What is CBD Oil: Understanding How Cannabidiol Works

It’s difficult to go a day without hearing someone talk about CBD.

You can find CBD in so many different formats these days — in oil drops, capsules, vapes, topicals — even in gummies.

Have you heard about Ben & Jerry’s plans to conquer the ice cream market with their own CBD infusion?

CBD is pretty much everywhere.

But in the maze of all the “interesting” news about CBD, finding detailed information about what CBD is and how people can benefit from it is a hard nut to crack.

That’s why I’ve come up with this guide.

In this article, you’ll learn everything there is to know about CBD, its benefits, different consumption methods, and potential medical applications.

Let’s start with some basic questions.

What is CBD?

CBD is the acronym for cannabidiol — the second-most abundant cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant.

This is where confusion may start to arise.

Before we get down to what exactly CBD is, it’s important to stress that while CBD comes from the same plant as THC, it can’t get you high — because it’s not psychoactive.

The high is triggered by the other cannabinoid — THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol).

Where Does CBD Come From?

Cannabis plants are comprised of over 400 different compounds, 113 of which belong to the category known as cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are unique to the cannabis family of plants.

The concern about getting high from CBD-infused products is caused by the fact that CBD oil can be made from two different cannabis plants — hemp and marijuana.

Hemp vs. Marijuana

Hemp and marijuana both belong to the Cannabis sativa species. Although they share the same parent, they have completely different chemical profiles. Hemp is high in CBD and contains very low concentrations of THC. Conversely, marijuana is much higher in THC — making it psychoactive.

Both varieties can be used to extract CBD with similar effects.

However, the source of your CBD oil determines whether or not the product is psychoactive (and thus legal) in a given country.

CBD can come from the resinous parts of hemp or marijuana (mostly flowers). Many consumers believe the marijuana-derived CBD oil to be more potent because of the way CBD and THC interact with each other.

But truth be told, hemp-derived CBD has a long list of well-documented health benefits as well.

You can use this chart to get a general understanding of the differences between hemp and marijuana plants.

Features Hemp Marijuana
Is it cannabis? Yes Yes
Cannabinoid profile High CBD / Low THC (<0.3%) High THC (5–35%) / Low-high CBD (<1%)
Psychoactive? No Yes
Growing requirements Adaptable to grow in most climates, requires minimal care in cultivation Adaptable to grow in most climates, grown in a carefully controlled environment
Uses Food, supplements, housing, clothing, biodiesel Medical and recreational use

Understanding the Effects of CBD

To understand the health benefits of CBD, we’ll need to take a closer look at its relationship with the human body and brain.

In this section, we’ll mostly focus on “The Endocannabinoid System” (ECS).

Haven’t heard that term before?

I’ll try to explain everything in simple terms.

The Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system is the prime neurochemical network in our body, although discovered roughly 30 years ago. This complex system consists of receptors and neurotransmitters located throughout the body and brain, with the highest concentrations in the nervous and immune systems.

The role of ECS is to maintain the neurochemical balance in the body, also known as homeostasis.

The endocannabinoid system is regulated by special molecules called endocannabinoids. The two major endocannabinoids are anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoyl glycerol (2-AG).

The endocannabinoid system regulates almost every homeostatic function in the body, including:

  • Immune function
  • Cognitive performance
  • Pain perception
  • Mood
  • Memory
  • Fertility
  • Appetite
  • Body temperature

The ECS uses two main types of receptors, each responsible for slightly different processes. They’re known as CB1 and CB2 receptors.

CB1 Receptors

CB1 receptors are located in the central nervous system — the spinal cord and brain — and in some areas of the peripheral nervous system (the body).

There are 3 key brain sections where CB1 receptors appear in the highest concentrations:

  • The hippocampus (responsible for forming memories and processing emotions)
  • The cortex (controls all higher brain functions)
  • The basal ganglia (this is where dopamine is produced)

CB1 receptors are key players in regulating mood, memory, fertility, pain transmission, sleep patterns, and cardiovascular health.

Now, you’re probably thinking “hey, isn’t that what cannabinoids do?”

That’s because chemicals like THC are almost identical in their chemical structure as anandamide, mimicking its actions on CB1 receptors.

CB2 Receptors

CB2 receptors appear in the blood and immune cells. The immune cells are designed to identify and destroy bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells. It’s through this set of receptors that CBD offers the lion’s share of its health benefits.

CBD is a CB1 and CB2 modulator, increasing their sensitivity to anandamide. This allows us to maintain the chemical stability in the body, turning down hyperactivity while turning up hypoactivity.

CBD acts on other receptors as well.

For example, it can alter pain transmission by stimulating opioid and vanilloid receptors. Both of these regulate the way we process pain from the body to the brain. Each time these receptors are stimulated, they weaken the pain signaling, so the brain doesn’t “record” that sensation.

CBD vs. THC: The Yin and Yang of Cannabis

While CBD and THC are both cannabinoids — phytochemicals from cannabis — each has unique and similar effects and benefits commonly sought by medical and recreational users.

The main difference between these two compounds is that CBD is non-psychoactive, so it won’t get you high. CBD can actually dampen the psychoactive effects of THC, exerting a wider range of effects on the body rather than the brain.

Below you’ll find a comparison table highlighting the most important differences between CBD and THC:

Non-psychoactive Psychoactive
CB1 and CB2 modulator CB1 and CB2 agonist (a stimulant)
Blocks pain signaling Slightly blocks pain signaling
Appetite-suppressant Potent appetite booster
Antiepileptic It can enhance the antiepileptic effects of CBD
Best for anxiety, pain, inflammation, and sleep problems Best for euphoric effects, appetite stimulation, focus, and stress-relief
Body high Head high
Side effects may include dry mouth, lowered blood pressure, and lightheadedness Side effects may induce confusion, coordination impairment, anxiety, and a strong body stone

What Does CBD Do?

The way CBD interacts with the human body is very exciting, something you probably haven’t been taught about at school.

Since the endocannabinoid system maintains homeostasis in the body, and CBD modulates its receptors, consistent supplementation with CBD helps regulate important biological processes, leading to optimal health and a range of symptom relief.

What Are the Health Benefits of Using CBD?

CBD isn’t a magical pill. Rather, it’s a highly versatile tool for improving one’s well-being. And, if you’re inner balance gets disturbed, you might be surprised at how effective it is at handling the problem and easing its symptoms.

CBD has the following benefits on human health:

  • Improved immune function
  • Protection against free radical damage
  • Support for healthy cell growth
  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Elevated mood
  • Altered pain transmission
  • Reduced tumor growth
  • Improved focus
  • Healthier sleep patterns

CBD in Medicine: Potential Applications

People use CBD for a wide range of physical and mental ailments. This is caused by the fact that CBD can “fix” the system responsible for regulating several essential processes in the human body. By interacting with the ECS, you can effectively control other biological functions.

CBD is popular for the following symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Insomnia
  • MRSA infections
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Opiate withdrawal and addiction
  • Osteoporosis
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Poor reaction to stress
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Smoking addiction
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

In this section, I’ll elaborate on the most common applications of CBD oil.

1. CBD For Acne

CBD oil is rich in antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and anti-inflammatory compounds. All these chemicals can reduce acne and improve skin health. CBD reduces inflammation by acting on the CB2 receptors in the skin, speeds up regeneration processes, and controls sebum production in the body.

2. CBD For Anxiety

CBD can ease anxiety by regulating a few important neurotransmitters associated with this state. It modulates serotonin, epinephrine, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the brain. Moreover, CBD acts on the GABA receptors to pace down the nervous system when we get hyperactive. This results in feelings of calmness and tension relief.

3. CBD And Addiction

Withdrawal symptoms from nicotine or opioid addiction are serious obstacles on our way to recovery. Recent studies have pointed to CBD as the potential reliever of withdrawal symptoms due to its anxiolytic effects that reduce fear and cravings in those who have kicked the habit, leading to more successful cessation.

4. CBD And Cancer

Studies have shown CBD to promote programmed cancer cell death (apoptosis) in certain types of cancer. Cannabidiol may also stop the spread of cancer between organs by preventing the tumor cells from binding to new types of tissues

5. CBD For Epilepsy

CBD oil is widely used for its ability to reduce the frequency and severity of epileptic seizures without the side effects of commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals. A 2016 study noted significant improvements in the frequency of seizures in children with Dravet Syndrome — a treatment-resistant form of epilepsy. In 2018, the FDA approved the first CBD-based drug Epidiolex.

6. CBD For Inflammation

Short-term inflammation isn’t actually anything bad, but chronic inflammation may often result in a range of severe autoimmune diseases. CBD has strong anti-inflammatory properties that are backed by lots of animal-based studies and preclinical human trials. The list of conditions that CBD could help relieve includes inflammatory bowel disease, vascular inflammation, and neuroinflammation.

7. CBD For Nausea

CBD can relieve nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients. CBD likely does it by inhibiting the breakdown of anandamide in the brain; higher anandamide levels in the body are linked to a reduced sensation of nausea andvomiting, and increased appetite in patients.

8. CBD As a Neuroprotective

One of the greatest benefits of CBD is its ability to protect neurons. Using CBD on a regular basis can promote the formation of myelin, a chemical that spreads a protective layer over the nerve cells, allowing for faster transmission. When this function gets disturbed, it may lead to a range of neurodegenerative disorders, including Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and multiple sclerosis (MS).

9. CBD For Pain

CBD exerts several different actions on the brain that make it effective for relieving pain. CBD engages with the vanilloid receptor (TRPV1); this receptor controls pain and regulates body temperature. Moreover, CBD acts on the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the ECS, which play a vital role in pain transmission in the central nervous system.

10. CBD For Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder caused by inflammation of the pancreas. CBD may help patients manage this condition by reducing that inflammation and helping the body regulate insulin and blood sugar.

What Are the Side Effects of CBD?

CBD is considered a safe substance with a shortlist of mild adverse effects. Studies report that even doses as high as 1500 mg a day are well tolerated in humans.

However, overconsuming CBD may result in:

  • Dry mouth
  • Low blood pressure
  • Lightheadedness
  • Diarrhea

Additionally, CBD can interact with other drugs by either increasing or decreasing their concentrations in the bloodstream. If you’re taking any medication, make sure to consult with your doctor before buying any CBD product.

How Do People Use CBD?

CBD comes in many different forms. Current advancements in extraction technology allow for infusing CBD into a range of products, such as:

  • Oil drops
  • Tinctures
  • Capsules
  • Edibles
  • E-liquid
  • Topicals
  • Isolate powder
  • Sublingual spray
  • Pet products

You can also find more concentrated forms of CBD — also known as CBD dabs — which are similar to marijuana concentrates save for the lack of THC.

Most CBD products are made with full-spectrum extracts that also contain other cannabinoids, including traces of THC. Hemp-derived products contain less than 0.3% THC per volume, which isn’t enough to produce psychoactive effects.

This feature makes hemp-derived CBD legal in all 50 states.

How Much CBD Should You Take?

I can’t give you any specific dosage guidelines because the optimal amount of CBD depends on too many individual factors.

Your age, sex, weight, metabolism, diet, physical activity, desired effects, and severity of your condition — they all determine how much CBD will be a good dose in your case.

In fact, CBD dosages can range from 1 mg to 200 mg per serving, so new users may find it hard to gauge the correct dose.

The general principle is to start low and slowly increase the amount of CBD oil until you reach a dose that yields satisfying effects. Many people start with as little as 1 mg, doubling this over time until they notice the difference.

If you experience any side effects, simply go back to the previous dosage and use smaller increments.

Is CBD Legal?

The 2018 Farm Bill made the legal status of hemp very clear.

CBD products that come from hemp are legal in all 50 states.

For marijuana CBD oil, you need to live in a state that has recreational cannabis laws or provides some sort of a medical marijuana program.

Where to Find CBD Oil For Sale Near Me

A high-quality CBD product can greatly improve your quality of life. However, finding a trusted CBD vendor among hundreds of companies can give you a serious headache.

You need to make sure your oil comes from organic hemp plants that are extracted with supercritical or subcritical CO2 for the highest potency and purity levels. Most reputable brands display third-party lab reports of their products to prove their quality.

CBD is available both online and locally, but since online stores offer a broader selection of products and are less expensive than the stuff sold in-store, I recommend buying CBD oil online.

Just remember not to trust anyone at face value. If anything raises your concerns along the way, research your potential vendor, read reviews, and learn how to read lab reports to make a well-informed decision.


CBD has great potential to enhance our well-being by modulating the endocannabinoid system.

By working on so many molecular pathways, it can produce a myriad of positive effects on our health.

CBD is by no means a cure-all. I’d rather think of it as a versatile tool for balancing the vital processes in our bodies along with an active lifestyle and nutritious diet.

I hope this article has cleared up any confusion that could arise in your head since you first heard of CBD.

Let me know if you use CBD oil in your routine and how it helps you in everyday life!

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