CBD is everywhere these days—in lattes and sparkling water, shampoo and toothpaste, marshmallows and potato chips, even lube and workout clothing. But despite its sudden pervasiveness, there’s still a lot of confusion surrounding it. Is it a drug that gets you high? A magical elixir that cures everything from colds to cancer? Should I really be using it in my vagina? And wait, is it even legal? With so many wild claims—and wild products—out there, it’s no wonder many of us are still uncertain about what CBD is and does. Relax. We’ve got you covered. Here, we get to the bottom of some of the most frequently asked questions about CBD.
Are CBD and weed the same thing?
Unfortunately, the comparison isn’t quite that simple. See, CBD is a cannabinoid, a chemical compound found in cannabis plants like—you guessed it—marijuana. But CBD also shows up in marijuana’s sister plant, hemp (yep, the same stuff you wore around your neck in middle school), and in much larger quantities. That’s one reason most CBD products you see on the market today are derived from hemp. And unlike marijuana, hemp contains very little THC, the cannabinoid responsible for getting you high, so you get the soothing benefits… without the trip.
So, CBD won’t get you high?
Nope. Unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive. While both compounds interact with your endocannabinoid system, they don’t do it in the same way.
Endo-what? The endocannabinoid system, or ECS, is a network of receptors that regulates all sorts of processes within the body, from sleep and hunger to stress, memory, and even fertility. THC binds to those receptors, affecting your body and mind in myriad ways (like by giving you the munchies or making you super paranoid). Experts still don’t know exactly how CBD works, but it seems to influence the receptors indirectly, allowing it to positively impact, say, your mood, without altering it.
Is CBD really the miracle drug everyone claims?
The truth is, we don’t really know. Research is limited, and there’s still a lot to learn. But doctors and scientists are pretty excited about its potential.
The most studied benefit is CBD’s ability to treat childhood epilepsy (the FDA recently approved the first ever CBD-containing prescription medication, Epidiolex, for rare seizure disorders). Preliminary studies and anecdotal evidence suggest CBD may also be able to help with anxiety, depression, insomnia, chronic pain, skin conditions, menstrual cramps, and digestive issues.
What’s the best way to take CBD?
There’s no one way to take CBD—it depends on your preference and what you’re taking it for. One good option: you can put a few drops of an oil or tincture under your tongue, allowing some CBD to enter your bloodstream directly. The fastest way to get it into your system is by smoking or vaping, but there are potential health drawbacks to these, which means they’re less likely to be recommended by a healthcare professional.
Edibles, drinks, and capsules are other great ways to take CBD. These can take a little longer to kick in, since they have to go through your digestive system, but for a lot of people who don’t love the taste of an oil directly under their tongue, these methods can be more pleasant to consume. Balms, lotions, ointments, and other topical CBD products come in handy for treating localized pain and skin conditions.
Ultimately, the way you get it into your body matters much less than the quality of the CBD itself. Look for a full-plant extract, which means it still contains all the other nutrients from the hemp plant. Not only is hemp chock-full of benefits, but CBD may be more effective when it’s used in tandem with those other compounds. And make sure it comes with a COA, which means it’s been tested by an independent lab for concentration and safety.
How much CBD should I take?
Everyone is different, so the best thing to do is to start low and go slow. We recommend beginning with 10mg per day for a week, then gradually increasing your dosage until you find your sweet spot—the smallest amount you can take while still getting the effect you want. It may take some time; just be patient and consistent.
Are there any side effects?
Most people do well with CBD and experience little to no side effects. And the ones that have been reported (nausea, fatigue, lack of appetite) are pretty mild. But it does have the potential to interact with other medications, so talk to your doctor first.
Will CBD show up on a drug test?
If you’re taking a normal dose of hemp-derived CBD (a.k.a. CBD that contains less than 0.3% THC), probably not. While there are some CBD-sensitive tests, most drug tests look for THC, and that trace amount likely wouldn’t be enough to trigger them. But if you’re at all concerned, opt for broad-spectrum hemp extract, which means the THC has been removed completely.
Is CBD legal?
In the U.S. CBD products made from hemp are legal to buy on a federal level, since they naturally contain less than 0.3% THC. On the flip side, marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on a federal level but allowed in some states.