CBD (cannabidiol): what it is and why you should consider using it

A look at CBD (cannabidiol), where it comes from, how it's extracted, the purported health benefits of CBD, and different types of cannabidiol products.

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A primer on CBD

CBD (cannabidiol) is becoming increasingly popular and has aided many people with a variety of ailments. However, there are many people that are confused about what CBD is and what it isn’t. This article will clear up that information, so you can decide if using CBD — whether it’s oils, sublinguals, or vaping e-liquids — cannabidiol e-liquids is right for you.

What is CBD?

CBD chemical structure
CBD chemical structure

CBD is a chemical compound that is commonly extracted from the cannabis sativa plant. It has been shown to react with the mammalian endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is a group of cell receptors found in the brain and central nervous system. It helps regulate numerous biological functions, including appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory. CBD can have various effects on numerous parts of the human body, with little or no side effects.

While cannabidiol is present in marijuana, it is not psychoactive on its own. It does not result in feelings of euphoria and may have several therapeutic benefits. However, some plant-based extracts may contain other ingredients from cannabis that are psychoactive. For the most part, companies that are marketing CBD products are using psychoactive-free extracts. This helps ensure that they’re legal to sell in many regions.

Due to the negative connotations of marijuana, CBD has been overlooked as a medicinal or therapeutic treatment. It has been dismissed since it’s found in a plant often associated with a…naughty type of leisure. Similar to how the use of medicinal marijuana has been gaining legitimacy, cannabidiol therapy has also gaining ground. Numerous scientific studies have been and are being conducted to show the various health benefits of CBD.

How is CBD extracted?

CO2 extraction machine
CO2 extraction machine

CBD can be extracted in a number of ways. Oil and alcohol extractions are the most common. Some companies use olive oil to separate cannabidiol from the plant. This is an inexpensive method that retains other desirable properties of the plant, but also results in a more perishable end-product. Extractions from alcohols like ethanol last longer, but may destroy the plant’s waxes, eliminating their beneficial properties; this method is the most common for CBD vaping e-liquids. Carbon-dioxide (CO2) extraction is considered the best and purest method, but it’s also the most costly. The equipment needed for carbon-dioxide extraction is exponentially more expensive than what’s needed for oil or alcohol extractions.

Some companies use plant-based extracts from the hemp variety of cannabis sativa, since it has a high concentration of cannabidiol and a low concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive element of cannabis. Other companies are using naturally isolated CBD, so as to avoid psychoactive ingredients completely.

There isn’t a “right” or “wrong” extraction method to use. There are advantages and disadvantages for all methods of extractions and different characteristics are considered desirable for different cannabidiol products.

What are the purported health benefits of CBD?

Koi CBD Benefits

While research is ongoing, there are scientists that believe CBD can help treat a wide variety of ailments. One of the reasons it’s being examined as a therapeutic agent is that it doesn’t appear to have any side effects.

According to Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, “Pre-clinical research (including both cell culture and animal models) has shown CBD to have a range of effects that may be therapeutically useful, including anti-seizure, antioxidant, neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-tumor, anti-psychotic, and anti-anxiety properties.”

The British Pharmacology Society claims that CBD is, “a potential medicine for the treatment of neuroinflammation, epilepsy, oxidative injury, vomiting and nausea, anxiety and schizophrenia, respectively. The neuroprotective potential of CBD, based on the combination of its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, is of particular interest and is presently under intense preclinical research in numerous neurodegenerative disorders.”

A recent search on the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health shows more than 1,500 published studies on the benefits and effects of CBD. The substance is being researched to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), various types of cancer, drug addiction, fibromyalgia, depression, and more.

While pharmaceutical companies, particularly GW Pharmaceutical, have successfully used cannabidiol in various medicines, companies that have products in health food stores or vape shops are in a trickier position. Many will espouse the health benefits of CBD in a private setting, while being reluctant to make public claims due to fear of the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA does not allow any claims or statements to be made that are not medically proven. We all know CBD works. We have seen it work. I get calls almost daily from people telling me how CBD is helping them in their lives. We just can’t say it does “this” or “that,” which is really kind of ridiculous, but its the times we live in. We do know that CBD is definitely not snake oil.

Types of CBD products

CBD oil capsules
CBD oil capsules

Cannabidiol extracts can be used in a variety of products. It can be taken directly, cooked into food, mixed into drinks, and vaped. Here are some of the different types of CBD products on the market.

Capsules

These gel capsules resemble any other clear capsule, like a vitamin E or fish-oil supplements. They’re filled with cannabidiol concentrate and meant to be taken orally. These gel capsules come in different dosages and allow for steady ingestion. CBD capsules are good choice for people that don’t like the flavor the substance imparts to foods, drinks, and vaping e-liquids.

Chews and gums

CBD extract can be formed into candy-like eadibles. They’re a good way to ingest a relatively high dose of cannabidiol quickly. Some chews are similar to “Gummi” candies, while others are closer to Tootsie Roll chews. Chewing gums come in the expected flavors of various mints and fruits. Similar to capsules, chews and gums can come in different strengths. Also similar to capsules, these products allow for steady absorption.

Crystals

More of a powder than a crystal, this product is versatile and a good choice for people that want to take cannabidiol in a number of different ways. The powder can be mixed in with your favorite beverage. It can also be used with your favorite foods (baking seems to be the most popular choice). It can also be added to vaping e-liquids, though that method can be tricky, since mixing can be an issue with liquids that are high in viscosity. Despite that possible issue, the versatility of CBD crystals is appealing because it can be used in so many different ways.

Dabs and waxes

CBD dabs and waxes are highly concentrated. They’re meant to be vaped in a brief session, as opposed to all-day vaping. They’re commonly used with pen-style vaping devices, but require a specific type of atomizer head. CBD waxes and dabs can also be used with enthusiast atomizers too, like RDAs, but they expectedly result in gunked up coils. It is believed that inhaling cannabidiol results in faster absorption rates than drinking or eating it. Inhaling, combined with the high concentration, helps users achieve results faster. With that in mind, these products are a good choice for people using CBD to treat anxiety or pain due to inflammation.

Lotions and ointments

These products are meant to target specific areas of the body that suffer from inflammation or pain. They’re similar to pain-relief creams like Bengay, Icy Hot, and Myoflex. The obvious difference is the use of CBD instead of an analgesic agent. These products are a good choice for people that want to use cannabidiol to treat arthritis, joint, or muscle pain. The lotion and ointment forms gives them versatility, as they can be rubbed onto any part of the body, even through the hair to treat the scalp. Users simply rub the cream or ointment onto affected areas and CBD is absorbed through the skin.

Oils

There are many types of products labeled as CBD oil or hemp oil, which can be confusing for consumers. Some are oils that come in a jar. They are CBD extracts mixed in an oil-based solution. Coconut oil and olive oil are commonly used. These products can be taken directly, mixed with drinks, and cooked in foods. This type of cannabidiol product is quite versatile, similar to CBD crystals.

There are some “CBD oil” products that aren’t oils at all. Some are liquid solutions that come in a dropper bottle or spray bottle. Often referred to as “tinctures,” these products are meant to be taken sublingually for a fast absorption rate. The liquid is dropped or sprayed under the tongue. Many people that sublingual absorption is faster than drinking, eating, or inhaling cannabidiol products.

Lastly, there are CBD oil products that are simply vaping e-liquids mixed with cannabidiol concentrate. Those products will covered below.

Patches

Similar to lotions and ointments, CBD patches are used to treat inflammation and pain. They contain a similar solution to the ones used in ointments, but in a concentrated form that’s released throughout the day. It’s similar to how Icy Hot comes in both cream and patch forms. The patch is applied to the affected area and cannabidiol is absorbed through the skin for several hours.

Vaping e-liquid

Lastly, CBD vaping e-liquids are a mixture of cannabidiol extract, propylene glycol, and vegetable glycerin. Additional flavoring is commonly used to complement or cover the distinct taste of CBD. These products can be used with any type of vaping device, from pen-styled device, box mods, and mechanical mods. Vaping CBD doesn’t give you the fast absorption of a high-dose capsule or sublingual liquid, but it’s a good way to get a steady dosage throughout the day.

Clearing up the confusion

Many people are confused about the different types of CBD products. Since the extract can be used in a variety of ways to treat a variety of issues, this isn’t too surprising. The term “oil” is the most common offender. There are oil-based products that contain cannabidiol. They’re generally meant to be used sublingually, eaten, or drank. They are literally oils, as defined by science.

There are also vaping products incorrectly labeled as CBD oil by the manufacturer. Similar to standard vaping e-liquids, these products use a mix of propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin as the base. Sometimes additional flavorings are used. These products are not oils on a chemical level, despite the manufacturer labeling.

As always, be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions before using any CBD product. You do not want to fill a sub-ohm tank with a jar of oil-based cannabidiol product from the vitamin shop.

My CBD experience

I’ve vaped a number of e-liquids that contain cannabidiol and feel that they can be beneficial. Naturally, we all have different body chemistries and mental makeups, so your mileage may vary.

The most obvious benefit of vaping CBD I found was aiding pain management. I have recurring aches from torn ligaments and tendons in my left ankle (tennis). I also have a partially torn meniscus in my right knee (from riding a bus…yes, that’s lame). Naturally, I have general pain from getting older. I’ve found that vaping cannabidiol aids in pain management by reducing inflammation. In the past, doctors have prescribed me strong narcotics for pain management and they wrecked my stomach. I haven’t experienced any discomfort from vaping cannabidiol e-liquid.

I would say it does not give you any immediate gratification or any kind of head change, but that’s not what its for. If you do have something wrong or going on with your body, you will know the effects much more than if you have no known issues.

I’ve heard of people saying its makes their day a little brighter, makes them happier, and easy going, but if people are looking to get a feeling similar to THC, that’s just not going to happen. I’ve also heard that if you use CBD while drinking alcohol it helps tremendously with hangovers the next day. I’ve heard women tell me that it really helps with PMS, then immediately I get a response that it makes the guys happier. So I guess you could legitimately say “You can buy happiness.”

Mentally, the effects are more difficult to explain. As someone that grew up in New York, I’m generally neurotic (I would have made a great Seinfeld character). I’ve found that vaping CBD has an effect that’s almost like a mixture of relaxing and stabilizing. It certainly doesn’t make me giddy, but it helps me calm down and let go of some of the things that I shouldn’t be worrying about so much. The negative side to that is that I legitimately enjoy my irrational neuroses.

Is CBD for you?

If you’re looking for the THC “high” associated with marijuana then CBD isn’t for you. That said, there are many reasons to consider usings products with cannabidiol. Some people claim that it helps them deal with anxiety issues and manage pain. Others believe that it improves mood. Some believe that it can help promote metabolic health and is a neuroprotectant. With CBD products becoming more and more popular, they’re worth trying if you’re concerned about any of the aforementioned issues.

If you use CBD products, it would be fantastic to hear about your experiences with them. Kindly share your story in the comments section.

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Raymond Padilla
Raymond Padilla is a level 26 Pokemon Go trainer, a longtime journalist, and an accomplished verbal entertainer. Kindly visit him at his personal website "RPadTV" (linked above) or his various social media accounts (linked below).