If you live in the world, you’ve seen and read about CBD in the past few years. Your friend is using tinctures of it, it’s an ingredient in a new beverage you discovered last week, and your exercise bud put you onto a muscle relief topical of it. But what actually is it? It’s cannabis, but it doesn’t get you high like THC does. So what does it do? Here’s everything you need to know about CBD...

What is CBD?

CBD stands for cannabidiol. It’s one of the common cannabinoids found in cannabis, and when ingested, it increases the presence of the natural cannabinoids that already exist in your body—without being intoxicating. 

There are three general types of CBD:

Full-spectrum, which contains cannabis extracts, such as terpenes, and can include THC (the psychoactive cannabinoid that does get you high).

Broad-spectrum, which contains cannabis compounds and doesn’t have THC.

CBD isolate, which is pure form and doesn’t contain any other cannabis extracts or compounds. 

There hasn’t been a ton of credible research done on the effects of CBD, but it’s widely used to help reduce anxiety and stress, relax your muscles and ease soreness, help with sleep, and function as an anti-inflammatory. 

Some studies have shown that CBD can also reduce the psychoactive impact of THC, so if you’re using a cannabis product that has both of these cannabinoids, CBD may mellow out the intoxicating effects of THC. Balanced 1:1 products of THC and CBD can provide a unique sensation, where the characteristics of both cannabinoids work in synergy, known as the “entourage effect.”

Anxiety: This is one area that needs more research, but there are studies that show CBD can help reduce short-term anxiety symptoms. People who report CBD helping them with anxiety tend to take regular doses over time and have long-term CBD in their bloodstream (more on that below). 

Sleep: CBD is widely used to help improve sleep by reducing anxiety or pain. But it may also increase problems with sleep for people who don’t have these symptoms. Those who claim to sleep better from CBD often recommend taking a higher dose than you would during the day, and taking it at least an hour before going to bed. 

Pain: CBD topicals—like balms, creams, or roll-ons—are becoming more common and are taken to relieve muscle aches, sore joints, inflammation, or physical stress. Again, more clinical studies need to be done on measuring pain relief, but a lot of users of these topical products report that CBD reduces and relieves chronic or short-term physical discomfort. 

Like other cannabis products and byproducts, CBD is produced and extracted in a variety of different ways, with new forms emerging pretty often. Here are some of the everyday varieties of CBD you’ll find in dispensaries now:

Oils and tinctures: CBD as a cannabis extract is usually mixed with a neutral oil, like sunflower oil. It’s packaged and sold as a droplet tincture or a bottled spray. When you consume it in your mouth, it absorbs into your blood vessels (experts recommend to drop or spray it under your tongue). Make sure to read the label to know how much CBD concentrate is in your product.

Edibles: As a general rule, eating cannabis has a delayed onset because the cannabinoids enter your body through the digestive tract before entering your bloodstream. Like THC edibles—gummies or baked goods—but without the intoxicating effects, CBD edibles take a while to work into your body’s system. Be sure to read the label on how much CBD your edibles contain, as there are no market standardized limits like there are with THC. 

Flower: Yes, there are CBD joints and flower that contain very minimal THC, which is fun if you enjoy lighting up, but don’t want to get high like you would with full THC flower. Smoking or vaping CBD flower increases the speed of absorption. With smokable CBD products, you mainly experience the CBD, but you also get the effects of other cannabinoids and terpenes that are in the flower. 

Topicals: CBD lotions and oils are infused with cannabis extracts that you apply to your hair, skin, or nails. Topicals are used for fast-acting, localized relief of inflammation or pain. A therapeutic benefit of cannabis, the intensity and longevity of CBD topical effects depend on some physical factors, like your weight, sex, and metabolism. There is no set guideline for how much topical CBD you should put on your body, so read the label of your product and know the spectrum it contains.

Concentrates and powders: CBD concentrate is mainly a vape product or an isolate that contains high levels of CBD. Those looking for higher doses of CBD can use distillate or full spectrum concentrates that come in a variety of potencies, flavours, and extraction methods.

Capsules: CBD gel caps are a mix of CBD and either hemp seed oil or MCT oil. Like with edibles, they work into your digestive system and can take a while to take effect. Bought in volume, each capsule contains a predefined amount of CBD that will be outlined on the packaging—and some also contain THC. Gel caps are a flavourless alternative to oils and edibles.

Beverages: There are a lot of great CBD beverages on the market these days that come in all kinds of flavours and varieties. Infused beverages are a good option for people who don’t want to inhale, eat, and rub on CBD. Some beverages are made using nano emulsification and are considered more absorbable, providing a predictable and consistent experience with a faster onset. Most cannabis beverages are low dosage and contain less than 10 mg of THC, but there is no standardized limit to the amount of CBD that can be in a drink. Again, read the label. 

The benefits of CBD come with a long-term, consistent dosage—allowing your body time for the cannabinoid to build up in your bloodstream and do its thing. Now, the right dosage depends on the individual. There have been studies done on dosages ranging from 10 to 1,500 mg, and results vary depending on body weight and metabolism. But most CBD users tend to dose 10 to 40 mg per day, every day. To find your sweet spot, start low and go slow. Increase (or decrease) your daily dose by 5 mg each week until you feel like you’re getting the most benefit out of the product you’re using.