CBD 101 Guide: What is CBD?

Picture of Hemp Cannabidiol CBD

As we gradually move towards the universal legalization of marijuana, whether for medicinal or recreational use, more and more conversations touching on the herb's chemical components are coming up. 

There's no doubt CBD is the buzzy wellness product of the moment. If you live in a state where the herb is legal, perhaps you've heard about this magical compound. Today, you'll find CBD in nearly every industry, from pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, beauty, to restaurants. With the loud buzz of CBD's therapeutic benefits, many people are turning to this compound to find relief. In fact, celebrities have joined the bandwagon introducing new lines of CBD products.

However, despite the ever-increasing spotlight, CBD remains a confusing element among many people, particularly in regards to its usage. Nevertheless, we are going to answer some of the most pressing questions about CBD. Here is a sneak peek of what you'll learn in this article:

So, what exactly is CBD?

CBD, an acronym of cannabidiol, is one of over a 100 already identified cannabinoids that occur naturally in the cannabis plant. The cannabis Sativa is divided into two: marijuana and hemp. Marijuana plants have high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content. On the other hand, hemp is the source of CBD. Many people dread when they hear the word marijuana because they associate it with the 'high' feeling. However, CBD is non-psychoactive. This means it will not get you high. 

The Extraction Process of CBD

In recent years, CBD has become the most highly-debated and sought-after chemical compound of the cannabis plant. It is gaining traction all over the globe because of its potential health benefits, which range from helping people with anxiety, depression, cancer-related symptoms, insomnia, skin conditions, among others. 

That said, knowing how CBD is extracted is crucial for your safety and health. CBD is extracted to isolate it from other cannabinoids, making it safe for human consumption. The most common methods of extracting CBD include:

CO2 extraction

This method of CBD extraction is the most common method used by CBD producers because it is the most advanced way, safe and produces a pure end product.  CO2 acts as a solvent at specific temperatures and pressures, which turn the gas into a "supercritical" liquid. Liquids in that state can dissolve materials and pass through porous solids, which is what the C02 does to cannabis. In essence, it dissolves all the cannabinoids and, due to the high pressure, forces the CBD oil particles into a cyclonic separator. The pressure inside the separator is much lower, which now turns the supercritical liquid back into C02 gas, leaving only the CBD oil in liquid form. 

Basically, CO2 uses a pressurized CO2 to extract CBD from the cannabis plant. While it is considered the effective and safest method, it is quite expensive, and CBD producers have to invest heavily.

Olive oil extraction

The olive oil extraction method is considered old school but most revered by many CBD producers because it is safe and cost-effective. This method involves exposing raw cannabis plant material to very hot temperatures for a certain amount of time to activate the plant's chemicals. Once decarboxylation is done, the plant material is infused to olive oil and heated once again. The process should result in the extraction of CBD.

Solvent extraction

Solvent extraction involves the use of butane, ethanol, and low-grade alcohol to extract CBD. It is one of the fastest, cheapest, and most natural ways. To extract CBD, the liquid is infused with the plant material. During the process, the extraction liquid will separate cannabinoids and flavor from the plant material. Once enough cannabinoids have been extracted, the liquid is heated down to CBD.

Dry ice method

Generally involves freezing cut and chopped pieces of cannabis in a large bucket using dry ice. When exposed to the ice for a few minutes, the trichome resins within the plant are shed off and subsequently freeze on the bucket. They are then sieved using progressively thick bubble hash mesh bags on a plexiglass surface, from where they are then collected.

CBD and the Endocannabinoid System

The human body has a complex network of neurotransmitters known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS was first discovered by Raphael Mechloum while investigating the effects of THC. It is responsible for the body's operational function, such as response to pain, inflammation, mood, appetite, and sleep. Endocannabinoids interact with receptors in the ECS to maintain homeostasis.

There are two primary cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are available in abundance in the brain. Since they are concentrated in the brain, experts believe that it interacts with THC causing the psychoactive effects associated with being 'high.' On the other hand, CB2 receptors are located in the immune system and the body's periphery. CB2 binds with CBD providing a calming and relaxing effect.

That said, the ECS is an important system in our bodies and plays a significant role in maintaining the body's balance.

Different Types of CBD

There are three types of CBD: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and CBD isolate. It's crucial to differentiate the three so that you can shop the right CBD product and get the best results.

  1. Full spectrum 

    Full-spectrum CBD is an extract that contains all the cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and all the benefits a cannabis plant has to offer. These cannabinoids work together to magnify the therapeutic benefits of each individual cannabinoid providing the entourage effect.

  2. Broad spectrum

    Broad-spectrum CBD is a mix of full-spectrum, and CBD isolates. Like the full spectrum, all the cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant are preserved while THC is removed entirely. This is suitable for consumers who want to reap the benefits of the plant without getting high. Since broad-spectrum CBD has multiple cannabinoids, it can deliver the enhanced benefits of the entourage effect without causing a head-high effect.

  3. CBD isolate

    This is the purest form of CBD, with 99% CBD. CBD isolate is extracted by isolating all other compounds present in the cannabis plant. Typically, this type of CBD is derived from hemp due to its little THC content. Usually, CBD isolate is available in crystal form. However research has shown CBD to be more effective when combined with the other cannabinoids in it’s full spectrum form.

Benefits of CBD

CBD is gaining momentum in the health and wellness industry across the world as a holistic treatment to various ailments. Here are some of the health benefits of CBD backed by scientific evidence.

CBD for pain relief

Cannabis has long been used to relieve pain. In recent years, researchers have discovered certain cannabinoids, including CBD, to relieve pain. The human body has a complex cell-signaling system called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is responsible for regulating the body's operational functions such as response to pain, mood, appetite, and sleep. Studies have shown that CBD may reduce pain by impacting cannabinoid receptors responsible for pain in the ECS.

For instance, a study done on rats with chronic sciatic nerve pain was carried out to investigate the effects of CBD. The models were given an oral treatment of CBD for 7-14 days. It was concluded that CBD significantly reduced inflammation and sciatic nerve pain.

Studies on humans have also found that Sativex could help relieve pain in patients with multiple sclerosis. A study done on 47 patients with multiple sclerosis were administered Sativex for four weeks. Interestingly, the victims experienced reduced pain and muscle spasms.

CBD may reduce anxiety and depression

Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health conditions that can affect health and overall wellbeing. According to the WHO, depression is a huge contributor to disability globally, while anxiety ranked sixth. While anxiety and depression are usually treated with pharmaceutical drugs, often, they come with unpleasant side effects.

CBD oil has shown promise in the treatment of anxiety and depression, leading those with these mental conditions to turn to this natural supplement. In a 2019 study, 57 men were given either oral CBD or placebo 90 minutes before they went through a simulated public speaking. It was concluded that 300mg of CBD was effective at reducing anxiety. Animal studies have also shown that CBD has antidepressant-like effects.

CBD might have neuroprotective properties

Scientists and researchers believe that CBD can act on the ECS to provide relief for those with neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Although research in this area is in its infancy, recent studies have shown promising results. 

A study of 276 people found that Sativex (a combination of CBD and THC) reduced spasticity in people with multiple sclerosis. Another study of 214 people with severe forms of epilepsy was given 0.9-2.3 grams of CBD  per 2-5 kg of body weight. The seizures reduced significantly by a whopping 36.5%. Several studies also show CBD could benefit those with Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease

CBD for acne

Acne is a debilitating skin condition affecting nearly 9% of the global population. The condition may be caused by several factors, including inflammation, bacteria, and excess sebum. Due to the CBD's anti-inflammatory properties, recent studies suggest that CBD may help alleviate acne. One study found that cannabidiol inhibited sebaceous glands from secreting excess sebum. Besides, it prevented cytokines, which trigger acne.

Though the reports are promising, more human studies on CBD for acne are needed.

CBD can reduce cancer-related symptoms

CBD may help reduce cancer-related symptoms and chemotherapy side effects. In a study of 177 people, researchers examined the effects of THC and CBD. Those administered with the extract experienced a significant reduction in pain compared to the group who received THC alone. Besides, CBD may also help reduce chemotherapy side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and chronic pain.

Treating insomnia

Anxiety and insomnia are becoming increasingly common in both kids and adults, presumably due to the ever-changing social and economic dynamics. Countless remedies have been proposed, but clearly, none worked good enough to be adopted universally. That may be bound to change soon; however, as according to a 2019 study, CBD oil proved relatively effective in treating anxiety-related insomnia. According to the findings, one month of CBD treatment reduced anxiety by a median of 79.2% of the respondents and improved the sleep scores of 66.7% or two-thirds of the participants.

Enhances cardiovascular health

The confirmation of the ancient and stress-reducing properties of CBD led many to wonder whether it may be useful in controlling high blood pressure, which is the leading cause of deaths from stroke, heart attack, and other cardiovascular diseases. In one study, both CBD oil and placebo were randomly administered on a group of 9 healthy men who were put under various stressful circumstances. All respondents on CBD maintained a low resting Blood Pressure, and a relatively lower Blood Pressure when exposed to stress as compared to those on placebo.

Dosage Guide for CBD

It can be challenging to figure out the right dose since CBD isn't regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and there is no recommended dosage. However, the amount of CBD you should take depends on several factors:

  • Bodyweight

  • Body reaction

  • The condition you're treating

  • CBD concentration

But, before trying CBD, be sure to talk to your healthcare professional to avoid potential risks. A doctor is better equipped to recommend the appropriate dose.

What Are the Side Effects of CBD?

Generally, CBD is considered safe and well-tolerated by many. But, to some people, it may cause adverse reactions. The most common CBD side effects to watch for include:

  • Dry mouth

  • Drowsiness

  • Fatigue

  • Changes in appetite and weight

  • Diarrhea

Besides, CBD is known to interact with some medications and may cause unpleasant side effects. Before incorporating CBD to your daily regimen, be sure to talk to your doctor first to avoid potentially harmful reactions. This is important, especially if you take medications with grapefruit. Grapefruit and CBD inhibit cytochromes P450, a group of enzymes responsible for drug metabolism.

Is CBD legal?

The 2018 Farm Bill decriminalized hemp. Therefore, hemp-derived CBD that contains less than 0.3% THC is legal at the federal level, but illegal under some state laws. That's why you should check the laws of your state before purchasing CBD. Keep in mind that CBD products are not regulated by the FDA, except Epidiolex, and may be labeled inaccurately. It is, therefore, important to buy CBD from reputable brands with high quality and safety standards.