In this article, our aim is to provide the most in-depth guide to CBD, or Cannabidiol, available to readers. We will address a number of topics including the plant, the product, and its effect on individuals who use it. Regardless of your knowledge of CBD, there will be some takeaway here to help grow your knowledge base.
What is CBD?
CBD is a chemical compound found in the “Hemp” or “Marijuana” plant. Hemp and Marijuana are of the same plant species, but are classified by the availability of THC in the plant. Hemp plants are plants with less than .3% THC. Marijuana has greater than .3% THC.
Hemp requires lower maintenance than Marijuana, and has applications for body care, clothing, and construction. THC requires closer management and is mainly used for recreational and medical purposes.
CBD is known as a “cannabinoid,” which are the chemical compounds given off by cannabis flowers. There are 113 cannabinoids that have been isolated from Hemp, the best known being CBD (Cannabidiol) and THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). Some of the other major Cannabinoids include:
- Cannabichromene (CBC)
- Cannabidiol Acid (CBDA)
- Cannabidivarin (CBDV)
- Cannabigerol (CBG)
- Cannabinol (CBN)
- Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)
As well as the cannabinoids that are native to the Hemp plant, there are phytochemicals called Terpenes that give the different aromas of cannabis. Terpenes do more than have distinct smells; Terpenes also interact with other cannabinoid receptors and have an overall effect on cannabinoid potency.
Some of the most common Terpenes are:
Of these Terpenes, Myrcene is the most common. Pinene, Humulene, and Beta-Caryophyllene are all believed to have anti-inflammatory effects.
While we will go into further detail on the biochemistry of CBD later in the article, it’s important to know that Cannabidiol is not psychoactive - meaning it won’t give you a euphoria or “high” that many associate with use of Cannabis and THC.
Where is CBD Sourced?
We have discussed the different classifications of “Hemp” according to its THC content and some about its applications, but, where does the plant come from in the first place? Here, we'll discuss two of the more common sourcing locations.
In 1970, the Controlled Substances Act classified cannabis as a Schedule 1 substance, making Hemp illegal to grow in the United States. For 44 years that classification stood until the 2014 Federal Farm Bill presented the opportunity for research and pilot programs to cultivate Hemp.
Currently, there are 27 states that permit research and pilot programs. 20 of these 27 states allow production for commercial purposes. Ultimately, American and European Hemp can be trusted. As the United States begins to compete in the world hemp market, the quality of CBD products should rise for the consumer.
How is CBD Extracted?
Now that we have some basics about Cannabidiol as a compound and where it comes from, it’s important to understand how CBD is extracted from the Hemp plant for consumer use.
Depending on the type of CBD product that is being manufactured - full spectrum or isolate - particular residuals need to be removed from the Hemp plant before it can be prepared for the consumer. This process is called “extraction,” whereby you isolate certain cannabinoids or other chemical compounds from the plant and other chemicals that occur in it. There are various methods for extraction which we will discuss here.
CO2 extraction, or “Supercritical Extraction” is the preferred method for extracting CBD. This method relies on expensive equipment and the manipulation of Carbon Dioxide.
At its core, CO2 Extraction pushes pressurized Carbon Dioxide through the plant to isolate the Cannabidiol. Carbon Dioxide has a very fluid structure and can occur as a gas, liquid, or solid (dry ice). For the purpose of CO2 Extraction, Carbon Dioxide is kept at a temperature below -69 degrees with a pressure greater than 75 psi (pounds per square inch). Once the CO2 is maintained as a liquid, temperature and pressure are increased to a point where the Carbon Dioxide is said to be “supercritical.”
In its supercritical state, CO2 has properties of both a gas and liquid. This state is perfect for extraction because it has the density to isolate the CBD without being so dense to damage the extract.
To review, you begin with liquid CO2. The CO2 is then pressurized with a compressor and heated. The fluctuations of temperature and pressure turn the liquid CO2 into a “supercritical” state, where it has properties of both gas and liquid. In this form, it is passed through Hemp in an extractors where it extracts the desired plant materials. Finally, the extract goes through a separator to broken down into different parts. CO2 then goes through a condensing process and becomes a liquid that can be recycled.
The same equipment used in the Supercritical process can be used in something called “Subcritical Extraction,” which applies less temperature and pressure to Carbon Dioxide. The benefit of Subcritical Extraction is it can be very effective extracting terpenes, essential oils, and other sensitive materials. However, it does not extract larger molecules like chlorophyll, and Omegas 3 and 6. Because Subcritical Extraction can extract terpenes and other plant materials, it can be a good option for full spectrum products.
Olive Oil Extraction is a method that can be performed at home where olive oil is used as a solvent. First, raw plant material must be decarboxylated. Decarboxylation is a process that must happen before cannabinoids can be activated into your body. Typically, time and heat are the two way that cannabinoids become active through decarboxylation. For instance, vaporized cannabinoids are decarboxylated because of the high temperature required for vaporization.
To do so, experts recommend that raw plant material is heated to 248 degrees Fahrenheit for 60 minutes or 284 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. After this step, the decarboxylated plant material should be added to olive oil at heated to 212 degree Fahrenheit for at least 60 minutes. This should extract cannabinoids in an oil form.
Ethanol, low-grade alcohol, and butane are three substances commonly used for in Solvent Extraction. Used as a solvent (a solution other materials dissolve into), ethanol will extract a bouquet of cannabinoids and terpenes, but, it also extract chlorophyll which can lead to unwanted side effects. Butane creates a stronger oil than ethanol, but is likelier to contain lung-irritating solvents.
Solvent Extraction is the “easiest” of the extraction process. All it requires is that you combine the solvents and plant materials. When enough cannabinoids are removed from the plant, the solution is heated and evaporated down to the CBD base oil.
How to Take CBD
We have discussed the compound itself, CBD sourcing, and extraction. We have all the elements in place to talk about the product. In this section, our focus will information on “taking CBD.”
Sublingual tinctures are the industry standard for taking CBD and CBD Oil. Sublingual means “under the tongue” and these products are taken orally by dropper. The industry standard for a dose is a half or full dropper. Most tinctures will feature some kind of “carrier” oil like MCT Oil or Hemp Seed Oil. When taking CBD through sublingual drops, make sure to “hold” the drops under your tongue for at least 15 seconds so they can seep into your bloodstream and take more immediate effect.
Edibles are a wide-ranging category of CBD products featuring items like capsules and candies. If you are a person with diet restrictions, ask if capsules have a “beef” or “pork” gelatin base. Capsules are convenient, come in pre-determined servings, and resemble traditional medicines.
Candies, like gummies, chocolates, and lollipops are also a popular type of edible. It's important to research these products to confirm CBD concentration.
Concentrated Extracts are “more raw” than the rest of the products listed. That is, they are a highly concentrated, simple form of CBD. Examples of these products include isolate, shatter, and wax.
CD Isolate is Cannabidiol is its purest form. CBD Isolate is 99% pure CBD without terpenes, cannabinoids, and other materials that co-occur with CBD in the Hemp plant.
Shatter is considered to be part of a group of concentrates called “dabs.” Shatter is a concentrated with a glassy look similar to caramel candy. It typically contains up to 80% pure concentration, just under the purity of isolate.
CBD Wax has an oil-like consistency that is a little more opaque and crystallized than normal. It is intended to be smoke or vaped.
While they are low-profile compared to CBD Oils, CBD beverages have been springing up left and right in the CBD industry. A few examples of CBD beverages include coffee, juices, teas, lemonades, shots, and beer.
Topicals, also called rubs, salves, or creams, are skin-based products that have a different entry point into the body. Unlike products taken orally or inhaled, topicals have to penetrate the layers of skin cells in order to enter the bloodstream and take effect.
The last way way to take CBD on this list is by oral spray. Compared to other products like CBD Oils, sprays are generally weaker in concentration. It is also harder to control dosing with sprays than the other CBD forms. Sprays, however, can be a good option for mobile use and when you are pressed for time.
The regular vape industry is a monster as is, and CBD has joined the party. CBD Vape Oils are liquids typically accompanied by food grade suspension liquids like propylene glycol and vegetable glycerine. Vape Oils require hardware to help heat or “vaporize” the liquid to a point where the vapor can be inhaled. While the first generations of CBD Vape Oils had an “earthy” taste, manufacturers are beginning to perfect CBD blends. If you are looking into vape oils, know that some may contain nicotine and some people have an aversion to vg or pg. Hardware can include devices like cartridges, e-cigs, and mods.
Now that we have discussed the different ways to deliver CBD, the next topic is dosing. It’s important to know that CBD dosing recommendations are quite tentative because of the limited research available, especially for human subjects. Instead, we will provide general guidelines and some basic information on the metabolization process in order to steer you in the right dosing direction.
Everyone reacts to CBD differently. CBD works with your body’s natural biochemistry and metabolism, which is completely unique. A few of the things that will affect this process are:
- Diet - affects enzyme activity, content, and bioavailability
- Gender - Men and women are known to process certain substances differently.
- Physical Size - like other medications, dosage will vary depending on factors like size and weight.
With CBD, the best approach is to begin at small doses and work your way up to an effective dose. This will better allow you to understand how your body processes the compound with increased dosage. Try your best to establish a standard dosing procedure. For example, increase dosing by the same amount of milligrams over a set period of time, like 2.5mgs over a week or two. What this will do will allow you to have a reliable understanding of CBD’s effectiveness to the milligram.
Another consideration is the intended use for CBD. Because of the widespread influence of the Endocannabinoid System in your body, there are many reasons individuals seek out CBD as a personal treatment. We’d ask you to consider the severity of the particular issue you are looking to treat. Issues like persistent chronic pain may require a more aggressive approach than issues like mood enhancement. Again, even if you set out for a more aggressive dosing regimen, be sure to standardize your doses and length of time that you take them.
In the coming years, as more support is given to CBD, more rigorous dosing guidelines may become available. As of right now, we can only provide this information and let you determine your ideas dose.
How Does CBD Interact with Your Body?
While the body of research out there for dosing is relatively light, there is a lot more research on the biochemistry of CBD. We’ll talk about the findings in this section.
The mechanism that holds everything together with CBD is called the Endocannabinoid System, or ECS. The system is a collection of cell receptors and molecules spread throughout the body. Receptors are like the gatekeepers to different molecules, and are activated by chemical molecules called agonists (memes). Whenever an agonist binds with a receptor, a message is passed on to the cell for a specific purpose.
The two cell receptors (gatekeepers) involved in the Endocannabinoid System are called CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are most commonly found in the brain and spinal cord. Key areas with high CBD1 concentration are the hypothalamus, amygdala, and nerve endings. CB2 are more often located in the peripheral nervous system, central nervous system, and gastrointestinal tract.
The agonists for the Endocannabinoid System are called Endocannabinoids. “Endo” means “from within” and cannabinoid refers back to cannabis. Endocannabinoids are the chemical messengers that signal certain functions with the ECS network. The overarching purpose of the ECS is to maintain homeostasis, or body balance.
The two central endocannabinoid molecules are called Anandamide and 2-Ag. Anandamide has been dubbed the bliss molecule and play a role in the regulation of appetite, pleasure, and reward. 2-AG (2-arachidonoyl glycerol) is thought to have an effect on appetite, immune system functions, and pain management.
One of the major misconceptions is that CBD binds directly to receptors CB1 and CB2, leading to the therapeutic effects associated with the compound. In reality, Cannabidiol actually has a low binding affinity with those receptors. The effects of CBD actually occur because of an enzyme named FAAH (Fatty acid amide hydrolase).
FAAH is responsive for breaking down anandamide in the body. Cannabidiol acts as an inhibitor to FAAH, which leads to greater amounts of anandamide present in the body. Higher amounts of “the bliss molecule” likely lead to increased feelings of well-being.
What are the Benefits of CBD?
It’s all well and good to know the mechanisms of CBD, but what’s the point if it doesn’t have any practical value? In this section, we’ll touch on the benefits of taking Cannabidiol.
CBD is believed to help with a variety of conditions related to pain. Specifically, the European Journal of Pain gave topical treatments of CBD to rats with arthritis and found a significant drop-off in inflammation and signs of pain. In a systematic review on chronic pain, the determination was that CBD is effective for chronic pain relief. The Journal of Experimental Medicine supports these findings.
It’s also important to acknowledge that pain and inflammation are deeply connected to one another. Areas of inflammation tend to stimulate surrounding nerve areas causing pain. When you treat “inflammation,” many times pain will subside.
The anti-inflammatory effects of CBD are likely the result of Cannabidiol involvement in immune response. The CB2 receptors are spread throughout the Central Nervous System and in immune cells. When CBD binds to overactive immune cells, a protein called caspase is created. Caspase is a messenger that induces immune cell death, which prevents inflammation. Because CBD influences this protein, it can help curb inflammation and pain. The Imperial College of London has performed studies that back up this information.
There is also compelling evidence that Cannabidiol can help individuals struggling with Insomnia symptoms. Insomnia is a condition in which a person has difficulties falling or staying asleep. Up to 10% of Americans are diagnosed with Chronic Insomnia Disorder. Some of the symptoms are:
- Not feeling well-rested upon waking up
- Interrupted sleep
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Decrease mood, concentration, and mental performance
Insomnia comes in acute and chronic forms, and is considered primary or secondary. Primary insomnia is not caused by other health conditions while secondary is.
CBD is believed to help remedy insomnia symptoms in the following ways:
- Increased daytime alertness
- Reduced anxiety
- Minimized pain and discomfort
CBD, in itself, is not something that directly leads to better sleep - CBD is not Nyquil. However, CBD is especially helpful for promoting daytime wakefulness (anti-somnolence) and will likely benefit individuals with secondary insomnia. CBD is able to help treat the health conditions contributing to insomnia for better sleep quality.
Epilepsy is a chronic neurological disorder that is characterized by recurring seizures. For some individuals with particular conditions like Dravet Syndrome, seizures can be extremely disruptive to everyday life, and can occur many times a day. In 2012, researchers from the British Epilepsy Association found evidence that “ CBD is a strong therapeutic candidate for a diverse range of human epilepsies.” In another study conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine, patients who took CBD experienced a dramatic reduction in convulsive seizures per month. Even the FDA has begun to approve of certain CBD medications for individuals with severe epilepsy.
While you have to be careful around the claims you make around this subject, there is evidence to suggest that CBD can have a positive effect on cancer symptoms. The National Cancer Institute has said that Cannabidiol may help alleviate certain cancer symptoms and treatment side effects. CBD is also believed to reduce the reproductive capacity of some types of tumor cells.
This anti-tumoral effect of Cannabidiol has led to studies claiming, “CBD slows the progression of many types of cancer, including breast, lung, prostate, and colon cancer.”
Pre-clinical research has made positive indications but more research is needed. For now, CBD is something to consider adding to an existing treatment plan.
Mood Disorders are a category of illnesses that signify a serious change in mood. Some examples of mood disorders include major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorders.
Cannabidiol has been shown to be especially helpful for anxiety disorders. A study from 2011 showed that CBD significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort during public speaking. In 2015, research posited that CBD can help many forms of anxiety like Social Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and PTSD.
In 2013, a study found that Cannabidiol improves people’s ability to forget their traumatic memory, a hallmark of PTSD recovery. This may lead to other revelations for mood disorder treatment.
CBD and THC
Earlier in the article, we spoke about some of the minor difference between CBD and THC, especially as it relates to psychoactivity. In this section, we will explore the difference between these two compounds in more detail.
One of the key differences is in how the chemicals interact with the receptors within the Endocannabinoid System. We have already spoken about the CB1 receptor, which is typically found in the brain and spinal cord. THC binds well with CB1 while CBD has a low binding affinity for this receptor. THC mimics the endocannabinoid Anandamide and creates “blissful” feelings when it binds to the CB1 receptor.
Cannabidiol is actually considered an “antagonist” of CB1 agonists like THC because it suppresses the CB1-activating qualities of CB1 agonists. In other words, CBD has a “reductive” or “modulating” effect on THC - it works against your THC high.
THC is also listed by the Controlled Substances Act as a prohibited substance. CBD is not.
Hemp Oil vs. CBD Oil
If you’ve ever searched for CBD products, then you know that some companies advertise their products as “Hemp Oil” while other refer to products as “CBD Oil.” In this section, we’ll compare these two products.
Hemp Oil is derived from the “Hemp” plant, which we know has less than .3% THC. It’s also taken from the pressed seeds of the plant. It is used as for fuel, lotions, soaps, and some foods.
CBD Oil is an extract taken from Hemp or Cannabis plants which may contain greater concentrations of THC. CBD Oil may be extracted from the flowers, leaves, and stalks of the plant. CBD Oil is primarily made as a consumer product.
It is important to caveat this information by saying that some companies may use “Hemp Oil” and “CBD Oil” interchangeably. So in all reality, some “CBD Oil” or “Hemp Oil” products on the market may be the same products but are advertised differently. The best practice is to research a company’s sourcing and manufacturing to determine what kind of product is being sold.
The CBD industry is undergoing explosive growth which is expected to continue over the next few years.
2016 reports showed the CBD market to be a $202 million dollar industry. Hemp Business Journal, one of the leading business voices in the cannabis industry, expects that number to grow to $2.1 billion in 2020. Unsurprisingly, a slew of companies are entering the market to cash in. Cannabis stocks are also among the hottest on the financial market.
It will be interesting to see how this industry develops as laws become more accommodating to CBD products and attitudes shift across the country. The FDA has approved its first CBD product for the treatment of epilepsy. Some states, like Indiana, are making it possible for their residents to purchase CBD products.
CBD in Review
At the beginning of this article, we set out to create the most comprehensive guide on CBD available to readers. In this guide, we have introduced the plant, talked about the products, consumer interests, and the CBD market. We understand the industry is always evolving; in turn we will continue to update this page as new information becomes available. For now, we think we have done a sufficient job synthesizing current information. If you have any questions or would like further clarification, please comment below or reach out to customer service!