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What is CBD and How Does it Work?

Curious about CBD? Wondering how it works? This article answers all your questions about CBD, including what it is, how it works, and its potential benefits.

CBD is everywhere. It's being touted as a miracle cure for everything from anxiety to chronic pain. However, there is still a lot of confusion around what CBD actually is and how it works.

Not to mention its relation to cannabis and marijuana.

Unless you've been using it for medical reasons, you might still have a few questions and feel a little unsure about whether it's something you want to explore. If so, keep reading. This article will give you a quick rundown of everything you need to know about CBD. 

What is CBD?

CBD stands for cannabidiol and is a chemical derived from the cannabis plant. It is used as a prescription oil to help treat seizures caused by Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS).

Many people are familiar with CBD because of its close relation to marijuana. However, CBD does not contain the psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that produces a high.

Both chemicals come from the cannabis plant but have slightly different effects on the body.

Different forms of CBD

DisclaimerThe following is not legal advice. You should always seek the counsel of your attorney for all legal matters as laws and regulations change constantly.

Since CBD derived from hemp has become legal, many industries are using it as a dietary supplement or cosmetic aid. This has spurred many different forms and methods of application.

The most common form of CBD is CBD oil. It's made by extracting CBD from the cannabis plant and then diluting it with a carrier oil like coconut oil or hemp seed oil.

Other forms of CBD include:

  • an extract
  • vaporized liquid
  • oil-based capsule
  • infused into food, drinks, and beauty products
  • patches
  • topical preparations

Consumers should be aware that most forms of CBD are not regulated by the FDA. This has caused a lot of inconsistency about how much CBD is in a product and what other ingredients it may contain.

How Does CBD Work?

CBD works by interacting with receptors in the body called cannabinoid receptors. The human body has an endocannabinoid system (ECS) that helps to regulate mood, sleep, pain, and appetite with the help of these receptors.

CBD oil binds to these receptors and can help to alleviate pain, inflammation, anxiety, and nausea. Some people believe that CBD oil also has neuroprotective properties and can help to treat conditions like Alzheimer's disease and multiple sclerosis.

More research needs to be done in order to determine the full extent of CBD's potential benefits.

Uses for CBD

The main use of CBD is as an anti-seizure medication for people who have Dravet syndrome or Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS). Currently, there isn't any scientific evidence to support that CBD works for anything else.

However, it is being studied to see if it can help treat other issues such as:

  • anxiety
  • insomnia
  • chronic pain
  • inflammation
  • arthritis
  • addiction
  • nausea and vomiting

Side Effects of CBD

CBD is generally well-tolerated with few reported side effects. When taken by mouth, these can include:

  • dry mouth
  • nausea
  • irritability
  • diarrhea
  • reduced appetite
  • drowsiness
  • fatigue
  • low blood pressure
  • light-headedness

Although there are several topical applications available on the market, not enough reliable information about the potential side effects is available.

CBD is considered safe, but it can interact with other medications and cause adverse effects. For a list of medications that interact with CBD read through this list from WebMD

FAQs About CBD

Here are some frequently asked questions people have about CBD:

What does CBD do to you?

CBD has a variety of effects on the body, some of which are still being researched. CBD can interact with receptors in the body to help alleviate pain, inflammation, anxiety, and nausea.

Is CBD legal?

DisclaimerThe following is not legal advice. You should always seek the counsel of your attorney for all legal matters as laws and regulations change constantly.

The legal status of CBD is complicated. CBD derived from marijuana is illegal at the federal level but legal in some states. CBD derived from hemp is legal at the federal level but again, state laws vary.

For up-to-date information on the legal status of CBD in your state, check with the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Does CBD show up on a drug test?

CBD will not show up on a standard drug test for marijuana. However, some employer-administered drug tests are designed to look for THC and will also show traces of CBD.

Also, dietary supplements containing CBD are not regulated by the FDA. That means that products could contain small traces of THC without your knowledge.

These could easily show up on a drug test as a false positive. If you are subject to regular drug testing, check with your employer or the test administrator to find out if CBD could put you at risk of a false positive.

How is CBD different from marijuana, cannabis, and hemp?

CBD, marijuana, cannabis, and hemp are easily confused because they are closely related. Cannabis is the plant that hemp and marijuana come from.

Hemp is a type of cannabis that contains very low levels of THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana. It contains less than 0.3% THC by dry weight and is often used for industrial purposes, like making paper and clothing.

Marijuana, however, is cannabis that contains more than 0.3% THC by dry weight. It can be used for medical or recreational purposes and produces a high.

So, while hemp and marijuana are both types of cannabis, they have very different effects on the body.

CBD is derived from either hemp or marijuana and has very little THC. That means it won't produce a high like marijuana, but it does have some of the same medical benefits.

Is CBD safe?

CBD is generally considered to be safe. However, it can interact with other medications and cause adverse effects. For a list of medications that interact with CBD read through this list from WebMD.

CBD has also been linked to some negative side effects, like dry mouth, diarrhea, reduced appetite, drowsiness, and fatigue.

It's always important to talk to your doctor before taking any new medication, including CBD.

Does CBD get you high?

No, CBD does not produce a high. THC is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis that produces a high. CBD does not contain THC and therefore can’t get you high.

Is CBD regulated?

CBD is only regulated by the FDA as a prescription for epilepsy. Any form of CBD beyond the prescription Epidiolex is not regulated.


So far, CBD appears to be a safe, effective treatment for a variety of medical conditions with minimal side effects. However, more research is needed to fully understand the long-term effects of CBD on the body.

If you decide to try CBD, make sure you are getting it from a reputable source. And talk with your doctor to make sure that it won’t affect any other medicines you take.

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