What is CBD?

What exactly is CBD? Is it the same as marijuana? Learn more about the basics of CBD here.


Depending on where you live, you may have noticed more and more health shops and corner stores advertising CBD oil and other CBD-related products. But what is CBD, anyway? We’ll get into the basics of what exactly CBD is and what all the hype is about.

Plant Matters

So when you hear talk about CBD, what it’s really referring to is a chemical compound called cannabidiol, abbreviated as CBD. This chemical compound naturally exists in plants in the Cannabis genus, or hemp family.

what is CBD
CBD comes from the hemp plant.

Many people only associate cannabis with recreational marijuana, but really there are two sides to the coin. Different plant species in the Cannabis genus have varying chemical properties, some of which are dominant in CBD, while others are grown to develop THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is the psychoactive agent that produces a ‘high’.

Is CBD legal?

Prior to 2018, growing hemp, regardless of its THC content, was illegal in the United States. Interestingly though, hemp was once a cash crop in Colonial America. The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (the Farm Bill), allows for growing ‘industrial hemp’, meaning that the plants can contain no more than 0.3% THC.

There had previously been no distinction between non-psychoactive hemp plants and marijuana, and this legislation has opened the doors for the CBD industry.

While an increasing number of states have legalized recreational or medical marijuana, it is still illegal at the federal level. Cannabis plants above the 0.3% THC threshold are federally listed as a Schedule I narcotic. The difference between state and federal legality has raised a lot of questions, but the short answer is that CBD products are federally legal.

At the state level, not all states have legislation regarding CBD specifically, making it a somewhat gray area in parts of the country. However, 30 states currently have CBD product legislation on the books.

Does CBD get you ‘high’?

Cannabis and marijuana are essentially ‘plant cousins’, but the main difference comes down to its active compounds: CBD or THC. THC produces a ‘high’, while CBD does not.

That being said, CBD has many applications, and studies are ongoing to support popular use.

What can CBD be used for?

CBD is used in both adults and children to treat a variety of ailments, including:

Many healthcare professionals and scientists are investigating CBD’s medical claims, but many individuals report relief from some of the issues listed above. The FDA has authorized a CBD-based medication to treat a few rare versions of childhood epilepsy, and smaller human trials are ongoing for CBD treatments for other issues.

The science behind CBD starts with the body’s cannabinoid receptors. CBD (or THC) interact with neurotransmitters in your brain, and these neurotransmitters connect to cells regarding pain, sleep, and stress, among other things.

According to an FDA-published study by Dr. Lucille Vega, participants noted an overall decrease in pain symptoms, increase in sleep, a decrease in abdominal symptoms, and reduced headaches and anxiety.

Are all CBD products the same?

Unfortunately, due to the hodgepodge of various state and federal legislation and regulation, not all CBD products are going to be the same. In stores and online, you’ll see CBD products that include:

  • Oils
  • Gummies
  • Extracts
  • Supplements
  • …and more

Because of inconsistent regulations and the Food and Drug Administrations failure to regulate on a federal level, oils may have different concentrations of CBD and may not match what packaging may indicate.

Marcel Bonn-Miller, an adjunct assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, led a 2017 study that found that nearly 70% of CBD products didn’t contain the amount of extract indicated on the label. Bonn-Miller went on to note that, “Nearly 43 percent of the products contained too little CBD, while about 26 percent contained too much.”

When you’re shopping for quality CBD products, testimonials and reviews are going

The CBD future is bright

CBD, with the absence of psychoactive properties, has aided millions of Americans, and the future looks bright for industry.  While science and government catch up, the CBD market continues to explode. The industry is expected to grow by more than 22% over the next 5 years with a 2020 market value of $9.3 billion. Online and brick-and-mortar stores sell a wide variety of CBD products, including oil and extracts, and products will continuously improve in consistency and quality as the market regulates.

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