Updated: Oct 2, 2020
There's no question that CBD is all the buzz at the moment. If you live in a state where it's currently legal, you might feel like CBD has gone from being sort of around to absolutely everywhere. Coffee shops sell CBD lattes, spas offer CBD facials, beauty companies are rushing to release lotions with CBD or hemp oils in their formulas.
But even though it's infiltrating pretty much every corner of the wellness and beauty world many people still find CBD a little confusing—especially when it comes to figuring out the right way to use it and how to make sure the stuff you're buying is, you know, actually legit.
First things first. What is CBD?
CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a chemical compound from the Cannabis sativa plant, which is also known as marijuana or hemp, according to the US National Library of Medicine.
It's a naturally occurring substance that's used in products like oils and edibles. Unlike its cousin, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the major active ingredient in marijuana, CBD is not psychoactive.
Will CBD get me high?
Nope. The cannabis plant is made up of two main players: CBD and THC. CBD is the non-psychoactive portion of the plant.
There are two possible exceptions to this. The first is that some people, for unknown reasons, just react differently to CBD.
It's crucial to buy third-party-tested CBD for quality assurance (more on this later). Because the FDA doesn't regulate CBD, it is possible to buy a product that is more or less potent than advertised, or even contains small amounts of THC.
Where does hemp come in to all this?
You've probably heard the terms cannabis, marijuana, and hemp all tossed around in relation to CBD. The plant Cannabis sativa has two primary species, hemp and marijuana. Both contain CBD, but there's a much higher percentage in hemp, which also has very low (less than 0.3%) levels of THC compared to marijuana.
When people talk about hemp oil, they're referring to oil extracted from the seeds of the hemp plant. There are no cannabinoids—CBD or THC—in hemp oil. This ingredient is packed with healthy fats and often appears in beauty products for its moisturizing benefits.
What are the health benefits of CBD?
The only CBD medication that is currently FDA-approved is Epidiolex, which the agency approved last year for the treatment of certain types of epilepsy.
I've heard of edibles, tinctures, vape pens... What's the best way to take CBD?
It really depends on what your goal is and why you're taking CBD in the first place.
Some people don't want to ingest anything and therefore prefer a topical CBD cream or ointment.
The biggest differences between tinctures, edibles, and vape pens are speed of delivery and how long the effects last. Vape relief is faster but wears off faster too—usually in about two hours.
Tinctures and edibles take longer to work but last four or five hours. A tincture looks like a little liquid that you put under your tongue, and work within half an hour.
What should I look for when shopping for CBD products?
There are literally hundreds of CBD brands at this point. Here are a few things you should keep in mind when shopping.
What does the label look like?
We don't mean the color or millennial font. If it's a dietary supplement, it should have a back panel with an FDA disclaimer and warning section. Ideally, it would be preferable to have access to their third-party lab testing results too
Speaking of which: Has it been third-party tested?
This is a real concern in the industry—take the 2017 Journal of the American Medical Association study, for example, which tested 84 CBD products and found that 26% contained lower doses than stated on the bottle. Look for a quality assurance stamp or certificate of analysis from a third party (aka not the actual brand) or check the retailer's website if you don't see it on the product's label.
How much to take?
This is a confusing one for many people. A lot of brands don't do a good job of clearly instructing their consumer on the dosing. When thinking about dosing, also consider whether your CBD is full-spectrum or isolate: Full-spectrum could include other cannabinoids like THC, cannabidivarin or cannabigerol (this is important, since "there's something called the 'entourage effect' when all together, they're more effective than any one of them alone, while isolate is 100% CBD.
Does it claim to cure any diseases?
If so, don't buy! You should avoid any company that makes disease claims.
Are there additional ingredients in there?
As with any supplement, you want to know everything you're ingesting in addition to the main event. For example, "sometimes I notice that [CBD manufacturers] will add melatonin.
That all sounds good, but is it legal?
First, a little background. Industrial hemp was legal in the United States until Congress passed the Marihuana Tax Act in 1937. Some of our early presidents grew hemp. Nearly 80 years later, the 2014 Farm Bill took the position that states can regulate the production of hemp and, as a result, CBD. Then last year, President Trump signed a new Farm Bill that made it federally legal to grow hemp.
This means that consumers everywhere, if they're compliant with their state, can grow hemp and use hemp products, and among those will be CBD.
Can you travel with CBD?
That same 2018 Farm Bill means you can now travel between states with legit CBD products. Flying with CBD should pose no issues now. However, if you're traveling with a tincture, be mindful of TSA limits on how much liquid you can carry on an airplane, she adds.
Will CBD show up on a drug test?
It should not, as long as you're buying third-party tested CBD with no added THC.