The Beginner’s Guide to CBD

UPDATED ON DECEMBER 20, 2018

The use of CBD is one of the most exciting new health trends. Dr. Sanjay Gupta endorsed CBD on “The Dr. Oz Show” saying, “I think there is a legitimate medicine here. We’re talking about something that could really help people.”

It is common for people to confuse CBD with THC since they both come from the same cannabis plant. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a naturally-occurring compound found in cannabis. There are actually several types of cannabinoids or chemicals compounds found in cannabis. The most famous one is tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. THC is the main psychoactive component in marijuana which causes the effect of getting “high.” Unlike THC, CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, therefore, it doesn’t get you high, but has many health benefits.

Where Does CBD Come From?

CBD can be derived from both the male and female cannabis plant. CBD oil is considered a co-product or byproduct of industrial hemp which is grown primarily other purposes. In order to extract CBD from the female cannabis plant which contains THC, a special extraction process must occur in order to remove the THC.

For this reason, it is important to understand what you are buying when purchasing CBD products. You should only purchase CBD products that are certified non-psychoactive cannabidiol products if you want to ensure you are not also consuming any THC.

Cannabidiol or CBD works by acting on the cannabinoid receptors which are located throughout the body and are part of the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is responsible for a variety of physiological processes which we know as appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory.

Benefits of CBD

The body naturally produces cannabinoids, but most people don’t generate enough. The deficiency of cannabinoids can lead to the development of diseases and disorders. We often turn to supplements to fill the gaps in order to prevent deficiencies and encourage our body to create more naturally. Since CBD is a cannabinoid, it can be used to help fix any deficiencies that are present.

CBD has proven medical benefits which makes CBD an attractive option for patients who are suffering from inflammation, pain, anxiety, psychosis, seizures, spasms, and many other conditions without causing lethargy or some of the other possible drawbacks that marijuana can cause. There is an abundant amount of scientific and clinical research to support the use of CBD as a potential treatment option for arthritis, diabetes, alcoholism, MS, chronic pain, schizophrenia, PTSD, depression, antibiotic-resistance infections, epilepsy, and other neurological disorders. Research has also shown CBD has neuroprotective (protecting nerve cells against damage, impairment, and degeneration) and neurogenic effects (regrows nerve cells), along with anti-cancer properties.

Anxiety Relief

The National Institute of Mental Health states that approximately 6.8 million people have a generalized anxiety disorder. Traditional treatment usually involves medications and counseling. The costs for both can be astronomical with or without insurance and unfortunately, the medications can come with side effects that can worsen anxiety, sometimes increases suicidal thoughts. Anti-anxiety medications also come with withdrawal symptoms, unlike CBD.

CBD has been researched on patients with PTSD and the results were astonishing. 91% of the patients studied experienced a decrease in PTSD symptoms during the 8-week trial. The reason behind these results is due to the effect CBD has on the endocannabinoid system. CBD interacts with our serotonin receptors which are responsible for mood stabilization and plays an important role in regulating our anxiety and depression. CBD has proven to help activate the serotonin receptor which results in an elevated mood and lower anxiety and depression.

Anti-Inflammation

Inflammation is our immune system’s response to injury and infection. Our body signals that there’s something going on that needs attention to heal and repair or defend against invaders such as viruses and bacteria. Common conditions that cause inflammation include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP), Crohn’s disease, psoriasis, grave’s disease, Hashimoto’s disease, myasthenia gravis, and vasculitis. Without inflammation, wounds would take longer to heal and infections would worsen and even become deadly.

However, inflammation that lasts for too long or occurs when not necessary can be problematic. This is considered to be chronic inflammation and is linked to certain diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and autoimmune disorders. Keeping inflammation under control is key and this can be done with having a healthy diet and lifestyle, and other forms of treatment.

CBD helps with inflammation by acting on the receptors located in the central nervous system and immune cells. The fact that CBD can find these receptors in the immune cells suggests that cannabinoids play an important role in regulating the immune system. When cannabinoids were administered in mice, it results in immunosuppression which suppresses the inflammatory response.

Digestive Aid

Nausea is quite common among many conditions. It can develop for a wide variety of reasons, some less serious than others. Vomiting usually follows nausea. It may be unpleasant, but this usually is the bodies way of preventing us from digesting something that may be harmful to us. Nausea and vomiting can also be present due to anxiety and depression, or a feeling of disgust. Medications, viruses, bacteria and even migraines can also cause us to feel nauseous or induce vomiting.

While some serious health conditions are associated with nausea, most often times the cause of an upset stomach is not serious. However, both nausea and vomiting are uncomfortable and in some cases prevent us from consuming much-needed nutrients in order to function and heal or repair. In some instances, such as those going through chemotherapy, nausea and vomiting can be so debilitating that it prevents the patient from continuing with treatments.

The endocannabinoid system is responsible for regulating the presence and intensity of nausea. A special center in our brain, known as the dorsal vagal complex (DVC) is responsible for triggering nausea and vomiting. The DVC responds to chemical inputs from medications and hormones, and then sends a message to the digestive system to either stimulate or suppress nausea. For instance, if you consume something toxic, food that has bacteria on it, or medication that causes nausea, the DVC will be alerted and then trigger the digestive system to induce the feeling of nausea. The DVC is also responsible for triggering the nauseous feeling due to balance and vision, otherwise known as when we get motion sickness.

Since the endocannabinoid system is a network that regulates an array of the processes throughout the body, being able to interact with this system using CBD is a game changer for the medical field. CBD has the ability to stimulate a chemical response which helps keep our system in balance. According to the National Cancer Institute, CBD stimulates appetite, eases nausea and prevents vomiting. CBD becomes increasingly useful for those who are going through chemotherapy treatment or are recovering from major surgeries. Our bodies need nutrients in order to function properly and recover.

Anti-Cancer

Cannabinoids have proven their effectiveness with relieving patients who are suffering from nausea related to their cancer treatments and even pain management. Now, research has shown CBD has proven itself to be a potential treatment as an antitumor drug. Since the compounds found in CBD are similar to the chemical created by our own bodies, this makes CBD much easier to be used by our bodies compared to many synthetic drugs.

According to a study done on breast cancer patients, “CBD represents the first nontoxic exogenous agent that can significantly decrease Id-1 expression in metastatic breast cancer cells leading to the down-regulation of tumor aggressiveness.” This evidence suggests that CBD has the potential of inhibiting the growth of and even killing cancer cells.

Anti-psychotic

According to a study done on people with schizophrenia, during a 6-week treatment plan, CBD proved to relieve psychotic symptoms. The CBD group had lower levels of positive psychotic symptoms. These findings suggest CBD has beneficial effects on patients with schizophrenia. Since CBD has proven to have antipsychotic properties, this opens the door for further research to be done on other psychological and neurodegenerative disorders.

Pain Management

CBD has the ability to bind to CB1 receptors in the body which are responsible for pain management. Since CBD also has anti-inflammatory effects, it can also reduce swelling which can be associated with pain. Back pain is one of the most common reasons why people see a doctor and are often times prescribed a type of pain medication. Chronic pain is the leading cause of opioid use and abuse. Unlike opioids, CBD does not have addictive properties to it or withdrawal symptoms. This evidence supports CBD being a better choice for pain management.

According to a study done on drug addition, CBD was used to help treat withdrawal symptoms. It was discovered that CBD appeared to inhibit drug-seeking behavior as well. This supports the use of CBD as a viable treatment option for a variety of symptoms associated with drug addiction.

Is CBD Safe?

According to researchers at the Department of Psychiatry at King’s College in London, even in high doses, research has shown CBD to be safe. Volunteers were given 10 mg of THC orally that was associated with tachyardia (abnormally rapid heart rate) and sedation (depressing activity of the central nervous system). 600 mg of CBD was administered and showed no difference with a placebo. They stated, “There were no differences between CBD and placebo on any symptomatic, physiological variable. … In healthy volunteers, THC has marked acute behavioral and physiological effects, whereas CBD has proven to be safe and well tolerated.”

More research from the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences of Ribeirão Preto, University of São Paulo, Brazil, concluded that CBD “Does not affect gastrointestinal transit and does not alter psychomotor or psychological functions. Also, chronic use and high doses up to 1,500 mg/day of CBD are reportedly well tolerated in humans.”

Is CBD Addictive?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, CBD isn’t addictive. And when you stop using CBD, there are no withdrawal symptoms.

According to a study in the British Journal of Pharmacology, CBD increases anandamide levels in the brain, which regulates other chemicals in the brain such as serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of well-being and happiness, as well as cognition, reward, learning, memory, and other physiological processes.  Low levels of serotonin in the brain have been associated with depression.

Dopamine helps regulate movement, attention, learning, and emotional responses. It also enables people to see rewards and move towards them. High levels of dopamine can occur with the use of cocaine, heroin, and nicotine and are associated with drug addiction. CBD balances neurotransmitters.

What are the Different Forms of CBD?

CBD can be used in a variety of ways and comes in many different forms. Sometimes products will be labeled as either CBD-rich or CBD-dominate. CBD-rich means cannabis strains or products that have equal parts of CBD and THC, or in some cases, more CBD than THC. CBD-dominate means cannabis strains or products that are high in CBD but have very little THC content. There is also CBD available with no THC for those who cannot risk or don’t want any THC in their system.

CBD can be ingested in several ways:

  • Swallowed-CBD is commonly consumed via capsules, though it could also be in a tincture, as salad dressing, in baked goods, candy, butter, coffee, or in juice. This method takes a little longer to be absorbed as it has to pass through the stomach and be metabolized by the liver.
  • Sublingual-oils, tinctures, and sprays can be used to get CBD under the tongue which is absorbed quickly. Often combined with hemp oil or high-grade alcohol, after you place it under your tongue you wait until it is absorbed without swallowing it. Another option is a concentrate, but it doesn’t have the carrier oil. Concentrates are up to 10 times more potent than the average dose.
  • Inhalation-CBD is ingested via a vape pen, e-cigarette, or vaporizer.
  • Topical application-creams, lotions, cosmetics, soaps, shampoos, and patches contact the skin and are often used for pain relief and healing.

Recommended Dosages

The FDA hasn’t set up formal nutritional guidelines for CBD yet, called a Recommended Daily Intake (RDI), so it will be up to you. Many products will list a “suggested serving size” which you can take into consideration if you speak with your doctor and decide how much to start with.

Some users start with a low dosage and gradually work their way up to a dosage where they are experiencing benefits. It may take a few minutes to a few hours for the effects to be experienced, depending on several factors including the form of CBD that you take, the amount, the quality, etc. CBD can build up in the body and cause your cannbinoid receptors more sensitive to stimulation by CBD.

How much CBD you take — and how often — will all depend on factors like your lifestyle, what you use CBD for, the severity of the effects of the condition you’re trying to alleviate, your weight, age, sex, and more. Some recommend 1-6 mg of CBD for every 10 lbs of body weight. If you weigh 200 lbs, you could start with 20-120 mg of CBD. The best way to begin is to start with a very small and gradually increase it. 

A good way to track your progress is to keep a paper or online journal of your dosage and the effects. For example, if you’re taking CBD to improve your sleep, write down how much CBD you took at what dosage and form, and note your sleep when you wake up in the morning. You could even use a sleep tracking app (such as Sleep Cycle on Apple and Android) to see how long it took you to fall asleep, what stages of sleep you were in throughout the night and how long, how often you snored, etc. You can rate your sleep every morning and any other pertinent information and start to see connections between your CBD use and find a sweet spot of how much seems to help you.

With many forms of CBD such as tinctures, creams, and roll-ons,  it can be a little tricky to know exactly how much you’re taking. One of the easiest ways to get an accurate number is to take capsules, which will list the amount of CBD per capsule on the front of the bottle. Capsules take longer deliver the CBD into your system as it has to be digested first. Other ways to get an accurate dosage are CBD gummies, CBD edibles, CBD applicators, and CBD drinks.

What Does it Feel Like?

As CBD doesn’t have any psychoactive effects (it doesn’t make you high), people most commonly report a reduction in the symptoms from the condition that’s troubling them. There are no guarantees that CBD will work for you, but a person suffering from nausea from chemotherapy treatments may experience less nausea due to taking CBD (research has shown it to be anti-emetic (effective against vomiting and nausea)).

One thing you may notice is a sense of calmness. According to a case study published in Neuropsychopharmacology, researchers observed that CBD may be anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) by reducing blood flow to the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for the fight or flight stress response.

How Quickly Does it Work?

Tinctures that recommend you using a dropper to place the CBD liquid under your tongue for 30-90 seconds, sublingual sprays and vaping are the fastest ways to start feeling the benefits of CBD, usually only taking a few minutes. Capsules and edibles will take longer, usually a few hours.

Applying it on your skin with a cream or roll-on will usually last the longest as the CBD will be slowly absorbed through the skin for a few hours, which may be preferable for people using it for its pain-relieving effect. And users could combine methods, using one method to experience the benefits quickly, and another for longer lasting effects.

Cost & Quality

The CBD market is very new and there’s a wide range of cost for CBD products, anywhere from $.05 to $.50/mg!  Eventually the market will balance out and the range probably won’t be that big. The bigger problem is quality. CBD isn’t regulated and this new industry is basically the Wild West-it takes some research to know if what you’re getting is safe and effective.

Hemp is for land reclamation and remediation in a process called phytoremediation. According to Science Direct, it absorbs toxins such as heavy metals from the soil and was used after the nuclear plant disaster in Cherynobyl. Until recently it was illegal to grow hemp in the United States, so hemp had to be imported from other countries, and you don’t know if the hemp is free from toxins and dangerous chemicals. As of now, manufacturers aren’t required to tell customers if where CBD is extracted from and if it’s been tested for contamination of pesticides, heavy metals, or radiation.

A good option is to buy CBD from Western European countries that have been tested for quality and purity from contamination, or from respected brands elsewhere.