What is CBD?
For decades, a growing body of evidence pointed to the efficacy of cannabis-based therapies in addressing various symptoms and conditions. In recent years, individual states began passing favorable botanical legislation. But with the landmark 2018 Farm Bill, the new measure legalized the purchase and consumption of industrial hemp and hemp-derived products such as cannabidiol or CBD.
But what is CBD? Part of a collection of cannabis-exclusive molecules known as cannabinoids, CBD is the second-most potent of these elements. Only tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC is stronger. However, CBD has the critical advantage of not imposing a negative psychoactive impact on the user, while still promoting natural therapies.
Essentially, cannabidiol represents the best of both worlds – it has most of the medicinal qualities or attributes of THC but does not induce the marijuana plant’s signature “high.” Furthermore, THC can cause problems when consumed excessively or used with certain platforms. Based on currently available evidence, CBD does not impose severe side effects when consumed excessively, though individual responses may vary.
And the biggest advantage of CBD of course is its legal status under federal law. If people specifically want THC-based medication, they must first acquire a medical cannabis license from their state governments. Since not every state allows such a licensing procedure, many folks would be left out in the dark.
But thanks to the Farm Bill, anybody – with few exceptions – can purchase CBD products from their local retailers or via online distributors. This law has opened up a new paradigm in adult liberties, providing both frequent users and the botanically curious an opportunity to enjoy naturally sourced therapies.
CBD and Efficacy
Why is CBD so effective? From a molecular standpoint, CBD has the same composition as the most potent cannabinoid, THC: 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and two oxygen atoms. The only difference is the arrangement of the molecules.
From this shared platform comes the myriad therapeutic benefits for which medical marijuana is most known. For instance, many people have used THC- and CBD-based products for pain relief, as well as reducing feelings of anxiety. Further research is being conducted as we speak to address serious and chronic conditions.
But the key distinguishing factor as we previously mentioned is that CBD does not impart a negative psychoactive impact. Here, we should explain a common misconception: CBD does have a psychoactive effect. However, that in and of itself does not imply a deleterious effect on the body or mind.
How can we say this? Consider that caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive compound in the world, affecting the parts of the brain that cocaine stimulates. Bear in mind that this is no anecdotal tale but rather a scientifically established fact.
Where CBD distinguishes itself from THC is that the latter imposes a negative psychoactive effect: a cognitively debilitating high or some other impairment. In sharp contrast, CBD may give you a natural boost – depending on the particular product and its inclusion of other cannabinoids or terpenes (essential oils) – similar to a refreshing glass of orange juice or a hot cup of coffee.
Indeed, when we mention these examples, your mind may harken back to the distinctive experiences that these beverages convey. For some folks, you may feel a “tingling” sensation as your palette anticipates such a reward. This is the psychoactive effect that is normal for CBD usage: it is not debilitating but rather can be positive, promoting drive or enhanced focus.
And underlining this effect is the efficacy of CBD. Because of their near-identical chemistry, they facilitate very similar responses in the body, but without the unfavorable high.
Spectrum and the Entourage Effect
Because of its potency, CBD is incredibly versatile. Many people swear by cannabidiol extract alone, therefore electing a platform known as CBD isolate. This is CBD and only CBD: no other cannabinoids or terpenes are present.
However, medical and scientific research has indicated that CBD works better in conjunction with other cannabinoids. Within the cannabis plant, scientists have uncovered over 100 different cannabinoids. Thes include compounds such as Cannabidiolic Acid (CBDA), Cannabidiol (CBD), Cannabinol (CBN), Cannabigerol (CBG), and Cannabichromene (CBC).
Cannabidiol-infused products that incorporate these compounds in addition to CBD are known as full spectrum CBD; that is, the product includes the entire range (or spectrum) of cannabis-based compounds, including the essential oils known as terpenes.
Why people prefer using full spectrum CBD primarily focuses on the entourage effect. Cannabinoids are symbiotic compounds that “prefer” working together to promote a healthful impact in the body. Colloquially, this is known as the “entourage effect,” where CBD partners with other cannabinoids to promote a holistic benefit.
Additionally, full spectrum products are usually cheaper than its isolate counterpart. Naturally, a question arises: why would anyone choose CBD isolate? Unlike full spectrum CBD, the isolate format does not contain any THC, not even a trace amount. Legally, full spectrum CBD products can be marketed as containing no THC, as long as it contains less than 0.3% THC.
However, some risks may arise for professionals who undergo frequent drug testing. To avoid the off chance of pinging positive for a drug test, many choose to elect isolate CBD. While not as potent as full spectrum, the platform gives confidence to users who have more pressing issues to worry about.
One other option, though, is broad spectrum. Truly a best of both worlds’ platform, broad spectrum gives you CBD and the myriad cannabinoids and terpenes found in the hemp plant. However, the major exception – and the one that gives broad spectrum its appeal – is that it absolutely contains 0% THC content. Thus, you can use broad spectrum CBD without worries about pinging a positive drug test.
Best of all, many companies like cbdMD are demonstrating the effectiveness of their broad spectrum products in real world tests. For instance, cbdMD endorses two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson, who frequently uses the product and undergoes regular drug testing. If Watson consistently tested positive for THC, the PR light on cbdMD would not be favorable, to say the least.
However, a key drawback exists for many broad spectrum products, and that involves pricing. Typically, they are pricier than full spectrum and sometimes isolate platforms due to the complexities involved with keeping all cannabinoids except THC. Still, for professionals with reputations to keep, broad spectrum is a viable choice.
CBD and Product Type
As mentioned at the top, the landmark Farm Bill delivered unprecedented access to cannabis-based therapies in the modern era. But it’s not just the federal legality that has piqued interest among enthusiasts and the botanically curious. Rather, it’s the plethora of product types which the CBD industry engenders.
What CBD product is best for you? Platform choice comes down to personal preference, efficacy needs and desirability for discretion. As with the underlying botanical asset, CBD products have a spectrum, from discreet and moderately effective to conspicuous and incredibly potent.
Let’s dive in with the most discreet CBD product type and the one that has garnered the most attention from curious industry onlookers: CBD edibles. Typically offered in the form of a gummy or candy, CBD edibles are ridiculously inconspicuous because of their inherent nature: no one bats an eye when someone walks around chewing gummies.
Pondering what’s in a stranger’s gummy bears is a question no human has posed before.
As long as the CBD manufacturer doesn’t make ostentatious product packaging – and that would really defeat the purpose – you are not going to attract attention. Thankfully, most companies offer discreet packaging. Even if they didn’t, you always have the option of putting CBD gummies and edibles in your own non-descript jars or bags.
So, why doesn’t everyone buy CBD gummies? As under-the-radar as they are, they’re not the most effective form of delivery. As any consumed product goes through the liver, this organ will “process out” many of the helpful cannabinoids and terpenes within the CBD gummy. Thus, in exchange for the discretion, you will have lower potency and wait a longer time for impact recognition.
In the middle of the CBD product spectrum is tinctures or otherwise known as CBD oil. Tinctures are developed through a highly rigorous process involving cannabidiol, cannabinoid and terpene extraction. Utilizing a steeping system – typically with alcohol as a base -- whereby all other botanical parts are eliminated, the end result is a powerful, potent CBD extract.
Typically, CBD manufacturers deliver tinctures in small medicinal-style bottles. Integrated with the top cap is a dripper. Here, the end-user can take the dripper, suck in the oil, and apply a drop (or drops) sublingually, or underneath the tongue. This methodology facilitates the CBD extract entering your bloodstream quicker. Usually, you’ll wait only about 20 minutes to feel the (noticeable) impact.
Better yet, they’re very discreet products. Although the standard methodology involves a procedure evoking medicinal delivery, tincture packaging is still very compact and easily hidden. Moreover, tinctures are wonderful additives to food and beverages, thereby making them on par with CBD gummies in terms of overall discretion.
As an important note, never use tinctures as vape oils (unless otherwise specified by the manufacturer).
Speaking of which, the most powerful CBD product type is the vaporizer. With this electronic device, end-users can deliver cannabidiol directly into their bloodstream. That’s because vaping CBD skips the liver entirely. As a result, vaped CBD also facilitates the most potent experience – there’s nothing filtering the CBD before it enters your bloodstream.
We can write an entire article on the many ways to enjoy CBD vaping. Suffice for our purposes now, vaping materials involve either vape oils, wax concentrates or dry herbs. Depending on your material preference, you may need to buy specialized vaping devices. For instance, some vaporizers vape wax concentrates but not dry herbs. And some premium vaporizers do both very well.
As you might imagine, though, vaping cannabidiol doesn’t rank highly if you’re prioritizing discretion. Even if you popped off a quick session at your workplace’s bathroom, someone will find out about both the vaping and the CBD. Thus, your work options are limited to cutting a quickie outside.
Finally, vaping products (equipment and materials) are usually the most expensive but they offer the greatest value. Once the device purchase is made, you can make vaping flavors last for a significant time before requiring a reorder.
Ultimately, the decision comes down to what you’re looking for. If you’re just exploring the benefits of CBD and don’t have serious issues, edibles are perhaps the best way to go. On the other hand, if you want robust relief (and if your lungs can handle it), vaping may offer the ideal solution. And for those somewhere in between, tinctures provide a happy medium.
Best Practices for CBD
With so many CBD products available, are there best practices to follow for all these products? While certain products have different methodologies (for instance, CBD edibles versus vape oils), there is one universal best practice to follow: start small.
This is especially valid advice for botanical newcomers. While the human body has endocannabinoid receptors that generally respond favorably to the introduction of cannabis, this does not mean that CBD affects everybody universally. In the way that some people have food allergies, there is no one dosage standard for humans.
The only way to know how CBD will affect you is to try it. That being the case, you want to try small: if you can’t bench press 100 pounds, for instance, you’re not going to pull off benching 300.
But this best practice goes the same for vaping and/or botanical enthusiasts. There’s a big difference between vaping nicotine-based e-juices and CBD-infused vape oils. Additionally, enthusiasts of THC products may find nuances with CBD-only products. Also, different CBD platforms may produce different reactions. Again, the best course of action is to start small and work your way up.