You’ve probably heard the term “CBD” before. From bud and vape oils to bath bombs and body lotions, everything is getting infused with the stuff. Cannabidiol—its real name—is said to relieve pain, anxiety, and a range of disorders. Just last month, the FDA approved Epidiolex, a CBD-based drug, to treat two major forms of epilepsy.
And while that’s great news for the future of CBD products, it’s also important to recognize what this means: There’s only one FDA-approved product on the market. Everything else out there isn’t held to any one standard, which makes choosing a CBD product a rather complex venture. Here’s what you should know before opting in.
What is CBD?
CBD is a cannabinoid, which is a compound found in cannabis plants. There are upwards of 100 cannabinoids within the plant, including CBD and THC (the one that gets you high). CBD is shorthand for cannabidiol; THC, the psychoactive compound, is shorthand for tetrahydrocannabinol. Most CBD products on the market right now come from hemp, which is a variety of the cannabis plant that has less than .3 percent THC. (The marijuana variety, on the other hand, has a higher THC count that varies depending on the strain.) You’ll often see it referred to as “industrial hemp” to distinguish that it’s legal in all states.
What’s the point of CBD?
We’re just beginning to understand the true science behind CBD. Anecdotally, however, people are touting its medicinal-like benefits: They’re using it in oral drops to relax, in lotions to calm muscles, and in concentrated pill form to quell out-of-balance nerves. The list of ailments it has helped is lengthy, and (of course) varies from person to person. Anxiety, pain, arthritis, drug cravings, convulsions, and inflammation are among the most notable things CBD is said to help relieve. It’s also being tested to treat chronic conditions, including epilepsy (the only ailment with the FDA stamp of approval), PTSD, fibromyalgia, endometriosis, Parkinson’s, and M.S.
Is CBD legal?
Probably. If it comes from a legal plant, it’s legal. If it comes from a plant illegal in your state, like the marijuana plant, then it’s questionable. The safest bet is to stick with a hemp-sourced CBD product, because industrial hemp is legal everywhere.
Why is it so popular right now?
The cannabis industry is in the midst of a much-needed makeover. States are rethinking the legality of marijuana, and an influx of research on the benefits of the plant is giving it a boost.
“That national conversation we’re starting to have is this revelation that what we’ve been taught is wrong,” says Andrew Aamot, president of Strava Craft Coffee, which brews CBD-rich coffee. “Cannabis is not this evil gateway drug. We’re all coming around to this realization that the cannabis plant is designed to work with the human body. We stress our bodies out constantly, and our bodies are trying to cope with it all. CBD can help put it back into balance. We start to feel better—calmer, a lessened inflammatory response, less neur
opathic pain, a calmed nervous system.”
“That national conversation we’re starting to have is this revelation that what we’ve been taught is wrong,” says Andrew Aamot, president of Strava Craft Coffee, which brews CBD-rich coffee. “Cannabis is not this evil gateway drug. We’re all coming around to this realization that the cannabis plant is designed to work with the human body. We stress our bodies out constantly, and our bodies are trying to cope with it all. CBD can help put it back into balance. We start to feel better—calmer, a lessened inflammatory response, less neuropathic pain, a calmed nervous system.”
Areas with legal decisions already in place, like Strava’s base in Colorado, are helping guide the conversation about CBD.
“I came [to Colorado] with this assumption that all cannabis products were bad,” says Aamot. “But here, everyone you come across in your daily life might be a consumer of cannabis. They use it to relax or recuperate, rather than consuming pharmaceuticals or alcohol. Perfectly high-functioning individuals saw this as a way to live a better life. And CBD, which has all the benefits of marijuana without the high, has opened a lot of doors. It’s really softened the introduction of the plant.”
How does CBD work?
The human endocannabinoid system is to thank for CBD’s impact, and that system is largely misunderstood. It is part of your neurotransmitter system, which is what allows your nerves to communicate and work efficiently. That means the endocannabinoid system has a part in making sure your brain cells are working correctly, which CBD activates.
“CBD boosts your own natural cannabinoids, which improves your mood and overall wellbeing,” says Michele Ross, a neuroscientist and cannabis activist. “Because this system regulates everything—down to your dopamine levels—if it isn’t working, nothing is working. If you don’t know why you feel run-down all the time, despite feeling healthy and exercising, you might have an endocannabinoid deficiency.”