Curious about cannabidiol (CBD)? CBD is a one-of-a kind molecule found in the cannabis plant. It is most commonly consumed as an oil, often referred to as “CBD oil”. But, what is CBD oil and what exactly does it do? Here’s everything you want to know about CBD oil.
What is CBD oil?
CBD oil is more popular than ever. But, what exactly is it and where does it come from? CBD oil is an essential oil of the cannabis plant. It can be made from both hemp and psychoactive cannabis varieties.
Like all plants, cannabis produces an essential oil. This essential oil can be extracted, allowing for processors to collect concentrated amounts of the herb’s active components.
While the cannabis plant is capable of producing over 400 different chemical constituents, cannabis oils are most abundant in a few different types of plant compounds.
These two types are cannabinoids, which are unique to cannabis, and terpenes. Terpenes are the aroma molecules that give cannabis its unique scent. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found only in cannabis that give the herb its medicinal and wellness benefits.
While THC is the compound that causes the classic cannabis “high”, CBD is frequently sought out by those hoping to glean the wellness benefits of cannabis without a mind-altering experience.
CBD is the main component in CBD oil. It is made by extracting the essential oils of specific cannabis varieties that contain high levels of CBD and low levels of THC.
Depending on how the CBD oil is extracted, it may also also contain terpene aroma molecules. These molecules give each cannabis strain and batch of CBD oil its unique aroma.
They may also slightly alter the experience of the CBD oil, such as by giving it more sedative or uplifting qualities.
What are the different types of CBD oil?
Are CBD oil and hemp oil the same thing? There are a few different types of CBD oil on the market these days, some of which are sold quasi-legally online in the United States.
Purified CBD products are also sold without prescription in drug stores in countries like the Czech Republic. Here’s the difference between CBD oil, hemp CBD oil, and purified CBD isolates:
1. Hemp CBD oil
There are two primary types of hemp oil. Hemp seed oil is used for cooking and in skincare products.
This type of hemp oil does not contain CBD. Hemp CBD oil is more or less the same as the CBD oil sold in medical and recreational cannabis dispensaries.
Hemp CBD oil is cannabis oil made from plants that contain less than 0.3 percent THC. These plants have been selectively bred to contain high levels of CBD and low levels of psychoactive THC.
While the legality of hemp CBD oil is disputed in the United States, it is possible to purchase hemp-derived CBD online.
2. Cannabis-based CBD oil
“Hemp” is simply a word used to describe cannabis that does not provide a psychoactive “high.” However, hemp is still a cannabis plant. As mentioned above, hemp-based CBD comes from plants that contain less than 0.3 percent THC.
When plants contain more than 0.3 percent THC, they are described as “cannabis” or “marijuana”.
These terms are misleading. Both CBD-containing hemp and cannabis are the same plant. The difference is that they produce slightly different levels of cannabinoids. To use the scientific term, CBD hemp and psychoactive cannabis are different chemovars, not different plants.
This simply means that the two plants now produce different chemical constituents after years of selective breeding.
The cannabis-based CBD oil sold in medical and recreational dispensaries may contain more than 0.3 percent THC. Though, it may still contain such small amounts of the psychoactive that it does not produce a “high” or psychotropic effect.
3. CBD Isolate
“Pure CBD” is isolated CBD. CBD isolate is an extraction that separates CBD from all other cannabis constituents. In some cases, CBD isolates are 99.9 percent pure. CBD isolates will not contain beneficial terpene aroma molecules that add depth to the CBD experience.
Instead, isolates are often used in pharmaceutical products and are sometimes used in vapor pens, tinctures, and infused CBD oils.
A major benefit of CBD isolate is precise dosing. Isolates are pure CBD, meaning that one milligram of an isolate will be exactly one milligram of CBD.
With both hemp and cannabis CBD oils, one milligram of oil, for example, may contain just 70 percent CBD and 30 percent other plant molecules like chlorophyll and aromatic terpenes.
How does CBD oil work?
CBD oil works by tapping into a large neurotransmitter network in the body. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that allow nerve cells to communicate with each other. The network most affected by CBD is called the endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is responsible for regulating a wide variety of bodily functions. Some of these include:
- Energy metabolism
- Immune modulation
- Neurotransmitter modulation
CBD engages the ECS by connecting with special cell receptors called cannabinoid receptors. These receptors are normally activated by cannabis-like compounds that the body produces naturally, called endocannabinoids.
When you consume CBD, the molecule engages with both cannabinoid receptors and the enzymes that traditionally break down endocannabinoids. CBD can stop the breakdown of endocannabinoids, causing more of them to stay in circulation in the body.
More endocannabinoids means more feelings of bliss, happiness, and ease.
What are the benefits of CBD oil?
The potential benefits of CBD oil are vast. Thus far, CBD has been proven to reduce seizures for certain rare forms of epilepsy in the clinic.
There are many more suspected medicinal benefits of CBD. However, substantial human trials have yet to be conducted for specific ailments. Yet, early research in laboratory and animal models suggest that CBD is:
- Analgesic (pain relief)
- Antiemetic (anti-nausea and vomiting)
- Sebostatic (anti-acne)
How long does it take for CBD to take effect?
When inhaled, CBD can begin to work its magic within a few minutes. The active effects of inhaled CBD will last as long as two hours.
Oral CBD can take longer to kick in and lasts longer than when inhaled. Oral CBD can take between 20 and 90 minutes to take effect. It all depends on how much you have eaten beforehand and how well your individual body processes and breaks down the compound at a specific period of time.
Is CBD oil psychoactive?
CBD oil does not cause a psychoactive “high” in the same way that THC does. However, CBD can still have an effect on your mind. CBD engages with specific serotonin receptors in the brain and body, which can boost mood and ease anxiety.
Serotonin receptors are the targets of many common antidepressant medications. CBD’s ability to engage these receptors are part of why many people find the compound helpful for mental health.
While CBD oil can promote a positive sense of well-being, the compound does not distort conscious thought or cause significant changes to cognition. Instead, CBD provides a sense of calmness, ease, and focus.
Can you smoke CBD oil?
CBD oil can be consumed in many different ways. It can be used in tinctures, which can be dropped on the tongue or used on skin. It can also be used in edible goods, applied topically to the skin, vaporized, and dabbed.
Does CBD oil have side effects?
In general, CBD is considered well-tolerated and safe. However, high doses of the compound can come with some side effects. Many of these side effects have been found with very large amounts of CBD, between 100 and 600 milligrams.
Some of the side effects of CBD include:
- Dry mouth
- Temporarily low blood pressure
Human clinical trials of patients with epilepsy have found that extremely high doses of CBD may cause the following side effects, though most patients reported these side effects as manageable:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Lack of appetite
- Raised body temperature
However, it’s important to note that these side effects occured with a CBD-based pharmaceutical and have not been tested in healthy populations.
Is CBD oil legal?
CBD is legally available in several different countries. To find out if the compound is legal in your region, it is best to research your local laws and ordinances.
In the United States, however, the plant exists in an odd quasi-legal space. The Agricultural Act of 2014 (Farm Bill) allowed for the creation of state-based pilot programs for hemp farming. These pilot programs enable the production and marketing of hemp-based products.
For cannabis plants to qualify as hemp, they must produce less than 0.3 percent THC. Any more than that, the plant is not qualified as legal under the 2014 Agricultural Act.
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), however, seems to have a different perspective on CBD. In 2017, the DEA added a new rule entitled “Establishment of a New Drug Code for Marijuana Extract”.
In response to a comment on the new code, the DEA explained that CBD does qualify as “marihuana” and therefore remains illegal under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.
Unfortunately for the public, these two new laws seemingly contradict each other. This means it’s up to legal professionals to duke out just how these laws interact with one another.
How to find a quality CBD oil
Unfortunately, not all CBD oil is created equal. While high-quality hemp and cannabis-based CBD oils do exist, it’s important to know how to spot the duds from high-quality CBD products. Here are three ways to spot a quality CBD oil:
1. Avoid products with harmful additives
Some CBD vapor pens and oil products contain potentially harmful thinning agents. Two of the most questionable include propylene glycol (PG) and polyethylene glycol (PEG).
A 2017 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that both PG and PEG transform into toxic compounds when heated to over 446˚F (230˚C), which is the point of combustion for CBD oil.
Specifically, PG broke down into the known carcinogen formaldehyde, which is used to preserve cadavers. PEG also produced acetaldehyde, another known carcinogen.
The two thinning agents are generally recognized as safe by the U.S. food and drug administration when eaten, but the safety of the two compounds have never been tested when inhaled.
To avoid these toxic additives, always read the ingredient list listed on the packing for your CBD oil. If there is no packaging, consider contacting the supplier or asking dispensary staff for more information.
2. Consider full-extract CBD oils
While purified CBD isolates are helpful for getting a precise dosage, there is some benefit to opting for full-extract CBD oils.
Full-extract CBD oils are made via an extraction process that preserves some of the beneficial terpenes and minor cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant.
While more studies are needed, research suggests that its the interaction between CBD, terpene aroma molecules, and additional cannabinoids that produce the unique effects of cannabis strains.
Opting for full-extract CBD oils not only allows you to experience more of these unique effects, but provides you with a whole host of potentially helpful plant molecules, not just one.
3. Opt for products that have been laboratory tested
One of the easiest ways to ensure that you’re getting a high-quality CBD oil is to purchase oil that has been laboratory tested. Laboratory testing will tell you exactly how much CBD is in your sample.
Laboratory testing will tell you whether or not your oil is free of residual pesticides and solvents. Test results will also tell you whether or not your cannabis has been affected by mold and mildews, which can be harsh and even toxic to inhale.