How Does CBD Work?

CBD oil is usually made from industrial hemp.

You may have heard of CBD oil. Short for cannabidiol, CBD is a cousin of marijuana and can offer some therapeutic effects without the high.

Interest in CBD oil has increased in recent years, as THC and marijuana have been legalized in some states in America. Users of CBD are typically seeking some of the health benefits of marijuana, but prefer to avoid the psychoactive effects.

CBD oil may sound like modern snake oil, full of promises but short on delivery, but there’s actual science behind how CBD oil works. It’s a natural chemical compound that interacts with the endocannabinoid system.

What is CBD Oil?

CBD oil is extracted from cannabis, then cooled and purified to remove all other cannabinoids. It’s usually made from industrial hemp, which has trace amounts of psychoactive THC.

CBD oil comes from the cannabis plant, and so does THC. But CBD doesn’t have any psychoactive properties. Sometimes, CBD oil is sourced from marijuana, which has a higher concentration of THC.

Understanding Endocannabinoids

CBD has a similar structure to endocannabinoids produced by your body. Your endocannabinoid system manages the balance of your body, regulating mood, appetite, temperature, sleep, motor control, and more.

The body creates endocannabinoids to communicate with other bodily systems for regulation. And when you take CBD oil, your body has additional cannabinoids to support the endocannabinoid system. This can boost the effectiveness of your endocannabinoid system.

How CBD Oil Can Offer Relief

CBD oil has therapeutic properties to alleviate a variety of conditions. Generally, CBD can offer a calming effect, which can improve symptoms of chronic pain, anxiety, and other conditions.

Research is still developing, but is typically positive supporting the effectiveness of CBD to alleviate symptoms of conditions including:

  • Anxiety, depression, and PTSD

  • Chronic pain, inflammation and arthritis

  • Nausea, low appetite, and inflammatory bowel disease

  • Migraines

  • Addiction to nicotine or opioids

  • Muscle spasticity

  • Epilepsy and seizures

CBD has been approved for treating some medical conditions. For example, CBD is approved for treating PTSD in New Mexico, and Epilodex, which treats epilepsy, is a CBD oral solution.

CBD oil is considered safe overall, and side effects are typically rare and mild.

The World Health Organization reports that CBD is generally well tolerated and has a good safety profile. Typically, side effects occur as a result of interaction with existing medications. And, the drug shows little risk of addiction or dependency.

Using CBD

CBD is offered in many forms, and the different ways to ingest CBD can have differing effectiveness. Some offer effects more quickly, but diminish sooner, while others take longer to take effect, but may last longer.

For example, oral ingestion (oil in food, gummies, edibles, or capsules), sublingual tinctures (under the tongue), or transdermal applications (oil, lotion, or extract applied to skin) can deliver slow acting, but long lasting effects. Inhalation through vaping or smoking can offer quicker effects, but may not last as long.

Your needs and preferences may influence how you decide to take CBD. For example, if pain wakes you up in the night, you should probably choose an ingestion method that offers long lasting effects so you can sleep through the night. But if you just need to quickly clear a bit of anxiety, vaping might do the trick.

CBD oil isn’t for everyone, but if can offer relief for some. With a low risk profile, it’s worth trying out if you need to treat one of the conditions it can help.

Amelia Noble is a researcher with the CBD Awareness Project. When she’s not studying CBD, you can find her playing board games