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CBD oil (cannabidiol) is a non-psychoactive extract of the cannabis plant. There are 113 chemical compounds, called cannabinoids, found in cannabis. While the most popular cannabinoid is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBDs have started to gain international attention because of its benefits for a wide range of ailments.

Popular media has picked up on the trend. For instance, in his documentary Weed, Sanjay Gupta introduced the world to an epileptic child who found relief by taking CBD oil after all other medications failed. It doesn’t stop there with epilepsy; there are many other ailments improved by CBDs.

So far the benefits of CBD oil are largely anecdotal, with a growing community of enthusiasts cheering CBD oil’s benefits. Because of cannabidiol oil’s close association to cannabis–currently a schedule 1 drug, legitimate, peer-reviewed medical studies have been lacking. However, as the public opinion shifts in favor of CBDs, those important studies are starting to emerge so science can say with authority what people have known for thousands of years.

What does CBD stand for?

The initials “CBD” stand for cannabidiol.

Don’t be intimidated by the five-syllable word. You’ve probably heard of cannabidiol’s cousin THC (tetrahydrocannabinol): the primary ingredient that causes people to get high. In fact, CBD and THC are the principal cannabinoids found in marijuana, with the former composing up to 40% of the cannabis plant’s extract.

However, unlike THC, CBD does not lead people to raid their refrigerators or ponder the meaning of life—at least not directly. CBD is non-psychoactive, and when it’s derived from hemp as an oil there’s almost zero THC in the concoction.

High THC, high CBD containing oil does exist and is derived from recreationally or medically grown cannabis plants. It’s important to note that cannabidiol oils used for medicinal purposes are typically extracted from hemp with unusually high levels of CBD and low levels of THC—sometimes containing no THC at all.

What Are the Benefits of CBD Oil?

medical benefits of cbd oilWhile medical marijuana continues to shake off taboos and orthodox prejudices, CBD oil has earned its place as a promising treatment that could soon be prescribed by your doctor.

Research regarding CBD oil and the following ailments is preliminary, but most studies conclude that cannabidiol shows promise. The lack of conclusiveness is mainly due to only-recent scientific interest in cannabidiol, and the need for peer-review studies to verify the findings. With each year the catalog of research grows, solidifying cannabidiol’s position as a kind of panacea for a huge array of sufferings, from epilepsy to cancer.

Reducing or Eliminating Epileptic Seizures

CBD oil has shown promising benefits for sufferers of a rare form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome, also known as severe myoclonic epilepsy of infancy (SMEI). It affects children, typically before their first birthday. They succumb to violent seizures, in some cases up to 300 in one week. There is no single pharmaceutical drug currently available that can manage or alleviate Dravet syndrome, and many children have to take a myriad mix of drugs to manage their condition.

Since there’s no known cure, the affected will have Dravet syndrome for the rest of their lives. But extensive anecdotal evidence has shown that CBD oil can reduce the seizures to two or three a week.

Charlotte Figi gained national attention in Sanjay Gupta’s Weed documentary, which showed the effects of CBD oil firsthand. While she was previously confined to a wheelchair, taking CBD oil has allowed her to stand up, run around, color, and be a child. Her seizures were greatly reduced, and Figi has become a poster child for the empirical benefits of CBD oil.

A recent New England Journal of Medicine study found that cannabidiol is indeed effective in minimizing the number of seizures. Overall, of the group studied, seizures were reduced by 22.8%. That’s a large number for a treatment which has previously been brushed off by the medical community as offering no medicinal value. The study did find taking cannabidiol results in sleepiness and sometimes loss of appetite or vomiting. As with any medication, there are adverse side effects for some people.

However, due in part to the rarity of Dravet syndrome and sparse clinical trials, scientists have concluded so far that CBD oil’s relieving qualities for epileptics are not yet sound and further research is needed before the effects of cannabidiol oil for seizure sufferers is fully understood. Still, the evidence is growing, and no one can deny that the lives of children like Charlotte Figi have been improved.

Treating Anxiety

Therapists may one day recommend CBD oil, or another cannabinol derivative, instead of Zoloft or Xanax to help patients with their anxiety. Preliminary studies concluded [1] that anxiety stricken patients incurred a therapeutic effect by ingesting CBD oil: relaxation without the sense of being high. It is possible, then, that CBDs can be used to treat panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The only possible drawback to this treatment option is it must be administered intensely, i.e. in high doses.

A practical study had people suffering from anxiety ingest CBD before giving a public speech [2]. A task most people dread, but those with anxiety find frightful. The researchers found that “Pretreatment with CBD significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort in their speech performance, and significantly decreased alert in their anticipatory speech.” The debilitating psychological boundary to overcoming one’s irrational fear may rest in cannabidiol oil, and be more effective than typically prescribed medications.

What makes CBD an encouraging alternative to traditional pharmaceuticals is it does not appear to have the same negative side effects associated with withdrawal and addiction. It could potentially curb the prescription drug epidemic, or at least offer an alternative.

Controlling Schizophrenia

Preliminary research suggests that CBD may be an effective antipsychotic compound, especially useful as a treatment for schizophrenia sufferers. It’s a bit ironic. Marijuana with THC has been known to increase the possibility of psychosis in particular people, and schizophrenics are known to consume more marijuana [3] than the average smoker. CBD’s anti-psychotic properties may make it a preferred alternative to currently available antipsychotic drugs [3].

Addressing Chronic Pain, Muscle Tension, and Fibromyalgia

Cannabinol has been shown to significantly reduce pain, particularly chronic inflammatory and neuropathic pain. Normally, soreness is managed through a mixture of therapy and drugs. But CBD oil has proven to be an effective alternative for many sufferers. Though its pain-relieving qualities have only been scientifically demonstrated in lab rodents [4], so far—don’t tell that to someone with arthritis who feels the beneficial effects every day.

how cannabidiol can help relieve arthritisInterestingly enough, CBD, in at least one study [5], halted the progression of arthritis, effectively protecting the joints. The patients in the study ingested CBD orally. It’s a fascinating result. As most medications can only manage arthritic pain. All that work at a computer leading to creaky wrists may be simple to control with cannabidiol.

It follows that CBD oil has proven effective in reducing fibromyalgia. Journalist Donna Burch writes, “Without question, CBD oil has been one of the most helpful things in treating my pain.” Of course, because fibromyalgia is unique from one patient to the next cannabidiol oil may not work for everyone, but optimistic self-reports suggest CBD oil is a well-founded substitution instead of pharmaceuticals.

Helping With Asthma

Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties CBD may be useful in the modulating of asthma [6]. Nearly 8% of the United States population was reported to have asthma; that’s one in 12 people according to the CDC [7]. One study so far, found that cannabidiol reduced inflammation in the lungs of lab rats [8], reducing the population of antagonizing cytokines that cause asthma. For now, we have to wait for other researchers to pick up the baton before we can conclude the overall effects of CBD for asthma sufferers.

Relieving Migraines

If your head is pounding and over-the-counter measures haven’t provided relief then CBD might help you. Numerous self-reports indicate that people suffering from debilitating migraines have traded in Vicodin for cannabidiol oil and seen substantial improvements. So far, research on migraines and cannabis has largely focused on the effects of medical marijuana for migraine sufferers [9], and found positive results as well.

CBD oil hasn’t yet been isolated and researched for the purposes of measuring its effectiveness combating migraines. But considering cannabdiol’s anti-stress and anti-inflammatory properties it’s not hard to understand why there are many subjective accounts of CBD oil’s migraine-relieving qualities.

Inhibiting Cancer

CBD has not only been shown to relieve pains associated with cancer, but has also been shown to inhibit the proliferation of tumor cells. One study demonstrated its effectiveness as such for breast and prostate cancers [10]. Remember, every cancer is different. The same study analyzed the conclusions of studies conducted by other researchers, and found that cannabinoids stimulated certain types of cancer cells. A bit paradoxical.

Another study showed that CBD halted the spread of cervical cancer cells, and even eliminated some of the cancer cells [11]. It’s possible that cannabidiol is an effective antitumor agent, but research so far has largely dealt with culture mediums and not people. Considering the surprising properties of cannabidiol we can expect to hear further research delving into the interaction between CBD and cancer in the coming years.

The Effects of CBD Oil

Does CBD oil make you high?

No, it does not.

While it’s derived from cannabis, cannabidiol is non-psychotropic and only one of at least 113 active cannabinoids in the leafy plant. The intoxicating effect of marijuana is produced by another cannabinoid called THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). There is conflicting research showing CBD may inhibit the high effect produced by THC.

What does Cannabis Oil do to the brain and body?

When you ingest CBD oil the compound acts on your endocannabinoid system. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of the endocannabinoid system; it was only discovered in the 1980s. Think of the endocannabinoid system as a machine located in your brain and throughout the nervous system that helps mediate various physiological processes: pain, mood, appetite, memory, sleep etc. A well-rounded endocannabinoid system means a healthy body.

cannabidiol affects the brainReceptors in your brain and body wait for signals to moderate those processes, and cannabidiol acts as one of those signals. The body usually produces its own cannabinoids to keep itself operating within normal levels though sometimes they can fall out of range. Taking certain medicines, or smoking marijuana, or ingesting CBD oil also tells the receptors to behave in a particular way.

For instance, cannabidiol oil’s effectiveness in helping to regulate anxiety, nausea, vomiting, sleep, pain, vomiting, etc. is thanks to the activation of a serotonin receptor called 5-HT1A (hydroxytryptamine). Serotonin is viewed as a chemical that helps regulate mood: makes you feel good. So CBD oil is effectively swinging your mood up, and telling your body to produce chemicals which lead you to feel better.

However, cannabidiol doesn’t get along with the everyday cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 (these receptors are located in the brain, body, and immune system). Instead, it sends a message to multiple non-cannabinoid receptors to turn on, while also telling certain neurotransmitters like anandamide and adenosine to slow down their reuptake in the brain.

CBD also doesn’t get along with water very well, which means when you ingest cannabidiol it doesn’t stay in the bloodstream for very long. It hops, skips, and runs right out of the blood and into fatty tissues. So, your body can only absorb a limited amount of CBD before it becomes, for all intents and purposes, inert.

Typically, for every 100 mg of CBD ingested you’ll make use of between 13 and 19 mg. The scientific phrasing says that cannabidiol oil has a bioavailability of between 13 and 19% [13], when ingested orally. Though, bioavailability changes depending on the means of ingestion, which has lead some people to prefer vaping their cannabidiol oils because it’s absorbed directly into the bloodstream after passing through the lungs.

How exactly cannabidiol interacts with the nervous system is still being researched. It’s a pleiotropic drug, which means that CBD’s effects are far reaching, that it interacts with multiple channels in your body, making it difficult for researchers to pinpoint exactly what’s going on. If one’s thing clear it’s that cannabidiol is a bit of picky cannabinoid.

How are Cannabinoids Extracted?

To experience the full health benefits of cannabidiol it must be extracted from cannabis. First you have to grow the plant, and industrial hemp growers around the world have bred strains that are high in CBD and low in THC: perfect for maximizing extraction. Growers then either sell their crop or extract CBD themselves.

There are a number of means of extracting the therapeutic cannabinoid CBD. But, keep in mind, optimal extraction is ordinarily a task reserved for professionals. Though it never hurts to learn.

The most common form of extraction is using a solvent. Which one? Depends on your means and access. The most common home remedy is to use high-proof alcohol. However, it requires precise measurements to be effective. The entire cannabis plant is sunk in the solvent and then strained, leaving the oils to be collected. The drawback of using solvents like high-proof ethanol is that it destroys cannabis’ waxes, which are known to have their own health benefits.

Another extraction process is to use CO2, but it requires pricey equipment not available to the everyday person. Carbon dioxide acts like a solvent under high pressure and low temperatures. It’s considered the safest and most efficients means of extracting CBD from cannabis. Normally people who extract cannabidiol oils using CO2 are industrial chemists.

Then there’s the homegrown method: using olive oil. While safe and easy, the olive oil methodology does not produce oils with high concentrations of cannabidiol. But there’s no fear of unwanted additional elements, and plus you yield the added benefits of olive oil.

When done properly, the extraction process yields not only CBD, but health-bestowing nutrients such as terpenes, omega-3 fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins, and others. The exact nature and quantity of additional substances is dependent on the extractor. These additional substances are harmless.

How to Use CBD Oil

The number of ways CBD can be ingested or administered is growing thanks to a thriving medicinal and recreational marijuana trade. However, there is no standard for how much cannabidiol one should take regardless of its form. It’s a trial and error process, that can be deduced on an individual level after a few days of taking CBD oil.

Keep in mind, since the FDA treats cannabidiol as food each CBD oil package is required to have a nutritional label, which means a recommended serving size. Don’t be mislead. The labeling requirement dictating serving size doesn’t reflect reality and, for now, exists as a bureaucratic requirement.

How Much CBD Oil Should I Take?*

CBD is typically labeled in milligrams, e.g. 10 drops of a CBD oil that contains 5mg of CBD. The go-to advice for figuring out how much CBD you ought to take depends on two factors: how severe is the issue you’re trying to self-medicate and how heavy you are. It’s hard to take too much CBD so don’t worry about over-experimenting.

There are currently no CBD dosage recommendations connected with any scientific study. All available answers to the question “how much CBD oil should I take?” are anecdotal and tied to a particular individual’s experience. So while you should exercise caution when taking dosage recommendations, the best advice is probably “start with a low dose and work up until you start to feel some relief.

Other things to take into consideration:

It typically takes between 20 to 30 minutes before the CBD’s effects becomes noticeable. Just remember, you’re not waiting for a high so it may not be obvious that the cannabidiol oil is working. The effect can be very subtle.

Just as there is no standard milligram count to consume, there is no standard medium to consume CBD. Though people typically start with oil-based drops, and then branch to other methods: bath salts, chewing gum, vapes, edibles, etc. Some mediums may work for you that don’t work for others, and vice-versa.

Pure Hemp Oil Extract

CBD oil can be purchased on its own in its simplest form as pure oil. This is the most potent medium for CBD because it’s not mixed or diluted, meaning you only need a little bit to feel the beneficiary effects of cannabidiol. Which is why pure CBD oil is packaged with a syringe-like applicator. Applying a few drops to your tongue is enough to begin the relieving effects of cannabidiol.

Tinctures Or Liquids

Another popular means of ingesting CBD oil is as a tincture or liquid. What separates it from the pure oil? The CBD oil is mixed with another liquid, such as alcohol or another oil base, which just means that it’s diluted. So, you would technically have to ingest more when CBD oil is mixed as a tincture or liquid. However, this allows manufacturers to ingest the concoction with tasty flavors, making the overall experience more pleasant. It is also a popular means for children who are taking CBD oil because of the flavoring.


If you just want to take your CBD oil in a traditional, simplified means then you can take it as a capsule. Add it to your morning ritual of vitamins or fish oil. Capsules usually contain around 25 mg of CBD, which makes it an effective means for almost any person looking to offset their ailment. Again, there’s no worry if you need less. The additional CBD will not cause any harm or offset cannabidiol oil’s benefits.


Then there are salves and topicals, which can be particularly useful to people suffering from chronic pain They can be rubbed directly on joints, skin, and muscles for cooling, soothing relief, just like traditional salves.

Some people report that CBD salves applied to wrinkles, dry skin, and age spots have reduced their presence. So, CBD topicals have a pain-relief and comfort bestowing property while also helping with skin care—at least anecdotally. It’s unclear whether or not your dermatologist would recommend a CBD topical cream. Although, a study published in the National Institute of Health and the Journal of Clinical Investigation found that CBD reduced acne—in a research setting [12]. We’ll have to wait for more studies before teenagers can finally beat acne vulgaris.


CBD can also be inhaled as vapor, by using a vape pen, vaporizer, or e-cigarette.
For vape enthusiasts, infused vape juice is available for purchase with a range of flavors. Some proponents prefer vaping because the body is able to absorb more cannabidiol, since CBD is directly infused into the bloodstream after entering the lungs. Plus, CBD will set to work faster when vaping, since it’s not traveling through the gut as with other CBD oil ingestion means.


CBD infused edibles are spread across the spectrum of foods, from sugary gummies to trail mix and protein powder. Just remember to pick up edibles which are made from cannabidiol dominant plants. Many edibles contain CBD as well as THC, though CBD exclusive edibles do exist. Most fascinating is CBD infused chewing gum, which typically has the added benefit of being fully biodegradable waste. When you spit out your gum there’s no worry of it staining the environment. Just keep it off the sidewalk so it doesn’t stick to anyone’s shoes.

Is CBD Oil Legal?**

Marijuana is defined as a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substance Act (CSA): “Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” It’s a bit antiquated considering the overwhelming evidence and positive-yielding research conducted regarding marijuana.

Of course, CBD oil isn’t derived from the same exact plants as THC-infused cannabis that tokers consume. But normally derived from plants used in the hemp industry. And that’s lead advocacy lawyers to argue that CBD oil falls under a legal loophole because cannabidiol isn’t written into the CSA.

However, the CSA’s wording states that anything derived from “marihuana [sic], is illegal.” Therefore, cannabis and all its derivatives remain illegal—at least federally. But there’s a weird legal strangeness going on. As of now, 29 states have some form of legal marijuana for medical purposes. While 9 states, along with Washington D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana with varying degrees of restrictions. Conflicting legality between states and the federal government means that cannabis as a whole occupies an unclear legal sphere.

Where does this leave cannabidiol? Well, 16 states have laws that recognize and allow the therapeutic use of CBD oil for specified conditions, particularly seizures due to the overwhelming benefits for children with Dravet syndrome. However, the DEA could technically still interfere with the appropriation and sale of CBD oil if it chose to do so. Although, medical marijuana patients purchasing and using CBD oil have some protections thanks to the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which prevents the Justice Department from interfering with state’s medical marijuana laws. However, the amendment has to be renewed every year because it’s tied to federal funding.

Despite the hazy legality, CBD oil can be purchased in all 50 states. The overall marijuana industry is booming, and continues to grow as more states incorporate and tax the sale of cannabis and its derivatives. It’s unlikely we’ll see a reversal or federal intervention.

Citations and References

[1] Cannabidiol in Humans—The Quest for Therapeutic Targets
Simon Zhornitsky, Stéphane Potvin
Pharmaceuticals (Basel) 2012 May; 5(5): 529–552. Published online 2012 May 21. doi: 10.3390/ph5050529

[2] Cannabidiol Reduces the Anxiety Induced by Simulated Public Speaking in Treatment-Naïve Social Phobia Patients
Mateus M Bergamaschi, Regina Helena Costa Queiroz, Marcos Hortes Nisihara Chagas, Danielle Chaves Gomes de Oliveira, Bruno Spinosa De Martinis, Flávio Kapczinski, João Quevedo, Rafael Roesler, Nadja Schröder, Antonio E Nardi, Rocio Martín-Santos, Jaime Eduardo Cecílio Hallak, Antonio Waldo Zuardi, José Alexandre S Crippa
Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011 May; 36(6): 1219–1226. Published online 2011 Feb 9. doi: 10.1038/npp.2011.6

[3] Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Psychosis
Schubart, C.D. et al.n
European Neuropsychopharmacology , Volume 24 , Issue 1 , 51 – 64. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2013.11.002. Epub 2013 Nov 15

[4] Cannabinoids suppress inflammatory and neuropathic pain by targeting α3 glycine receptors
Wei Xiong, Tanxing Cui, Kejun Cheng, Fei Yang, Shao-Rui Chen, Dan Willenbring, Yun Guan, Hui-Lin Pan, Ke Ren, Yan Xu, Li Zhang
Journal of Experimental Medicine Jun 2012, 209 (6) 1121-1134; DOI: 10.1084/jem.20120242

[5] Malfait AM, Gallily R, Sumariwalla PF, et al. The nonpsychoactive cannabis constituent cannabidiol is an oral anti-arthritic therapeutic in murine collagen-induced arthritis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2000;97(17):9561-9566.

[6] Evaluation of Serum Cytokines Levels and the Role of Cannabidiol Treatment in Animal Model of Asthma
Francieli Vuolo, Fabricia Petronilho, Beatriz Sonai, Cristiane Ritter, Jaime E. C. Hallak, Antonio Waldo Zuardi, José A. Crippa, Felipe Dal-Pizzol
Mediators Inflamm. 2015; 2015: 538670. Published online 2015 May 25. doi: 10.1155/2015/538670

[7] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (May 2011). “Vital signs: asthma prevalence, disease characteristics, and self-management education: United States, 2001–2009“. MMWR Morb. Mortal. Wkly. Rep. 60 (17): 547–52. PMID 21544044

[8] Evaluation of Serum Cytokines Levels and the Role of Cannabidiol Treatment in Animal Model of Asthma
Francieli Vuolo, Fabricia Petronilho, Beatriz Sonai, Cristiane Ritter, Jaime E. C. Hallak, Antonio Waldo Zuardi, José A. Crippa, Felipe Dal-Pizzol
Mediators Inflamm. 2015; 2015: 538670. Published online 2015 May 25. doi: 10.1155/2015/538670

[9] Effects of medical marijuana on migraine headache frequency in an adult population
Danielle N. Rhyne1, Sarah L. Anderson, Margaret Gedde, Laura M. Borgelt
Pharmacotherapy, 36: 505–510. doi: 10.1002/phar.1673

[10] Phyto-, endo- and synthetic cannabinoids: promising chemotherapeutic agents in the treatment of breast and prostate carcinomas
A. I. Fraguas-Sánchez, A. Fernández-Carballido & A. I. Torres-Suárez
Expert Opinion on Investigational Drugs Vol. 25 , Iss. 11,2016

[11] Cannabidiol rather than Cannabis sativa extracts inhibit cell growth and induce apoptosis in cervical cancer cells
Sindiswa T. Lukhele, Lesetja R. Motadi
MC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2016;16(1):335. doi:10.1186/s12906-016-1280-0.

[12] Cannabidiol exerts sebostatic and antiinflammatory effects on human sebocytes
Attila Oláh, Balázs I. Tóth, István Borbíró, Koji Sugawara, Attila G. Szöllõsi, Gabriella Czifra, Balázs Pál, Lídia Ambrus, Jennifer Kloepper, Emanuela Camera, Matteo Ludovici, Mauro Picardo, Thomas Voets, Christos C. Zouboulis, Ralf Paus, Tamás Bíró
J Clin Invest. 2014 Sep 2; 124(9): 3713–3724. Published online 2014 Jul 25. doi: 10.1172/JCI64628

[13] Cannabidiol: A Promising Drug for Neurodegenerative Disorders?
Teresa Iuvone, Daniele De Filippis, Caterina Scuderi, Luca Steardo
CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics, 15: 65–75. doi:10.1111/j.1755-5949.2008.00065.x

* I am not a doctor, and this should not be considered medical advice.

** I am not a lawyer, and this should not be considered legal advice.

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