similarity–they both need to be heated to activate their effects. This is why marijuana users smoke the plant. But we don’t generally smoke CBD products, right? So how do CBD users receive the effects of CBD? The answer is decarboxylation. After harvesting, hemp has to be dried and processed before being manufactured into CBD products for purchase. Part of that processing includes decarboxylation (decarbing), which releases the effective properties of the cannabinoid. CBD is ineffective and its potential remains unrealized until it is decarboxylated. An acidic phytocannabinoid called cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) is in the hemp plant to begin with. But decarbing heats the CBDA, removes the acid, and changes CBDA into CBD.        


Is CBD safe?

Yes. CBD is an over-the-counter product that’s not physically or psychologically habit-forming. CBD has few side effects and is generally safe to use. But some people may experience adverse reactions, as with any over-the-counter remedy. Some noted side effects include diarrhea and fatigue. And if you are currently taking prescribed medication, it is recommended that you discuss with your doctor any possible interactions if you use CBD products. Take special note if you take medication or supplements that have a grapefruit warning, as the medications with a warning against ingesting grapefruit may also bring about adverse reactions with CBD use.


Is CBD legal?

Yes. President Trump signed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, aka the 2018 Farm Bill, which was an extension of the 2014 Farm bill that legitimized industrial hemp and removed it from the Schedule 1 narcotics list. The 2018 Bill allows each U.S. state to regulate the legal cultivation, possession, and sale of hemp within its state boundaries as well as the transfer of hemp across state lines as long as it’s in compliance with the law. So hemp seed oil and hemp, from which CBD is derived, is federally legal and even allowed to be transported on a plane. But just like any other liquid, heed TSA regulations.


Does CBD show up on a drug test?

No. However, that’s only if you are certain that the CBD product you’re using does not have more than the allowable 0.3% THC present or CBN (cannabinol). CBN is another one of 113 cannabinoids present in the cannabis sativa plant and is a derivative of the cannabinoid THC. CBN has been shown to cause false positive THC urine drug screens even if the consumer has not used THC. CBN is found in some sleep aids and may be included in CBD products. It’s important to deal with a company that offers a Certificate of Analysis with each product purchased.  


How do I know my CBD is pure? 

Because you want a legitimate CBD product, there are a few things you’ll want to check out to ensure you’re buying quality CBD that’s pure:

  • Find out where the company’s CBD is grown. U.S. grown hemp requires farmers to be regulated through certification by their state’s agricultural department.
  • Read the fine print to find out how the CBD product is processed. The best process for extracting solvents and chemicals from CBD is called CO2 cold extraction. This complicated method uses expensive equipment and expert handlers who are knowledgeable in processing CBD into its purest form.
  • Look at the product packaging to check that the CBD contains no more than the legal 0.3% allowed to ensure its pure CBD. You might also want to look to see if the description says organic and non-GMO.
  • Don’t ever purchase CBD from a company that doesn’t perform 3rd party testing.
  • Make sure the CBD company offers a Certificate of Analysis with each purchase and verifies that your product batch contains the right components


Final Thoughts

Hemp and CBD are new for most consumers; it’s not that long ago that hemp was illegal. But today, all kinds of CBD products are being produced by lots of companies. Before you buy, get the facts about CBD, how it works, its effects, and how to find the best products available. Who could guess CBD’s potential, inducing relaxation and relief from pain, stress, and anxiety? And as science continues to research CBD’s benefits, promising possibilities are around the corner.