What is CBD? A Basic Guide

What is CBD? A Basic Guide

Confused about what CBD is and if it’s legal? Get a registered dietitian’s take on this plant-based compound now on New Mind Nutrition. 

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the many active compounds found in the cannabis plant, with another being tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). 

THC is what most people think of when they think of cannabis as it’s responsible for the psychoactive properties — a.k.a getting high. 

CBD, on the other hand, has no psychoactive effects. In other words, consuming it won’t get you high.

Instead, there are a bunch of proposed medicinal benefits of CBD, which we’ll touch on more below. 

But before we do, there’s one important thing to clear up in order to understand what you’re buying and what’s legal when it comes to CBD: hemp vs. marjuana. 

What’s the difference between hemp and marijuana? 

Personally, I think this is the most confusing part about learning more about CBD. 

There are two main types of cannabis plants: sativa and indica.

Hemp plants only belong to the Cannabis sativa family and contain less than 0.3% of THC by weight (in the US).

As a result, hemp is usually grown for industrial uses (such as clothing, paper, rope, etc) and medicinal uses thanks to its CBD concentration. 

Marijuna plants can be either sativa or indica. These plants can contain up to 30% THC by weight as well as many other cannabinoids, including CBD. 

Still with me? Good, because it’s about to get a little confusing. 

CBD can come from either hemp or marjunana-labeled cannabis. You can tell which one it’s from as the label will say “hemp-derived” or “marijuna-derived. 

It’s important to know which you’re getting as with hemp-derived contains less than 0.3% THC; whereas marijana-derived could potentially have higher amounts of THC.

As a result, marijuana-derived CBD oils may have psychoactive properties and could show up in a drug test depending on the product. 

So, when buying CBD products, make sure that you know exactly what you’re getting so that there aren’t any surprises! 

While CBD is the same, regardless of whether it’s from a hemp or marjuana plant, the other compounds that could be present in the product may be different. 

Additionally, there may be a benefit from having higher amounts of THC found in some marijana-deriverd CBD products.

While more research is needed, it’s thought that THC and CBD may have synergistic effects and be more effective than CBD on its own for certain medical conditions. 

This is also known as the entourage effect, which you can learn more about here

Now, this also doesn’t mean that all CBD oils are created equally.

Before buying, make sure to do your research to make sure you know not only how much THC and CBD is in the product, but also any heavy metals or other contaminants. We’ll touch on this in another post

Is CBD legal? 

Another difference between hemp and marijuana-derived products is that one is federally legal and the other isn’t. 

Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp-derived CBD with less than 0.3% THC by weight (and any other hemp-based products) is now legal federally and considered as supplement — meaning it isn’t FDA regulated. 

However, before you run off to your local pharmacy or supplements store, you’ll want to make sure it’s also legal in your state and city. Texas, for example, does not allow the sale of products containing any level of THC as of the time of this post. 

Marjunana is still considered a Schedule I drug, and CBD derived from it (even if it contains less than 0.3% THC) is still Federally illegal. However, some states, like my home state of Colorado, have made marjunana (including marjuana-derived CBD) legal. 

What are the potential benefits of CBD?

Now, we’ll touch on the actual research behind each potential benefit of CBD in later posts, let’s quickly take a look at why there’s so much hype around this plant compound.  

But first, it’s important to remember that while some of the research is promising, the actual amount of research is limited. While we could get into the politics of why that’s the case, it’s more fun to just skip on to the good stuff 😉 

So what are the possible benefits? Taking CBD could help with the following conditions: 

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Chronic pain 
  • Chronic inflammation 
  • Poor sleep 
  • PTSD 
  • Cancer treatment side effects, such as nausea and vomiting 
  • Epilepsy 
  • Cognitive decline
  • High blood pressure
  • Schizophrenia 
  • Addiction 

And remember, CBD may help relieve the symptoms associated with these conditions, but it is not a cure.

Again, I’ll touch on most of these in their own posts, but if you have one of these conditions and are curious if CBD could help then it’s worth talking to a trusted medical professional. 

What’s the best way to consume CBD? 

There’s no “best” way for everyone, but there are pluses and minuses to different methods. 

  1. Oils and tinctures: one of the most common methods, oils infused with CBD can be placed under your tongue for faster absorption or added into beverages or food.
  2. Edibles: store-bought edibles are pre-portioned making it easier to know how much you’re taking at a time. Plus, they can be a more discreet way to consume CBD when out and about. Because they have to be digested first, it can take longer for you to start feeling the effects.
  3. Lotions/creams: you’ve probably seen these products at spas as they may help relieve pain. There’s also ongoing research on their role in alleviating eczema symptoms.
  4. Capsules and pills: Epidolex is the first CBD product to be approved by the FDA for the use in seizure disorders. There are also non-FDA regulated CBD capsules for those looking for more general benefits of CBD. 
  5. Vaping: while vaping is one of the fastest ways to feel the effects of CBD, there’s currently ongoing research on whether or not vaping CBD oil (as well as e-cigs and marijuana oil) is actually safe.

    One potential risk of vaping is that the cartridges used can contain polyethylene glycol and propylene glycol — irritants that can cause allergic reactions when inhaled.

How much CBD should I take? 

If you’re looking for a straight-forward answer, I’m afraid I have to disappoint. 

There’s simply just not enough research right now to say what’s an effective dose. In fact, dosages used in research can vary from as little as 20 mg per day up to 1,500 mg per day. 

While a common rule of thumb is to just follow the recommended amounts on the product you purchase, I always stress starting with less and gradually increasing as your body gets used to it. 

Not feeling any benefit from the recommended dose? I strongly encourage you to talk with a trusted medical professional before upping your dose. 

What are the potential side effects of consuming CBD? 

This is the section that finally convinced me to give CBD a try.

After all, as I was dealing with anxiety, the last thing I needed was to be even more stressed, wondering if something awful was going to happen after taking a few drops (it’s amazing how imaginative a worried mind can be 😉 ). 

Again, research is still ongoing. However, CBD is overall well-tolerated. 

Still, there have been some reported side effects including: 

  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in mood

Additionally, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid CBD as it’s unclear what effects it could have on the developing baby. 

Finally, CBD can interact with certain medications including:

  • Anti-arrythmia drugs
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antifungals
  • Antispyschotics
  • Benzodiazepine sedatives (including clonazepam and triazolam)
  • Immune-suppressive drugs
  • Opioid painkillers
  • Some antibiotics (particularly clarithromycin and telithromycin). 

If you take any of these, speak with a doctor first so that you can have your prescription adjusted as needed. 

Is CBD for you? 

Unfortunately, only you can answer this one. But here at New Mind Nutrition, my goal is to provide you with all the information you need to make an educated decision. 

Here are a few other articles to check out to help with the research process:

If you do decide to try CBD, be sure to check out my recipes page for healthy ways to infuse CBD into beverages, breakfasts, snacks, and desserts! 

The information contained in this website is not intended to recommend the self-management of health problems or wellness. It is not intended to endorse or recommend any particular type of medical treatment. Should any reader have any healthcare-related questions, promptly call or consult your physician or healthcare provider. No information contained in this website should be used by any reader to disregard medical and/or health-related advice or provide a basis to delay a consultation with a physician or a qualified healthcare provider. The statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products discussed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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I’m Kelli MS, RD. As a foodie with a background in nutrition research, I’m a firm believer that what we eat affects nearly every aspect of our wellbeing, and that food should taste freaking delicious.

Welcome to New Mind Nutrition!

My name is Kelli McGrane, and I’m a Denver-based registered dietitian with a Master’s degree in nutrition.

As a foodie with a background in nutrition research, I’m a firm believer that what we eat affects nearly every aspect of our wellbeing, and that food should taste freaking delicious.

My goal with New Mind is to help you find balance in both your mind and body through nutrition research and whole foods-based recipes.

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