A Beginner’s Guide to CBD

Cannabidiol (CBD) has become one of the hottest health products in the last few years, despite the FDA warning against it. Unfortunately, the consuming public is also largely unaware of the facts surrounding it. Most people only have the impression that it can cure a lot of ailments,  but don’t exactly know if CBD is safe or how to maximize its benefits.

Introduction to CBD

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD, is a major cannabinoid compound that can be found in Cannabis plants (Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica). Cannabis is well-known for both its medical and recreational properties and out of more than 80 cannabinoids, CBD is the one that has the most interest because of its wide therapeutic use.1

Its Origin and Compounds

CBD can be extracted either from marijuana or hemp. As discussed in What is Hemp and How Is it Different from Marijuana, the two terms merely refer to different classifications of the same plant. Though both marijuana and hemp have CBD in them, the main difference between the two is their tetrahydrocannabinol or THC concentrations. Marijuana has a THC concentration of higher than 0.3% while hemp has a THC concentration of less than 0.3%. The levels of THC is important since it determines whether a cannabis plant and its product are legal in the US or not. This is why hemp is more preferred for CBD extraction, even though there are marijuana strains high in CBD.2

How Safe is CBD?

How Does It Work?

Cannabinoids such as CBD and THC primarily target the brain, peripheral tissues, immune, hematopoietic (stem) cells, amino acids, and their receptors. However, CBD does not activate the endocannabinoids CB1 (found in the brain and several peripheral tissues) and CB2 (found in immune and hematopoietic cells) receptors that contribute to the psychotropic activity and other functional consequences, unlike THC. In fact, it was actually found to reduce the psychoactive effects of THC.

Initial studies have already shown that CBD has a wide therapeutic window. It has an effect on intracellular calcium and some neurologic activities. It is also polyphenolic, which means it is a potent antioxidant.3

Are There Adverse Reactions?

The potential effects of CBD on humans have been explored through numerous studies. It was found that it does not produce any significant adverse physiological and biochemical effects or abuse. What makes it especially appealing is that it has no psychoactive effects similar to THC. The only reported adverse reactions are most likely due to drug-drug interaction between CBD and the user’s existing medications.4

Is It Addictive?

CBD is not addictive and there’s no potential for dependence or abuse. As previously mentioned, oral CBD does not cause psychotropic effects and even counters the psychoactive effects of cannabis such as psychomotor and cognitive performance impairment, dry mouth and increased heart rate.5

High Doses and Toxicity in Humans

Several studies suggest that humans can tolerate high doses of CBD of up to 1,500 mg per day. It is also non-toxic, does not alter with psychological and psychomotor functions, may not change food intake, and does not affect blood pressure, body temperature, and heart rate. 6

Misconceptions Surrounding CBD

Some Common Misconceptions

Although interest and demand in CBD are booming, a large percentage of the public still have misconceptions and doubts about it. This is to be expected from a relatively new and unregulated product such as CBD, especially that it comes from a stigmatized plant like cannabis.

  • “It can get you high” – While CBD is safe, it can influence one’s mood slightly and provide a feeling of calm and relaxation, it does not cause a high similar to marijuana.
  • “It’s intoxicating” – Since CBD is a cannabis product, it easy to hold the misconception that CBD is safe but intoxicating. However, it is not. In fact, at least one study has shown that it may actually counteract intoxication7 but further studies are needed to fully understand how this works. It also works against substance abuse and addiction8, cravings, and compulsive use.
  • “It is a super sedative” – some users have a misconception that CBD can be very sedating. While CBD does have a sedative effect, it is not as strong and only shows at higher doses. At lower doses, CBD may even counteract the sedative effects of THC and delay sleep for a time.
  • “It’s legal in all states” – This is an understandable misconception. While hemp farmed in accordance with the Farm Bill of 2018 is considered legal, the FDA maintains that the only legal CBD product it recognizes is Epidiolex. Furthermore, state laws are is still regulated depending on which state and some have reservations about it.
  • “The body will turn it into THC” – This is another understandable misconception since at least one study suggests that CBD can be turned into THC by gastric acids9. However, another study10 that sought to replicate the results in humans failed to get the same result.

A need to clear misconceptions

Despite the popularity of these misconceptions11, the CBD industry is still able to grow at an impressive rate. Therefore, the best way forward would be to clear these misconceptions so that consumers can be kept safe, companies can build trust, and the government can create policies that can benefit everyone involved.

Is It Psychoactive?

This is a very confusing topic but only largely due to semantics. As defined by the WHO, the term “psychoactive” refers to a substance that can affect mental processes. Based on this definition, CBD can be considered a psychoactive substance since it does have mood-influencing properties. However, Wikipedia narrows the definition of psychoactive further and defines it as a “substance that changes brain function and results in alterations in perception, mood, consciousness, cognition, or behavior.” CBD is only known to influence mood and not the rest, and by this definition, it cannot be considered psychoactive.

As observed in one study, CBD does not affect the mind or impair the psychomotor performance of the people taking it. It even produces antipsychotic effects. 12 Given that CBD has no recreational value, it can safely be said that it is not psychoactive.


There are still some who don’t know the difference between CBD and THC compounds, all they know is as long as they came from Cannabis, they can get you “high”. Yes, they came from the same plant, but their effects and uses are the opposite.  THC is a major psychoactive cannabinoid compound, a reason for its recreational use. CBD is also a cannabinoid compound but counters the negative psychoactive effects of THC.

THC has pharmacological actions in the body, which include the psychoactive effects. It binds to cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) found in central nervous and immune systems. CBD antagonizes the psychotic effects of THC and binds to other cannabinoid receptors in the body to prolong the beneficial effects of the compounds.13

The Lab Test Results

Drug tests can happen voluntarily or involuntarily, depending on the need and case. Most, if not all, are afraid that they may get a positive result due to certain drugs or substances.

In one study, urine specimens were collected and were analyzed for CBD and other cannabinoids after administration. It was found that the acute dosage of pure CBD will not show as positive in urine results as per drug testing guidelines. However, CBD products containing THC may show positive for THC in the urine results. 14

Legal Use of CBD

How Legal is CBD in the U.S.?

Hemp has become synonymous with CBD, especially in the US. Thanks to the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, otherwise known as the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp, including its cannabinoids and extracts, is now defined as cannabis with no more than 0.3% THC concentration on dry weight. This means hemp has been excluded from the controlled substances under federal law and has been removed from the marijuana as defined under the CSA (Controlled Substance Act).

However, state law is still the main authority when it comes to drug-related offenses and each has its own drug regulation. Under the Farm Bill, hemp growers are required to get a license and follow regulations, specifically THC testing, as per the state plans. The Department of Agriculture can issue the regulations if the state does not grant the plan. Commerce or businesses are also regulated between states. So, CBD, which is an extract from hemp, is legal to use and distribute depending on the state law. To know more about the federal and state regulations for CBD and Cannabis, check out Americans for Safe Access. 15

Public Availability

FDA (Food and Drug Administration) recognizes the rising interest in studies, potential benefits, and selling of CBD. However, they are aware that some companies are marketing their products containing Cannabis compounds that violate the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and thus want to ensure the safety and health of the public regarding the use of CBD and Cannabis-related products.

The number of companies marketing and selling CBD is growing. CBD products are under the hemp definition of the 2018 Farm Bill. Their selling legality, though, depends on the intended use, label and marketing, and compliance to laws and regulations. As per the FDA, CBD cannot be sold as a dietary supplement, the main ingredient of food and animal feeds. As of now, the only FDA-approved pure CBD-containing drug is Epidiolex, which is used for treating seizures and epilepsy. 16

Therapeutic Potentials of CBD

The Possible Health Benefits of Using CBD

CBD is safe and has plenty of therapeutic potentials which is why a lot of companies, even from the pharmaceutical industry, are investing in it despite it being a cannabis product. In fact, the only FDA-approved CBD product happens to be a drug called Epidiolex which is practically just pure CBD used for the treatment of seizures and epilepsy.

Several studies have shown that CBD is safe and has a huge antipsychotic potential, especially in patients with schizophrenia and those experiencing psychosis. It also has potential therapeutic use for those experiencing Cannabis intoxication, dependence, and withdrawal, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and some personality disorders.

Additionally, CBD is safe and found to have neuroprotective and memory-rescuing actions and improves parkinsonism for those with Parkinson’s disease. It also has antioxidant properties to repair DNA and cells from death or injury to fight off cancer, and reduce inflammation, chronic pain, and migraine and can also be used to improve stress-coping behaviors, stabilize mood and depression. 17

Improvement of Sleep and Anxiety

Users often cite the effectivity of CBD at higher doses. Most say that it helps them fall asleep easier and longer, and prevents disruptions to their sleeping cycle. A study of participants also noted the reduction of REM sleep behavior disorder (parasomnia), which is being active while dreaming and having nightmares.

Meanwhile, CBD was also found to be effective in lowering anxiety in both animal and human test subjects but at certain dosages.18 These studies served as confirmation for CBD’s anxiolytic effects, as well as its biphasic properties.

The Popularity of CBD

CBD Administration

CBD products have become so popular that they are not just in cannabis dispensaries anymore. Nowadays, consumers can easily buy them easily over the counter or online. There are different methods and forms of administration: sublingual, pills, capsules, liquids, spray, drops, tinctures, smoking, vaping, edibles, and topicals. Additionally, it was found in a study that the sublingual method is still the most common among users and topicals the least common.19

The CBD Trend

The interest, use, and consumer demand for CBD on the internet in the U.S. alone are steadily growing. In fact, searches for CBD have substantially increased after 2014, seeing more than 100% increase every year starting 2017 in the U.S. As of April 2019, Google searches for CBD has surpassed even exercise, acupuncture, dieting, and meditation, and is almost the same level as with yoga. It is likely that more people are showing interest after discovering its potential uses. 20


Based on initial research and studies, CBD is safe to use and may potentially have other therapeutic uses. Despite this, the FDA is still intent on cracking down on its distribution and consumption. This legal obstruction may have led consumers to take their interests in CBD online to understand its effects, as well as its cultivation, marketing, and buying and selling. While this is a good trend, what would really propel the CBD industry forward is its regulation. This will open up further interest and studies on CBD which will be beneficial to consumers, businesses, and even the government. Once studies are able to confirm its safety and beneficial claims, U.S. agencies and other states are likely to fast-track liberal regulations on both CBD and cannabis.

  1. Perm, J. (2019, January 7). Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6326553/
  2. Hilderbrand, R. L. (2018, July to August). Hemp & Cannabidiol: What is a Medicine? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6140266/
  3. Devinsky O., et al. (2014, March 17). Cannabidiol: Pharmacology and potential therapeutic role in epilepsy and other neuropsychiatric disorders. Epilepsia, 55(6):791–802, 2014, DOI: 10.1111/epi.12631. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/epi.12631
  4. Expert Committee on Drug Dependence. (2018, June 4-7). CANNABIDIOL (CBD). Fortieth Meeting, Geneva. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/CannabidiolCriticalReview.pdf
  5. Grotenhermen F., Russo E., Zuardi A. W. (2017, January 1). Even High Doses of Oral Cannabidiol Do Not Cause THC-Like Effects in Humans: Comment on Merrick et al. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research 2016;1(1):102–112; DOI: 10.1089/can.2015.0004, Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research 2:1, 1–4, DOI: 10.1089/can.2016.0036. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2016.0036
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  9. John Merrick,1 Brian Lane,1 Terri Sebree,2,* Tony Yaksh,3 Carol O’Neill,2 and Stan L. Banks2 Identification of Psychoactive Degradants of Cannabidiol in Simulated Gastric and Physiological Fluid[PMC]
  10. Gerhard Nahler,1,* Franjo Grotenhermen,2 Antonio Waldo Zuardi,3 and José A.S. Crippa3 A Conversion of Oral Cannabidiol to Delta9-Tetrahydrocannabinol Seems Not to Occur in Humans[PMC]
  11. Russo, E. B. (2017, March). Cannabidiol Claims and Misconceptions. Trends in Pharmacological Sciences. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Ethan_Russo/publication/315802003_Cannabidiol_Claims_and_Misconceptions_Trends_in_Pharmacological_Sciences_38_198-201_2017/links/5a5fd57a0f7e9b964a1edab5/Cannabidiol-Claims-and-Misconceptions-Trends-in-Pharmacological-Sciences-38-198-201-2017.pdf
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  14. Spindle T.R., et al. (2019, November 4). Urinary Pharmacokinetic Profile of Cannabinoids Following Administration of Vaporized and Oral Cannabidiol and Vaporized CBD-Dominant Cannabis.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31682266
  15. Mead, A. (2019, June 14). Legal and Regulatory Issues Governing Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products in the United States. Frontiers in Plant Science. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2019.00697
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  17. Frontiers in Immunology. (2018, September 21). Translational Investigation of the Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol (CBD): Toward a New Age. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2018.02009/full#B66
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  19. Corroon J., Phillips J.A. (2018, July 1). A Cross-Sectional Study of Cannabidiol Users. DOI: 10.1089/can.2018.0006. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6043845/
  20. Leas E.C., Nobles A.L., Caputi T.L., et al. (2019, October 23). Trends in Internet Searches for Cannabidiol (CBD) in the United States. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(10):e1913853. DOI:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.13853. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2753393

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