The 2019 Ultimate Guide to CBD

CBD Overview: The benefits of medical marijuana without the high.


Cannabidiol, or CBD, is not your average herbal extract. It is not snake oil marketed by shady businessmen looking to make a quick buck. No, it is something more than that. In 2013, CNN reported a six year old Charlotte Figi with a severe form of epilepsy saw drastic improvements after using CBD. In June of 2018, the FDA officially approved CBD to treat Dravet Syndrome, what Charlotte Figi had. A 2017 study found that the vast majority of users preferred CBD to prescription opiates. But CBD is not just for seizures and pain – countless self reports detail CBD as an undeniable treatment for many things else. These range from chronic nausea to debilitating social anxiety. These reports aren’t just rampant subjectivity. The World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the substance as useful and not dangerous in 2017. Though pure CBD is impossible to get high off of and carries with it a host of benefits, its association with marijuana makes it seemingly impenetrable to conservative thinkers. This detailed article will provide a detailed analysis of cannabidiol and answer questions such as:
  • Is it right for me?
  • How does CBD work?
  • What are all the possible benefits of CBD?
  • What are the side effects? Is it completely safe?
  • How do I consume CBD?
  • What does “full spectrum” mean?
Charlotte Figi, 7, on a hemp farm.

An Overview of CBD and Cannabis (Warning – Science Heavy!)

Surely you’ve heard the terms “CBD”, “THC”, “marijuana”, and “cannabis” floating around, but what do they mean? What is the difference between CBD and THC? What is hemp? Here we clear up some common questions and lingo. Cannabis, put simply, is a genus of flower commonly seen in two species, Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. Both species are abundant in chemicals known as cannabinoids, and can have hundreds of different kinds. These may include tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), and cannabinol (CBN). Each cannabinoid, when consumed, has different effects.
Some of the cannabinoids found in cannabis.
THC is commonly associated with marijuana. It is the chemical that causes users to get high. When users speak of marijuana, they are referring to cannabis that is high in THC. CBD on the other hand is the non-psychoactive but chemically similar cannabinoid to THC. Hemp refers to cannabis that is very low in THC but has significant levels of other cannabinoids such as CBD. Most CBD is derived from hemp, though some is marijuana-derived.

The Endocannabinoid System

Everything regarding the effects of cannabinoids and CBD relates to the endocannabinoid system. Throughout the nervous system, there are cannabinoid receptors which cannabinoids bind to and induce different effects. The system is responsible for a variety of roles including regulating:
  • Brain cell firing to avoid overexcitement
  • Memory formation
  • Appetite
  • Energy balance
  • Immunity
  • Sleep
  • Mood
  • Motor control
  • Pleasure
  • Pain
  • Reproduction
  • Temperature
Now, how does this connect to the cannabinoids found in cannabis? Put simply, there are three classes of cannabinoids:
  1. Phytocannabinoids – these are the cannabinoids found naturally in cannabis such as CBD and THC.
  2. Endocannabinoids – these are the cannabinoids endogenous to the human body. An example is the chemical anandamide, known as the “bliss molecule”.
  3. Synthetic cannabinoids – lab produced cannabinoids.

How CBD Works

CBD – along with many other phytocannabinoids – interact directly with the endocannabinoid system. There are two receptors common to the endocannabinoid system – namely, CB1 and CB2. These receptors act as a sort of key lock, and when cannabinoids fit, they fire, sending messages to do the things in the list above. CB1 receptors are found in the central nervous system. CB2 receptors, on the other hand, are in immune cells and the gastrointestinal tract. Unlike THC, CBD does not directly bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors. CBD works mainly through a process called modulation, i.e. preventing the brain from reabsorbing anandamide, or by enhancing or inhibiting the action of other receptor sites. One of these sites is the set of serotonin receptors. These receptors are activated by the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is not only acted on by antidepressants but is also what substances such as LSD and MDMA work on. CBD was found to modulate these sites, inducing antidepressant-like effects. Cannabidiol was also found to act as an allosteric modulator of GABA-A, the receptor group responsible for inhibition, acted on by drugs such as alcohol and benzodiazepines including Xanax. This means that, essentially, CBD makes the GABA-A network more sensitive to GABA, the main inhibitory neurotransmitter. There are a number of other hypothesized mechanisms of action, ones which would account for its effect on afflictions as polar-diverse as knee inflammation and motion sickness.

Is CBD Legal?

There is a large debate on the legal stance of cannabidiol, helping secure its position in the “grey area” of legality. The question “is CBD legal?” is not a simple one. In Decemer 2016, the DEA classified all cannabinoids as Schedule 1 Controlled Substances. However in 2014, a bill was passed that would make industrial hemp farming legal in some situations, and this includes the sale of hemp-based products which may contain cannabidiol. As a result of these actions, the general concensus is that hemp-derived CBD is legal in all 50 states. Marijuana-derived CBD, however, is different as its processing involves high-THC flower, even though the CBD is isolated. Though this can cause some confusion, if you live in any of the following states:
  • Alaska
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Washington
You are completely safe from any legal issues, as all cannabis is legal here without a prescription required. Now, in addition to these states, there are 46 states that allow cannabis for medicinal use, CBD included. The states where cannabis – and hence some types of CBD – are illegal include Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Again, the law is in a grey area, so use of CBD in these states is unlikely to result in any legal action (however we cannot recommend it).

The Effects CBD

The benefits of CBD are incredibly diverse.
The benefits of CBD are incredibly diverse.

The Benefits of Cannabidiol

Below, you’ll find lists of all the benefits CBD may provide in these categories. It is important that not all of these are rigorously scientifically accredited, so take each bullet point with a grain of salt.


  • Anxiety reduction
  • Anti-psychotic
  • Antioxidant
  • Addiction assistance
  • PTSD
  • Neuroprotective
  • Hippocampus regeneration
  • Mood regulation/depression reducer
  • Potent seizure reducer


  • Muscle relaxant
  • Glaucoma relief


  • Potent anti-emetic and nausea reducer
  • Appetite regulation
  • Cramp reduction
  • Anti-prokinetic


  • Stimulates bone growth
  • Strengthens weak bones
  • Good for osteoporosis


  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Prevents plaque build up in arteries
Diseases are not unknown to CBD’s range of effects. Note again that none of these are rigorously scientifically tested and we are not stating that CBD will certainly help with any of these diseases. That said, afflicted people have tried CBD and saw success for the following specific diseases:
  • ALS/Lou Gehrig’s Disease (think Stephen Hawking)
  • Crohn’s
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cancer
  • Parkinson’s
  • Huntington’s
  • Tourette’s
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Diabetes
  • Autism
We stress that CBD is not a wonder-drug that will cure anything and everything. In fact, it is possible that many of the things on the above lists are not affected by cannabidiol. This is why the scientific method is very important here – if you have one of the above afflictions, and are willing to try CBD, it might just work, so it is worth a shot. After all, this was the case with 1000s of happy CBD consumers!

Side Effects

Though many users of CBD report no noticeable side effects at all, others report a fair amount. This occurs most frequently in formulations such as full spectrum CBD, where other chemicals can exist in nontrivial amounts, such as THC. In the specific case of full spectrum CBD formulations, the most common side effects are dry mouth and anxiety. Unsurprisingly, these are two of the most common side effects to THC! If these issues become a problem for you, consider switching to CBD isolate instead. All CBD products are associated with the following side effects in general:
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness
Though the effects such as lightheadedness may initially seem scary, there has not been one reported case of hospitalization or death due to pure CBD.

Drug Interactions

It is always important to watch for drug interactions with CBD. Since CBD interacts with such a large amount of pathways in the brain and nervous system, it is always safe and encouraged to do research and speak with a doctor before beginning CBD under any case, but especially if you are currently taking other drugs. For example, since CBD is known to interact with the serotonin system, those who simultaneously take SSRIs for depression and anxiety (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which increase serotonin amounts in the brain) might see an unwanted extreme increase in serotonin amounts or sensitivity. In extreme cases this can cause serotonin syndrome. Now, granted, there have not been any cases of serotonin syndrome as a result of taking CBD with antidepressants, but to reiterate it is always better to stay safe than sorry.  

CBD Consumption

Safety First!

Unfortunately, like any consumables market, fake products are not unheard of. In January 2018. fake CBD poisoned over 50 people in Utah. Though events like this are rare, it is better to be safe than sorry. The easiest thing to do to stay safe while experimenting with CBD it to purchase from reputable vendors. Do not purchase from shady websites, and only look at the top of the line in reputation. Furthermore, always ensure the products are verifiably lab tested. Companies will publish these results to their website and a link to the lab tested at. Synthetic cannabinoids are a decently sized threat to the cannabis community as a whole, and should always be avoided at all costs, or you might just end up in the hospital. It is rare indeed, but if you lean towards the very careful side of things, there do exist testing kits for use.

Full Spectrum vs. CBD Isolate

When a product mentions CBD isolate, it is referring to the fact that the formulation contains purified cannabidiol without other cannabis constituents such as terpenes and residual cannabinoids. In the case of full spectrum, everything in the hemp and/or marijuana is placed into the final product, which may include THC, other cannabinoids like CBN and CBG, and terpenes such as pinene and myrcene. One of the most frequent debates in the CBD world is whether full spectrum or isolate formulation provides more benefits. The verdict? It is different for everyone who tries. Many will agree that full spectrum products possess additional healing properties, as terpenes and cannabinoids in general are thought to serve all different therapeutic purposes.

Finding Your CBD Dosage

One of the most common idiosyncrasies of those dabbling in cannabidiol is to either “megadose”, i.e. take way more than what one needs to see benefits, or do the opposite and not get any benefits. Since the FDA has not declared a recommended daily intake of the substance, no one really knows what is correct; however, it is unlikely that said mega-and-microdoses are more beneficial than a dose somewhere in between. While there are no official recommended intake values, there are some estimates that are likely better than blind guessing at dosage. These are based on a variety of factors, ranging from:
  • The concentration
  • The method of consumption
  • The individual’s weight
  • The individual’s body/neurochemistry
  • The specific condition being treated
Esteemed neuroscientist Nick Jikomes has asserted that throughout our lives, there is a correlation between change in our physiology (which happens all the time) and change in our endocannabinoid systems. This effectively makes two things certain: 1) everyone can have a different effective dosage, and 2) your effective dosage changes throughout your lifetime. Now, knowing this, how should you go about choosing your dosage? Use a calculator, such as the one found on Honest Marijuana. Start conservatively. Do not go over the recommended amounts, and perhaps stray a little below them. Pay attention to internal effects, and then increase or decrease as needed. These calculations are not an end-all; they are simply a starting point.

Finding Your CBD Vendor

“All the above information is great and all, but where do I actually buy my product?” Great question! There are a couple of things you should look for in every vendor:
  • Lab results
  • Verified customers
  • Been in business for at least 6 months
  • From a reputable location
  • Overall legitimate look and feel; if something feels wrong, it probably is!
There are some excellent guides (1, 2, 3) detailing the best sources of cannabidiol. For reference, here are some choices you can’t go wrong with when choosing a vendor:

Some Common Ways to Consume CBD

CBD Found in Cannabis

CBD can enter the body through cannabis. This can include hemp and marijuana, and in the case of hemp, there will be a far more significant level of general and legal accessibility. A benefit to marijuana, however, is that it is far more likely to contain other cannabinoids and terpenes, such as myrcene and cannabinol, both of which are believed to have significant effects on health. Many believe that without this “full spectrum marijuana”, CBD alone is less effective therapeutically.

CBD Oils and Tinctures

CBD oil is extracted from a cannabidiol-heavy strain of cannabis using a variety of chemical processes and solvents. Perhaps the most popular, and best, method of extraction is through the use of carbon dioxide (CO2), which creates a safe and potent oil. Some companies decide to go with cheap solvents and extraction methods, such as butane. Though not popular, this method may leave dangerous residue and should most certainly be avoided. Top companies do not use such methods. CBD oil is typically consumed orally or sublingual (under the tongue), sublingually having a far higher bioavailability (the percent that reaches the brain). If this is undesired, one can just as easily put the CBD oil in food, drinks, or smoothies, and enjoy it, though at a lesser bioavailability (so you’ll have to take more). The difference between oils and tinctures lies within the method of extraction. Tinctures are formed through an ethanol-based extraction process, while oils are formed through direct purification. Tinctures typically have residual alcohol in the final product, whereas oil is more pure. Though the ethanol content is low, it may in some cases be noticeable to the user. This is not a cause for concern.
A beaker of CBD oil.

CBD Topical Applications

Lotion, salve, lip balm, cosmetics, the list goes on. These CBD-infused topical varieties can assist with a range of health concerns, including local inflammation and overactive immune response, arthritis, and muscle soreness. Regardless of the amount of THC in such products, it is always impossible to get high in any way from topical application of CBD products, so this is a very safe option.

CBD Edibles and Capsules

The first thing to note about edibles, capsules, and pills is that they have a lower bioavailability than methods of ingestion such as vaporization and sublingual administration. However, they may be more enjoyable. Capsules are easier to swallow for some than vaping is on the lungs. Gummies bears universally taste good. Brownies are, well, brownies. Just keep in mind, however, that oral bioavailabiltiy for CBD is anywhere from 40-60% the potency of inhaled CBD.

CBD Vaporization

Vaporization is one of the best ways to consume CBD. It is quick, easy, and rivals sublingual administration for highest bioavailability. One can additionally go with CBD wax dabs, which provide an even stronger dose. Of course, one should be careful with such megadoses.

CBD Suppositories

Yes, suppositories exist, and are quite effective in terms of bioavailability. When CBD is rectally administrated, afflictions such as nausea and overactive gag reflex are avoided, and this is complimented with the fact that rectal administration is one of the fastest ways to get the chemical into the bloodstream – think only a couple of minutes.

The Flower

Most of the time, hemp is used as the source of extraction for cannabidiol. Sometimes, however, users tend towards other forms of cannabis such as the more recreational marijuana, in search of the effects of THC. When performing this search, it is important to keep the following rough THC:CBD ratio guidelines in mind:
  • 1:0 – Purely psychotropic. Very likely to experience THC’s side effects such as increased anxiety. No modulation from CBD.
  • 2:1 – Mostly psychoactive, but with some effects from CBD, likely to lower the side effects of THC.
  • 1:1 – Often used to maximize the therapeautic effects of both substances. Still significantly psychotropic.
  • 1:2 – Dominantly sedative. Somewhat psychoactive, but a calm, relaxed outlook is more prominent.
  • 0:1 – 100% cannabidiol, great for therapeautic use. No high whatsoever, so no side effects such as anxiety.
Some examples of great CBD-dominant strains are listed below, along with their CBD:THC ratios.
  1. Charlotte’s Web – 1:0
  2. Harle-Tsu – 22:1
  3. ACDC – 20:1
  4. Ringo’s Gift – 24:1
  5. Dancehall – 20:1
  6. Harlequin – 5:2
  7. Cannatonic – 8:3
  8. Hawaiian Dream – 2:1
When trying to find the right strain, it may seem overwhelming considering the dizzying number of ratios, terpene content differences, etc. Since each strain effectively works differently in each person, it is important to experiment with many different strains before deciding on which one to use for maximum therapeutic benefit.
The CBD Flower
The CBD Flower