Unless you’ve recently awakened from a Rip Van Winkle-esque sleep, you’ve probably noticed that CBD—the non-intoxicating cannabinoid purported to help with everything from acne to inflammation and sleeplessness—is everywhere.
Over the past few years, CBD (cannabidiol) has managed to extricate itself from the social stigma imposed upon its intoxicating cousin THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). It’s even led to a global market expected to meet a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.2 percent until 2028. In 2020 alone, the global CBD market was valued at $2.8 billion, according to cannabis analytics firm Grandview Market Research.
CBD enthusiasts and newcomers alike are drawn to the compound because it won’t get you high, and, from what we know so far, it is generally safe to consume. In fact, the World Health Organization reported in 2018, “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential. […] To date, there is no evidence of public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”
We know it’s safe to consume, but how exactly does it work, how does one consume it, and in what forms is it available? Let’s dig in.
How CBD Works
The efficacy of CBD is now commonly attributed to its interaction with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), a molecular system that regulates many bodily processes like immune response, metabolism, reproduction and fertility, sleep, appetite, and many others. It’s also responsible for making adjustments to external stimuli like temperature; when you step outside into the cold from your warm car, for example, the ECS rallies the troops to mount a response. The ECS is made up of messenger molecules, receptors these molecules bind to, and enzymes that break them down into workable parts for the body.
It’s important to keep in mind that our bodies already have two endogenous (meaning from the body) cannabinoids called anandamide and 2-aracidonoylglyerol. By acting on receptors in the ECS, an exogenous (or external) compound like CBD may help to bring the body to its optimal, harmonious resting state called homeostasis.
What is CBD Used For?
Consumers have long been ahead of policymakers and researchers in trying out and finding some success using CBD for a myriad of conditions. In the age of cannabis legalization, research is catching up, and there are studies that point to CBD’s potential as an effective tool in managing these conditions:
- Autoimmune diseases like inflammation and rheumatoid arthritis
- Neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s
- Metabolic syndromes
- Neuropsychiatric conditions like ADHD and PTSD
- Gut disorder such as Crohn’s and colitis
- Skin conditions like acne and dermatitis
- Cardiovascular dysfunction
- CBD may also have neuroprotective and anti-cancer properties and stimulate neurogenesis, or the growth of new brain cells
While the research is still out on how CBD specifically may help with these conditions, there is one FDA-approved cannabis-derived medicine with CBD as its main component. Epidiolex was approved in 2018 for the treatment of seizures associated with two rare forms of intractable epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and Dravet Syndrome for patients two years of age and older.
How Should I Use CBD?
CBD can be taken orally in the forms of oils, edibles, vape oils, and tablets, as well as topicals lotions, bath bombs, salts, and salves. There are still a lot of questions about dosing appropriately, but most human studies use between 20 and 1,500 milligrams of CBD per day.
How much CBD is right for you depends on many factors, including your own body chemistry, body weight, the severity of your condition, and the concentration of CBD in each pill, gummy, or tincture. The rate and extent of absorption into the body will also depend on the type of CBD product you’re using.
One of the more popular and versatile ways to consume CBD is from CBD oil, which can be confusing due to inside-baseball language like full spectrum, broad spectrum, or isolate that leaves consumers scratching their heads. Nonetheless, these are important distinctions to get a handle on.
Think of this as the whole chemical profile of the plant with its mix of CBD, minor cannabinoids, terpenes (aromatic compounds that give plants their distinctive smells and potentially healing qualities), and trace amounts of THC. Remember, unless you live in a legal cannabis state, full-spectrum CBD products must contain less than 0.3% THC to be purchased legally.
Though broad-spectrum CBD is very similar to full-spectrum, for this designation, manufacturer’s strip out as much THC as possible while leaving other compounds like CBD, terpenes, and minor cannabinoids intact.
If a CBD product is labeled as an isolate, that means that all the other compounds like cannabinoids and terpenes have been eliminated, and all that remains is a CBD, generally mixed with a carrier oil like coconut or MCT oil. This is considered to be a “pure” form of CBD since it is the only compound remaining after the manufacturing process.
CBD consumption in the form of oils is not only versatile but simple. It can be added to your morning smoothie, used in homemade gummies and edibles, or added to coffee and other beverages. Many consumers believe that the most effective and bioavailable method of consumption is by using a cannabis oil tincture sublingually by dropping the oil under the tongue and holding it there momentarily before swallowing.
Some other popular forms of CBD include:
- CBD capsules are another convenient option for consumption and take the guesswork out of dosing with a dropper (and may taste better than the oil)
- Like capsules but with way more flavor, CBD gummies are a quick and convenient way to get your daily dose of CBD
- CBD concentrate can be added to your vaping device for another quick and efficient delivery of CBD. Those with asthma or other respiratory conditions should probably avoid this method
- CBD topicals come in a variety of formulas and concentrations and can be used when one has muscle aches and strains, sore joints, and skin conditions like acne and rosacea
As we’ve seen, there is a lot of CBD out there showing up in a lot of different forms, and there remains a bit of a Wild West vibe when it comes to knowing the difference between good and bad CBD. Patients and consumers can protect themselves by understanding that the CBD market outside of legal states is unregulated, so a CBD company could theoretically put any old thing on the label and say it cures all kinds of conditions (the FDA regularly sends warning letters to CBD companies acting in bad faith).
Your best bet for safety and efficacy is to purchase from a company in a legal state where oversight is rigorous. Always ask to see a Certificate of Analysis (COA), which will tell you whether there are any toxins, pesticides, or contaminants in the product, as well as the cannabinoids and terpene potency.
One of the best ways to make sure you’re getting clean, quality CBD is to seek out trusted, licensed delivery services to order from. The Grassdoor team comprises engaged cannabis connoisseurs and experts who go to great lengths to ensure the Grassdoor concentrate menu is 100% compliant, high-quality products.