All You Need to Know About CBD

by Trevor Hiltbrand | Reviewed by Advisory Board

All You Need to Know About CBD

CBD products are sweeping the nation. People are turning to CBD for a variety of health conditions from pain, to anxiety, to seizures. 

In recent years there have been changes to the legality of CBD, which has lead to an explosion of new CBD products as well as CBD research.

Let’s explore the differences between CBD and marijuana, what we know about how CBD works in the body, what health conditions it may help with, and its legal status.


The Key Differences Between CBD and Marijuana 

The marijuana plant and the industrial hemp plant belong to the same family, Cannabis sativa, however, there are important differences in their composition and physiological effects. In other words, they are sisters, not twins.

Both of these plants contain an array of phytocannabinoids, which are active plant compounds. Both CBD, or cannabidiol, and THC, or 9-tetrahydrocannabinol fall into this category.

Marijuana contains both CBD and THC. It is the psychoactive THC content which is responsible for making users feel “high” when using marijuana. On the other hand, the industrial hemp plant contains only traces of THC, legally less than 0.3%. 

Also, during processing, CBD products are often further purified to remove the remaining THC. 

It is important to note that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not currently regulate CBD products. There have been reports of CBD products containing higher THC content than what is legal.

Many high-quality CBD companies utilize third-party testing to ensure both the CBD and THC content is what is listed on the label. In most cases, these reports are available to you as a consumer.


CBD’s Safety Profile

The consensus of the medical community is that CBD is safe to use in both adults and children. The veterinary community is also taking advantage of the health benefits of CBD by incorporating it into animal products.

Unlike marijuana which produces psychoactive effects due to the 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content, CBD oil has a high safety profile and causes very few side effects. The most common side effects of CBD are:

  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Changes in appetite

Types of CBD Products

CBD products come in many forms, including edibles such as CBD oil, gummies, and capsules, as well as in topical creams and vape products. 

When looking at products, you will typically see three different variations of its CBD constituent. Full-spectrum CBD, which includes a variety of the phytocannabinoids naturally occurring in the hemp plant, and broad-spectrum CBD which is similar to full-spectrum with a slight difference, and pure CBD isolate, which only contains cannabidiol, with all other phytochemicals removed.

Full spectrum CBD oils include several other compounds found in the hemp plant, including terpenes, flavonoids, essential oils, and other cannabinoids. These constituents work together synergistically. This is called the “entourage effect.” However, full spectrum contains traces of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC.

Broad-spectrum is similar to full-spectrum in that it includes other plant constituents and produces the entourage effect, however all THC is removed. It is said that broad-spectrum CBD products are the most effective and best choice.

Pure CBD isolate products are simply pure CBD - all other constituents are removed. This is the purest form of CBD oil possible. The only downside is isolated do not produce the entourage effect like broad spectrum CBD products do.


The Legality of CBD Oil

Today, all hemp-derived CBD products are federally legal in all 50 states of America. However, this has not always been the case.

For decades, the law did not differentiate the industrial hemp plant from the marijuana plant, which has been a Schedule 1 controlled substance in the United States since 1970.

The Farm Bill in 2014 clearly defined the difference between marijuana and industrial hemp. This bill made the farming of industrial hemp (which must contain less than 0.3% THC) legal throughout the United States. It also made the production, sale, and use of all hemp-derived products, including CBD, legal.

Since its change in legal status, CBD products have been exploding in popularity - to put this into perspective, the CBD industry is estimated to be worth 16 billion dollars by 2024.

Also, a surge of research studies has begun to determine what the health benefits of CBD are. 


How CBD Affects the Brain and Body

Researchers have looked into how CBD influences the brain and body to better understand its potential role in human health. They continue to learn more and more about CBD’s actions on human physiology, but here is what we know so far.

CBD and the Endocannabinoid System

CBD stimulates the endocannabinoid system; this is a system that influences several aspects of our minds and bodies. In a sense, it helps the body stay balanced.

The endocannabinoid system is controlled through receptors, including cb1 and cb2. CBD interacts with both of these receptors.

When stimulated, these receptors trigger a decrease in pain perception, inflammation levels, mood, behavior, and more. Researchers are continuing to find associations between the endocannabinoid system and aspects of human health.

CBD and Serotonin Receptors

In addition to the endocannabinoid system, CBD also affects serotonin receptors (5Ht1-a) in the brain. These are the same receptors that antidepressant drugs affect. Because of this action, more research has been dedicated to understanding how CBD may affect mood and behavior disorders. 

CBD and Brain Structure

Emerging evidence shows that CBD may have a role in stimulating new neuron growth in the areas of the brain that control learning, memory, and emotional affect; this is referred to as hippocampal neurogenesis.

It is common to see hippocampal atrophy (shrinkage), in conditions like PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, dementia, and depression. Because of CBD’s potential to regenerate neurons in the hippocampus, scientists have been interested in understanding the impact CBD may have on these health conditions.


Research on CBD and Health Conditions

After realizing the influence CBD has on different areas of the brain, as well as its effect on inflammation and the endocannabinoid system, researchers have turned their focus onto how CBD may help manage different medical conditions.

Some of the most persuasive evidence is for seizures, anxiety, and chronic pain.

CBD for Seizures

Some of the most compelling research on CBD is for seizures. Well-controlled human clinical trials have demonstrated that the CBD is effective at controlling both seizure severity and frequency in both Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, two rare forms of severe epilepsy.

This research has lead to the FDA to approve a purified CBD product, Epidiolex for treatment-resistant seizures. 

This was the first condition that the FDA has approved CBD use in. Furthermore, aside from Epidiolex, these two conditions do not have any FDA-approved treatments, which makes the approval exciting news for the medical community.

Anxiety & Panic Attacks

Anxiety and panic disorder are conditions that affect a combined 46 million Americans. Current treatments are only partially effective, and some medications have addiction potential. 

Research studies continue to support that CBD is helpful for reducing anxiety levels in several types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and panic attacks. 

It has been shown that people who suffer from anxiety, panic attacks, and PTSD have lower levels of anandamide, otherwise known as the “bliss molecule.” CBD has been shown to increase levels of this molecule as well as activate the endocannabinoid system, which causes a reduction in anxiety and fear levels.  

Both animal models and human clinical trials show a significant reduction in anxiety and panic symptoms from CBD. In fact, the Journal of Neurotherapeutics reports that “current evidence indicates CBD has considerable potential as a treatment for multiple anxiety disorders.”

In short, there is strong evidence supporting the potential for CBD to manage anxiety and panic symptoms. Continued research will help to define guidelines on the use of CBD for anxiety. Furthermore, given the strong research, it is possible that CBD may become a recognized therapy for anxiety disorders.

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is typically due to a combination of inflammation and pain perception. Since the endocannabinoid system modulates both of these factors, CBD, a stimulator of this system, has promise in managing chronic pain.

In animal studies, topical and oral CBD has been shown to effectively reduce pain severity of several types of pain, including nerve pain, and osteoarthritis. To date, there have been few human studies using CBD alone. However, early research is promising.

It should be noted that scientists have also studied the effect of CBD/THC combination products on pain. A recent review supports that the combination of CBD/THC products, Sativex decrease joint pain levels. Similar results were reported for Nabiximols in neuropathic pain, which is another THC/CBD combination product.

Although the research is just beginning, it seems well within reason to believe that CBD has a place in pain management. It is also possible that CBD’s effect on pain works most effectively when combined with THC; however, further clinical trials will help to clarify. 


Other Research on CBD

Researchers continue to explore the potential of CBD for managing symptoms of conditions that involve inflammation, such as eczema, acne, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, and allergies. Although more clinical trials are necessary, the outlook is positive.

Special attention has also been directed toward autoimmune conditions, such as serious medical conditions like multiple sclerosis. Researchers are beginning to conduct clinical trials using CBD products and CBD/THC products such as Sativex, which are showing promise in some of the symptoms. 

Other areas of emerging, promising research on CBD include:

Benefits of CBD

Based on the available research, the benefits of CBD include:

  • Non-addictive
  • Mild-to-moderate side effects
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Reduces severity and frequency of seizures
  • Manages anxiety
  • Alleviates pain

Final Thoughts

CBD products are a hot topic in America and for a good reason. Recent research has found that CBD possesses many health benefits for various medical conditions. Also, as research continues, it is likely we will discover more uses for CBD in human health. With very few side effects, CBD products are an exciting alternative adjunct to conventional medicine.

Purchasing high-quality, third-party tested CBD products is essential to ensure the products are pure and safe. Consult with your healthcare provider before making changes to your health care regime. 

Sources Used:

  1. CBD: What we know and what we don’t
  2. Forbes: What is the CBD industry worth? 
  3. Best CBD Oils
  4. Healthline: Choosing CBD
  5. Farm Bill 
  6. The Farm Bill, hemp legalization and the status of CBD: An explainer
  7. WebMD: Pure CBD
  8. Veterinary Cannabis
  9. Healthline: Endocannabinoid System
  10. Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders
  11. Cannabinoids, Neurogenesis and Antidepressant Drugs: Is there a Link?
  12. Cannabidiol improves frequency and severity of seizures and reduces adverse events in an open-label add-on prospective study
  13. Trial of Cannabidiol for Drug-Resistant Seizures in the Dravet Syndrome
  14. Cannabidiol in patients with seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (GWPCARE4): a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled phase 3 trial
  15. FDA: Epidiolex Approval
  16. Hippocampal atrophy and memory dysfunction associated with physical inactivity in community‐dwelling elderly subjects: The Sefuri study
  17. Selective Cannabinoids for Chronic Neuropathic Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis
  18. Hippocampal volume and mood disorders after traumatic brain injury.
  19. Anxiety and Depression Association of America
  20. Evidences for the Anti-panic Actions of Cannabidiol
  21. Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders
  22. Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis
  23. A double‐blind, randomized, placebo‐controlled, parallel group study of THC/CBD spray in peripheral neuropathic pain treatment
  24. Attenuation of early phase inflammation by cannabidiol prevents pain and nerve damage in rat osteoarthritis.
  25. Systematic review: Efficacy and safety of medical marijuana in selected neurologic disorders
  26. A single dose of cannabidiol reduces blood pressure in healthy volunteers in a randomized crossover study
  27. Cannabidiol as an Intervention for Addictive Behaviors: A Systematic Review of the Evidence
  28. Cannabis, Cannabinoids, and Sleep: a Review of the Literature

Trevor Hiltbrand
Trevor Hiltbrand


Trevor Hiltbrand is one of the owners/co-founders of Transparent Labs and head of content creation. He got his start with supplement research back in 2013 when he began researching cognitive enhancement. With the help of the Transparent Labs Expert Panel and Advisory Board, we aim to bring our evidence based nutrition and exercise research to the world.

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