You probably have at least one friend who swears by CBD oil or a CBD vape, but what is CBD exactly? Here's everything to know about the chemical compound derived from Cannabis plants.

By Stacey Leasca
Updated January 31, 2019
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CBD is having its time in the limelight. The trendy health and wellness product seems to be everywhere and in everything from food and drinks to oils, lotions, and even makeup. But, what exactly is CBD and why is everyone talking about it, anyway? How are CBD and THC different, and what are the best CBD products out there?

Here’s everything you need to know before you buy into the CBD madness.

CBD stands for cannabidiol. It is one of the more than 400 chemical entities found in cannabis plants. That means it can be found in both marijuana and industrial hemp. CBD is a close chemical compound to tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. In fact, THC and CBD have the exact same chemical makeup with the only difference being the arrangement of a single atom. Unlike THC, CBD does not have psychoactive properties, meaning it cannot get you high, no matter how much you take.

In December, President Donald Trump signed a new farm bill federally legalizing the growth, production, and sale of CBD extracts. Prior to this, CBD was listed as a Schedule I narcotic by the US Drug Enforcement Agency, meaning it had “no medical benefit” in the eyes of the government.

Despite the bill, companies still aren't technically supposed to add CBD to food, drinks, and dietary supplements, CNBC reports. (Of course, this little fact isn’t stopping people from doing just that.) The Food and Drug Administration will continue enforcing the ban, CNBC adds, however, it may not be this way forever. In late December, the FDA announced it is researching pathways for allowing interstate sales of CBD-infused food and beverage products.

There is a mountain of anecdotal evidence floating around the internet, with people claiming CBD products help with everything from muscle aches to insomnia, anxiety, and psychosis. But, peer-reviewed studies are rather thin.

Where there is perhaps the greatest scientific evidence proving the positive effects of CBD is with children living with Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut, two severe forms of epilepsy. According to Harvard Health Publishing, numerous studies show CBD was indeed able to reduce the number of seizures experienced by children with these conditions. In several cases, the use of CBD was able to stop seizures altogether. Because of these studies, the FDA approved Epidiolex, the first ever cannabis-derived medicine, to help treat those conditions in late 2018.

Unlike smoking marijuana with high THC content, taking CBD tinctures, oils, capsules, gummies, or even rubbing CBD on with a lotion won’t really feel like much. That’s because, again, you’re not getting high. Instead, the effects of CBD are much more subtle and much more personal. For example, some people feel calmer or experience fewer aches and pains thanks to CBD fighting inflammation. Others feel less nauseous or any number of other positive things. The different effects are a result of CBD binding with receptors in our brains, which may help people feel better.

“The brain has these receptors that respond to endocannabinoids, which are neurotransmitters that are naturally produced in the body and brain,” Jerald Simmons, a neurologist at Houston’s Comprehensive Sleep Medicine Associates, told Vice. The endocannabinoid system, Vice adds, is not very well understood, but it is thought to regulate everything from our sleep to pain and even to cognition.

“Some of the cannabinoids in the marijuana plant are very similar to the endocannabinoids in the brain, and they act on the same receptors,” Simmons said.

According to the World Health Organization, “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.” It should be noted, however, that–like anything you put in your body–there can be adverse effects. According to Harvard Health Publishing, CBD can interact with certain prescription drugs, such as the blood thinner Coumadin. Make sure to speak with your doctor before beginning any CBD or health supplement regime.

Like all health, wellness, and beauty purchases you make, it’s important to do your homework. For purchasing CBD-infused products, that may be doubly important as you’ll want to find out where the product's CBD is sourced (AKA where the company's farm is, how the CBD is extracted, and if it’s a full- or broad-spectrum CBD product). Here are a few items you may consider purchasing for your first foray into CBD products.

CWHemp.com

Charlotte’s Web is seen as the leader in the CBD industry so, if you’re going to buy just one CBD product, it should be this: Charlotte’s Web Original Formula CBD Oil. CW’s oils are made using whole-plant extracts that include a variety of phytochemicals to ensure you’re getting all the best benefits the plant has to offer.

To buy: $150; cwhemp.com.

shop.theveritasfarms.com

For a low-dose CBD starter kit, go for something like Veritas Farms’ CBD-infused gummies. The CBD edibles are made with CBD isolate and other organic ingredients. And, they can even be made with added Melatonin to support a good night’s sleep.

To buy: $35; theveritasfarms.com.

sephora.com

The CBD-infused moisturizing lotion is ideal for “post-workout recovery, that time of the month, a night out in heels, and a million other skin and body woes,” the company explains. All the CBD in Lord Jones’ body lotion comes from organically cultivated hemp grown in the United States.

To buy: $60; sephora.com.

foriawellness.com

CBD can help with a plethora of problems, including personal intimacy. Foria’s Awaken is the
first “intimate massage oil for women.” It comes formulated with broad-spectrum CBD, along with kava extract, and synergistic botanical and aromatic oils. All of this comes together in one strong aphrodisiac formula, meant to increase pleasure and decrease tension, discomfort, and dryness.

To buy: $48; foriawellness.com.

amazon.com

Sure, smothering on CBD-infused mascara won’t make you feel less anxious, but it could help condition your lashes. And, according to Milk Makeup, the beauty brand's hemp-derived cannabis oil allows for “smoother application on lashes and easier and tug-free removal.”

To buy: $33; amazon.com.

vertlybalm.com

Vertly’s product will have your lips silky smooth in no time thanks to ingredients like coconut oil, shea butter, cacao butter, kokum butter, and jojoba oil, along with hemp-derived CBD.

To buy: $22; vertlybalm.com.

Trying CBD is all about the personal experience. Think about what ails you, then look into the fix. At worst, you’ll spend a little extra money this month. At best, CBD could be just the thing you’ve been looking for.

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