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What is CBD? A Brief Introduction to the Benefits of Cannabidiol

You’ve likely heard these three letters before: CBD. Hemp products have infiltrated the market in a big way recently, filling our stores with drinks, coffee, tea, and even CBD Gummies.

So what is CBD, exactly, and why has it become so popular?

Well, it’s not pot, weed, Mary Jane, grass, or whatever the kids call it these days. In fact, it’s not even made from the same plant as marijuana. Most cannabidiol (CBD) and CBs  is sourced from hemp, the male plant of the cannabis sativa species, which contains mere trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient that gets you high.

To be clear, no, CBD will not get you high. It’s not a drug with recreational uses. However, like cannabis, it may have myriad medical benefits. And it might be a great addition to your lifestyle even if you don’t have a notable medical condition.

What is CBD?

To cut through the clutter, I asked an expert: Ian Kelley, an employee of Extract Labs, a Colorado-based company that specializes in CBD products.

CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a naturally occurring compound found in the leaves, flowers, and stem of hemp and cannabis plants.

The brand was founded by Iraq War veteran Craig Henderson, who started experimenting with CBD extraction in the garage of his home in 2016. In two short years, Extract Labs has grown from an operation of one to having more than 20 employees and an in-progress second lab out of state. Part of the company’s success is based on the expert extraction techniques and noted quality of products. But also, quite simply, Extract Labs hung its shingle at the right time. More on the explosive growth of the industry later; first, let’s figure out what this stuff is.

cbd oil hemp marijuana leaf
Getty Images

CBD, shorthand for cannabidiol, is a naturally occurring compound found in the leaves, flowers, and stem of hemp and cannabis plants. When extracted and refined, CBD can be suspended in liquid tinctures, blended into creams and lotions, or prepared as solid crumbles or liquids intended to be ingested by smoking or vaping. “It’s not a psychoactive compound,” Ian Kelley stresses. “It won’t get you high. The primary uses for CBD are for health and wellness, not recreation.”

Hemp oil, on the other hand, is made from hemp seeds and is not a potent source of cannabidiol.

How Does CBD Work?

The cannabidiol compound activates various receptors within the body, such as serotonin and adenosine receptors, which can enhance your mood and regulate your central nervous system, respectively. It can suppress the brain’s perception of pain and reduce nausea by activating the specific 5-HT1A receptor.

Ironically, CBD can limit the effects of THC. By reducing the effect of the fatty acid amide hydrolases (FAAH) that increase the effect THC has on certain receptors, ingesting CBD or choosing a cannabis strain with a large percentage of CBD may make you less high when you smoke, vape, or otherwise consume pot. This is great news for people more interested in the medical benefits of cannabis than the getting high part.

What Is CBD Used For?

Pain, seizures, and anxiety, basically. And likely lots of other stuff as the research continues.

Kelley explains that, while not (yet) recognized by the FDA as a medically beneficial compound, the “anecdotal evidence” points to numerous distinctly beneficial uses. CBD seems to reduce the frequency and severity of epileptic seizures, potentially lowering the number of weekly seizures some people suffer from hundreds to a handful. It may also mitigate chronic pain issues, such as those caused by arthritis or even by diseases like cancer or autoimmune ailments.

CBD seems to reduce stress and anxiety and may enhance your mood. In small doses, many people report CBD making them feel more alert and focused.

For otherwise healthy individuals, cannabidiol may have many advantages as well. Extract Labs (and other producers) make topical products such as creams that are intended to reduce soreness and inflammation following exercise or injury. Oral (anything from tinctures food to cocktails) or smoked ingestion of CBD seems to reduce stress and anxiety and may enhance your mood by activating the aforementioned serotonin receptors.

In small doses, many people report CBD making them feel more alert and focused. Though in larger doses or in certain people, it might make you tired instead.

cbd oil hemp marijuana edible product
James Baigrie/Getty Images

The side effects of CBD aren’t all that intense and include fatigue and gastrointestinal discomfort. But you’re not going to giggle your way through The Big Lebowski or drive a car off the road, so don’t be nervous about trying it yourself. Unless you’re pregnant or breastfeeding; it’s recommended you avoid the stuff in those cases.

Now for the elephant in the room:

Is CBD legal?

Yes, it is. As of right now, it’s effectively legal in 47 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C. Just don’t bring your CBD to Idaho, South Dakota, or Nebraska.

CBD is legal in 47 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C. Just don’t bring your CBD to Idaho, South Dakota, or Nebraska.

And don’t fly with it. The legal status of cannabidiol is confusing to say the least. According to federal law, the stuff is outright illegal, but according to almost every state and local law, it’s completely acceptable. In fact, even the World Anti-Doping Agency gave CBD the OK earlier this year! Just don’t offer to share any with an officer of the law and you should be fine.

Where Do You Get CBD?

One good place to get yourself some fine CBD products is, of course, ExtractLabs. A few other trusted online sources include The CBD Distillery, NuLeaf Naturals, and Bluebird Botanicals. Interested in topical CBD applications for pain management or skin care? Check out what Life Elements has to offer.

If you live in Colorado, California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts, one of the fine states in which marijuana is recreationally legal, you should be able to find plenty of CBD products at your friendly neighborhood weed dispensary.

Just remember not to accidentally buy hemp oil, because it’s not the same thing.

Article originally published on August 9, 2018.

Steven John
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Steven John is a writer and journalist living just outside New York City, by way of 12 years in Los Angeles, by way of…
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