CBD 101: The Low-Down On the Hottest Supplement Around

One-quarter of American adults have tried CBD and more than 14 percent use it daily. But that’s only the beginning.

Every day, new consumers experiment with CBD products at unprecedented rates. In fact, experts predict the market will reach over $2 billion in revenue by the end of 2020. Yet in spite of this popularity, CBD remains a murky and confusing subject for many. 

Questions about the product’s uses, forms, and legality abound. To help you navigate these complicated waters, we’ve put together this CBD 101 guide. Keep reading now to learn everything you need to know about these trendy and powerful products. 

What Is CBD?

CBD is short for Cannabidiol. Cannabidiol is one of over 100 phytocannabinoids produced by plants in the Cannabaceae (hemp) family. Phytocannabinoids are naturally occurring chemical compounds. 

Researchers classify cannabidiol as an “active” ingredient. This is because when introduced to the human body CBD has direct and noticeable biochemical impacts. 


It is important not to confuse CBD with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Both are among the most biologically active phytocannabinoids present in cannabis plants. But that is where the similarities end. 

THC is the substance in marijuana that makes the drug addictive. It is also what causes marijuana’s intoxicating “high.”

CBD is not addictive and does not cause users to become high. It can even reduce the intoxicating impacts of THC in the body. Research suggests that CBD also has therapeutic properties of its own. 

Increasingly, researchers are finding ways to make these therapeutic properties available to consumers through new products and applications. 

CBD, THC, and Legality

One of the chief areas of confusion surrounding CBD products is whether or not they are legal to purchase and use. This uncertainty is understandable since:

  • Laws vary by state
  • Federal law recently changed
  • Numerous states have also changed their laws over the last three years

Federal Law 

In the 2018 Farm Bill, the federal government approved the growing and use of hemp plants. This made hemp more accessible, fueling the rise of CBD products. Growing marijuana remains illegal under federal law, however. 

In this case, federal law does not supersede state laws but is separate from them. This means that what is illegal under federal law may be legal under state law. This can put growers and users in difficult and complicated positions. 

State Laws

Approximately two-thirds of states allow residents to use marijuana, CBD products, and some THC products derived from marijuana for medical reasons. Around 20 percent of states allow residents to use marijuana and related products recreationally. 

In theory, CBD products that contain no THC are legal in all states. In practice, how CBD is formulated, used, and sold can impact its legality and availability. When sold as a dietary supplement, for example, CBD is often acceptable.

It is not an approved food additive, however. This means that when incorporated into edible products, it can violate state and federal food safety laws.  

Benefits of CBD

But why use CBD at all? Research suggests that CBD’s therapeutic properties can benefit users with a wide range of conditions and needs. 

To date, researchers’ list of appropriate uses for CBD includes:

  • Treating arthritis
  • Managing anxiety and depression
  • Improving neurobehavior in individuals with autism 
  • Treating cancer 
  • Improving central nervous system function
  • Reducing swelling and chronic inflammation
  • Treating skin rashes and acne
  • Relieving joint pain
  • Improving sleep
  • Fighting antibiotic-resistant infections such as MRSA
  • Treating Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and similar conditions
  • Controlling seizure conditions such as epilepsy
  • Reducing the impacts of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Controlling neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and traumatic brain injuries
  • Fighting diabetes and obesity
  • Improving cardiovascular conditions such as atherosclerosis

How Does CBD Work?

Why does CBD seem to help with such a broad range of conditions? In many cases, researchers are still working to determine exactly how and why CBD benefits various conditions the way that it does. 

In general, however, research shows that CBD works in the body by affecting the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS controls or influences key functions throughout the body, including:

  • Central nervous system function
  • Synaptic plasticity and resilience 
  • Bodily responses to physical and environmental stress

The human body makes natural or endogenous cannabinoids. These biochemicals control and direct important bodily functions and responses every minute of every day. CBD molecules bind to the same receptors in our brains and bodies that our own cannabinoids do. 

This enables CBD to help the ECS work better and more efficiently. As a result, our bodies combat health threats more effectively and all of our internal systems run more smoothly. 

CBD Products 

CDB is available in an ever-increasing array of forms. Common products include:

  • Oils and oil extracts
  • Tablets or capsules 
  • Tinctures
  • Lotions or rubs
  • Gummies
  • Baked edibles
  • Vape pen concentrates

Perhaps the most important thing to know about CBD products, however, is that they not regulated. This has several ramifications for buyers. 

First, it means that any claims on CBD packaging have not been reviewed, verified, or proven by any regulatory authority such as the FDA. It is up to buyers to review the research and evidence and make their own informed decisions. 

Second, the lack of regulation means that there is no uniformity across products or dosing instructions. Buyers must review labels carefully to ensure that they understand what they are consuming. 

Third, because CBD products are not regulated, they are not subject to formal government testing for safety or quality. There is no implicit guarantee that what is on the label is what is in the product. 

Choosing CBD Products 

It is possible to choose safe and effective CBD products.

Select products that are manufactured by reliable and responsible companies and marketed by trustworthy sellers. This increases the likelihood of getting safe, quality products. 

Choose products with independent product testing certificates from third-party labs. These certificates will clearly show what the product contains. Not only does this help you choose good products, but it also proves the manufacturer’s trustworthiness by demonstrating their dedication to accurate labeling and marketing. 

Look for products that indicate how many milligrams of CBD are in each dose of the product. Lower quality products often list only the amount of CBD in the whole container. This is misleading and makes it difficult or impossible to dose yourself consistently and to your desired level. 

If you are new to using CBD, choose products such as oils that make it easy to take very small doses and to scale up the dosage in small increments. This will enable you to find your perfect dose and frequency. Once you know your ideal dose, you can switch to other equivalent types and dosages of product if desired.


When selecting CBD products, it is important to choose clean ones. Some CBD products contain hazardous additives which can negate the benefits of CBD to your body. 

For example, vape pen concentrates may contain propylene glycol. A solvent, propylene glycol can react to the vaping process and become formaldehyde. This can cause nose, eye, and lung problems and increase users’ risk of cancer. 

Similarly, edibles and gummies may contain synthetic food dyes that can cause neurological and behavioral problems in some users. Checking a product’s Certificate of Analysis will help you avoid these concerns. 

How to Use CBD

Research on CBD remains somewhat limited. As a result, there are no approved or consistent CBD dosage guidelines for consumers to follow. 

Individual products will come with their own recommended doses. Dosage ranges may also be available for specific conditions, such as epilepsy. In general, however, users will need to start with small doses and adjust over time based on their own needs and results.

New users should expect that it may take some time for them to realize the full benefits of CBD use. As with other treatment options, improvements may not be obvious right away. Users should expect to stick with their CBD regimen for at least a few months before judging their results. 

Users who not see the desired results may need to switch products, product formulations, or dosages to see the improvements they want. 

CBD Side Effects and Precautions 

Before beginning a CBD regimen, it is important to consider several different factors. 

First, users should make sure they understand the full social and legal impact of their choices. They should check their state and local laws and choose products that comply with those laws.

Users should also check their employers’ policies. If hemp-based products will cause them to fail a mandatory company drug test, they may need to refrain from use or choose only products that will not cause them to fail such tests. 

Other issues of concern include side effects and possible drug interactions. 

Side Effects 

Every substance that is active in the body causes not only the intended or desired effects but side-effects. CBD is no exception. Users may experience:

  • Altered moods, including irritability 
  • Changes in appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Drowsiness or fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth

In some cases, more serious side-effects such as liver damage can occur. Users should be aware of these risks and may want to discuss them with their doctors before use. 

Adverse Drug Reactions 

Cannabidiol can alter the impact and effectiveness of medication and other substances in your body. Specifically, it may cause the liver to break down some medications more slowly. This can:

  • Prevent users from getting the correct amounts of medication when they need them
  • Lead to back-ups of medication in the liver
  • Create inconsistencies in the areas of the body delayed medications were meant to treat, leading to health problems or uncontrolled symptoms

The more medications users take, the higher the likelihood of complications and negative interactions. CBD may also change how the body processes substances like alcohol, either independently or in conjunction with medications. 

Users should consult with their doctors before trying CBD if they:

  • Take prescription medication
  • Take over-the-counter medication to make chronic conditions
  • Have chronic or underlying health conditions that may be impacted by CBD use

Other Considerations

Research on the use of CBD while pregnant or breastfeeding is extremely limited. Researchers know that THC and other cannabinoids can linger in the body for up to nine days. They also know that these substances can impact fetal brain development and cause long-term health problems.  

While there is no hard science proving that CBD is equally harmful, the FDA recommends that women who are pregnant, who may become pregnant, or who are breastfeeding avoid using CBD. Women in these categories seeking to use CBD to treat health conditions should consult with their doctors for dosage and use guidelines and assistance.

CBD for Pets  

Health-conscious pet owners are often curious if they can use the same remedies and health boosters for their pets that they buy for themselves. In the case of cannabidiol, the answer is “usually.” 

Cats and dogs have endocannabinoid systems. Early research suggests that CBD products may work on pets in much the same way that they work on humans. Cannabidiol can offer benefits to pets with anxiety, cancer, and other conditions. 

Vets recommend mixing CBD oils into pet food for easy delivery. As with humans, however, it is important to start with small doses and work up to the ideal dose. Similarly, pet owners should consult with their vet before giving CBD to pets taking other medications or dealing with chronic conditions. 

Making CBD Part of a Wellness Routine 

Researchers are constantly adding to the body of knowledge covered in this CBD 101 guide. In the years to come, users can expect to see more detailed information on the most effective ways to use CBD products for their health. In the meantime, check out our blog for other great ways to support your health and live your best life.