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CBD Facts Everyone Should Know

Updated: Feb 29

What You'll Learn in This Article

  • CBD derived from industrial hemp, defined as cannabis with less than 0.3% THC, is legal according to federal regulations.

  • CBD's most well-known psychoactive effect is the calming feeling frequently associated with the cannabinoid. CBD is, however, non-intoxicating.

  • CBD works better in conjunction with other cannabinoids to produce the entourage effect.

  • Not all CBD oils and CBD-infused products are created equal and there is no agreed-upon standard for the minimum effective dose.

  • You would have to take nearly 20,000 milligrams over a short timespan for CBD to become toxic.

The second-most prominent-cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant, cannabidiol (CBD) has seen a meteoric rise in the wellness market for offering a wide variety of purported health benefits without causing intoxication or side effects.

According to an Aug. 7, 2019 survey from Gallup, 1 in 7 Americans, or 14%, use some form of CBD, and mostly for medicinal purposes. As CBD's presence continues to grow wherever health and wellness products are developed and sold, consumers and patients are becoming more curious about the ins and outs of this therapeutic cannabis derivative.

But despite the growing popularity of CBD products, there is still a fair amount of misinformation surrounding this non-intoxicating cannabis compound, prompting a need for more educational resources and guidelines for the average consumer. What is CBD? How does it work? Is it legal? What should I look for in CBD oil and other CBD products?

These are all important questions that a canna-curious consumer or medical patient may have. To help set you on a path toward an informed choice, here are 10 essential CBD facts that every potential and current CBD consumer should know.

CBD is Legal, But Only if it's Derived From Hemp

To anyone unfamiliar with CBD, it may seem strange to see something that comes from cannabis has garnered such widespread attention and acceptance across the U.S. Following the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, CBD derived from industrial hemp, defined as cannabis with less than 0.3% THC, is now legal according to federal regulations. CBD from marijuana or hemp with more than 0.3% THC is still considered a Schedule I drug in the Federal Controlled Substances Act, but legal in states where medical and adult-use cannabis is permitted.

CBD is Non-Psychoactive, But Also Non-Intoxicating

One of the major CBD selling points to come out of the compound's recent product boom is that the cannabinoid is both therapeutic and “non-psychoactive,” as opposed to the extraordinarily psychoactive THC. While you might commonly read this “fact” about CBD, it isn't accurate to say that CBD is devoid of any psychoactive effects.

CBD is psychoactive in the sense that it directly affects the mental processes of cognition and mood. CBD's most well-known psychoactive effect is the calming feeling frequently associated with the cannabinoid. CBD is, however, non-intoxicating, which means it doesn't produce the “high” of THC on its own. THC is also psychoactive, but because its effects can also leave consumers temporarily impaired, it is therefore intoxicating. The non-intoxicating qualities of CBD is often what causes others to confuse it as a “non-psychoactive” cannabinoid.

CBD Generally Works Better with Other Cannabis Compounds

A 2015 study from The Hebrew University of Israel documented the medicinal potency of single-molecule CBD extract versus that of a whole-plant, CBD-rich extract. The single-molecule extract is an isolated extract of a single compound, such as CBD, where a whole-plant extract essentially preserves the full cannabinoid and terpene profile of the original plant.

The study concluded that whole-plant, CBD-rich extract had a superior therapeutic value to single-molecule CBD extract. Though there may be cases, depending on an individual patient's condition and physical restrictions, where a CBD isolate is a more appropriate prescription, a whole-plant, high-CBD product has the advantage of working in tandem with other potentially therapeutic cannabinoids and terpenes. This synergistic relationship is commonly referred to as the entourage effect.

CBD Interacts With the Body's Endocannabinoid System

One major explanation for CBD's wide range of potential benefits is the complex way it interacts with our bodies, particularly through the endocannabinoid system (ECS), an internal system made up of endogenous cannabinoids, or endocannabinoids, the receptors that these cannabinoids bind to, and the enzymes that break them down. CBD and other phytocannabinoids, or cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant, bind to cannabinoid receptors when they enter the body, and elicit a wide range of effects, depending on which receptors they activate.

Not All CBD Oil is the Same

Those who have had limited to no experience shopping for CBD oil may wonder where to start, or what to look for in CBD oil. Firstly, understand that marijuana and industrial hemp are both common CBD oil sources. There are also several types and formulas on the market, which typically fall into one of the three following categories:

  • Full Spectrum contains the full spectrum of CBD, minor cannabinoids, cannabis-derived terpenes, and trace amounts of THC found in the plant.

  • Broad Spectrum contains a full spectrum of extracted cannabinoids and terpenes, but with trace amounts of THC removed.

  • Isolate is a “raw” CBD oil that removes all other cannabis compounds until only a CBD crystalline remains.

As the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) begins to crack down on CBD oil labels with unproven claims, consumers should read their product labels carefully.

In addition, it's also important to note that not all CBD oils and CBD-infused products are created equal. Although some reputable CBD companies adhere to strict labeling standards, subpar or falsely advertised CBD products with vague labels with buzzwords like “pure,” “all-natural,” and “organic” can be deceiving. Also beware of products labeled as hemp oil or hemp seed oil, which usually do not contain any CBD at all. As the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) begins to crack down on CBD oil labels with unproven claims, consumers should still be on the lookout for the following on all CBD oil labels:

  • Amount of active CBD per serving

  • Supplement Fact Panel, including other ingredients

  • Net weight

  • Manufacturer or distributor name

  • Suggested use

  • Distinction as full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or isolate

  • Batch or date code with a link to the laboratory results for that batch. If the product wasn't lab tested, you're probably looking at a case of consumer fraud.

CBD Dosing Isn't an Exact Science Yet

When it comes to finding the most effective CBD dosage for a specific condition, there is no exact measurement or universal guideline that works for everyone. Part of the reason may have to do with the fact that genetic mutations of our cannabinoid receptors cause variances in the way a body reacts to CBD. If you, for example, are walking around with a different CB1 receptor variation than your friend, the two of you may react differently to the same dose of CBD. In other words, an effective CBD dose for one patient may not work for another. There are several other factors that determine the effectiveness of a CBD dose, including the product itself, the method of consumption, as well as the patient or consumer's physiology.

You Can't Really Take Too Much CBD

So, if we're unable to figure out what dose is most effective for treating most ailments, where does that leave the user who doesn't have experience with CBD? Fortunately, it's easy to simply start with small doses and slowly work toward higher ones. Why? Because it's not really possible to take too much CBD, according to a 2011 study published in Current Drug Safety. The study also concludes that you would have to take nearly 20,000 milligrams over a short timespan for the compound to become toxic.

It's Legal to Fly With Hemp-Derived CBD, but Risky

While hemp-derived CBD items are legal under federal law, some individual states and cities still have still stricter laws. In rare but documented arrest cases, local law enforcement officers have arrested and charged people flying with CBD products upon arrival. Ultimately, flyers carrying CBD are at the mercy of the TSA. On April 20, 2019, the TSA posted the following on Instagram: “Let us be blunt: TSA officers do not search for marijuana or other illegal drugs. [...] But in the event a substance appears to be marijuana or cannabis infused product, we're required by federal law to notify law enforcement.”

Marijuana-derived CBD products, as well as CBD products with more than 0.3% THC, are still not allowed on domestic or international flights. If federally illegal cannabis products are found by the TSA, the agency has stated that it will defer the matter to local law enforcement.


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