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How much do you really know about cannabidiol (CBD), one of the two cannabinoids that represent most of the chemical makeup of cannabis? Here's the lowdown.

Cannabidiol (CBD) has exploded onto the market since 2018, when the Farm Bill made it legal for businesses to grow and sell non-psychoactive hemp products. But do you know exactly why it's such a surging success?

CBD is a phytocannabinoid—a chemical compound that contributes to the biological effects of hemp and other types of cannabis plants. Since the Farm Bill passed, you can find it in convenience stores, grocery stores, and even at the pharmacy.

CBD products come in the form of topicals like creams and salves, distillates and oils, soft gels and tablets, and even gummies! This huge variety means that there’s a product out there for nearly every user. And last summer, Gallup reported that 14% of Americans were using them!

You might have heard that CBD can help you relax, focus, and chill out, but how? Here’s the lowdown on this amazing compound and how it can bring cool, calm relief to your day.

What is CBD?

CBD is a cannabinoid that makes up to 40% of most hemp plants. Along with terpenes and minor cannabinoids representing a smaller percentage of the mix, these chemical compounds produce the potential health benefits that you may have read about.

Cannabinoids are naturally-occurring compounds. Believe it or not, they replicate the chemicals that your body uses to regulate appetite, memory, pain, and movement. CBD is a phytocannabinoid (phyto means “of a plant") that mimics the natural endocannabinoids your body produces.

What are the types of CBD?

CBD is available in a few different varieties, including “full-spectrum,” “broad-spectrum,” and “isolate.” These types vary based on the natural cannabis compounds found in them.

For instance, full-spectrum CBD comes from hemp plants but contains some amount of the compounds that you’d expect to find in marijuana—so it can have small amounts of psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Broad-spectrum CBD contains no psychoactive THC, but plenty of terpenes and minor cannabinoids. This leads to an “entourage effect,” where cannabinoids interact with each other to amplify their effects.

Finally, CBD isolate contains just cannabidiol with no other cannabis compounds. If you’re looking to chill out or achieve other benefits without any psychoactive effects, then isolate or broad-spectrum are the best choices.

Is the substance legal?

You don’t have to worry about getting into legal trouble with CBD! Since 2018, it is approved by the federal government to buy and sell in the United States. All legal products must be derived from hemp, which means it must come from cannabis plants with less than 0.03% psychoactive THC.

That being said, some full-spectrum “CBD products” can come from marijuana plants (with over 0.03% THC), and those aren’t legal in every state. There’s still a federal ban on products with over 0.03% THC, though they may be legal in your state.

How does CBD work?

It is best known for chilling people out and squashing feelings of self-doubt and restlessness. If you're feeling off, anxious, and not yourself, a few drops of tincture may get you thinking clearly again. It’s also commonly used to address pain and inflammation. CBD interacts with a few types of brain receptors to produce those signature effects. They include:

  • Adenosine receptors: These receptors produce anxiety if they aren’t firing actively. CBD stimulates the adenosine receptors, helping maintain composure and spur relaxation.
  • Serotonin receptors: One study showed that CBD activates serotonin receptors at high doses. When serotonin receptors are active, they produce an antidepressant effect, which can help with negative thoughts.
  • Vanilloid receptors: Vanilloid receptors regulate pain and inflammation, and reduce the body’s inflammatory response when active. CBD spurs these receptors, which may alter the way you perceive pain and inflammation.

What’s the best way to take CBD?

Not sure how to benefit from cannabinoids and their effects? There’s no single best way to take them since it varies for everyone.

There are so many CBD products on the market that there’s a method of administration that’s right for you. In fact, many people keep multiple types of product on hand … like soft gels for weekdays, and gummies or tinctures for bedtime!

The ways to take CBD can include:

  • Capsules
  • Gummies
  • Tinctures
  • Tablets
  • Oils
  • Soft gels

Capsules, tablets, and soft gels are an excellent choice for discreet, on-the-go dosing, while gummies and candies add some tastiness to a chill moment. Tinctures and oils offer a quicker effect through sublingual dosing, which takes just 10 to 15 minutes to kick in (as opposed to 30 to 60 minutes through oral ingestion).

What are the risks of using it?

Most people tolerate CBD well, but like any substance, it can cause side effects in certain individuals. The most common side effects include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced appetite

If any side effects happen at all, they are usually mild—but talk to your doctor if you have any concerns while using CBD. You’re more likely to experience side effects if you use multiple products or employ them at a high dose.

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