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CBD oil is rapidly gaining popularity and mainstream acceptance, as study after study shows how effective it is in providing relief for a wide variety of medical conditions.

It's beneficial for those suffering from conditions like pain and anxiety, and it's even been shown to provide benefit in addressing symptoms of long-term neurological disabilities.

It is, in short, some pretty miraculous stuff. It's getting more and more notice, but many people still don't know much about it.

anxiety word bubble with woman in the center "I want my mind to be clear again

CBD relieving anxiety. Image CC by 4.0, by Azzah, via Sketchport

Is it legal? Do you need a prescription for it? Where can you get your hands on some? How should someone take it? Stick with us and we'll demystify this marvelous compound a bit.

What's the Buzz About?

man smoking joint in las vegas

Man smoking spliff in Las Vegas relieving stress. Image CC by 4.0, by, via Wikimedia

The question a lot of people have on their minds first and foremost is: does it make you feel high? There's a short answer: no.

chemical structure of CBD on leaf background

Photo via Pixhere and Wikimedia, altered

CBD stands for cannabidiol (pronounced "canna-buh-dial"), and CBD is an extract of just one of the over four hundred different chemical compounds found in cannabis—most of which have no psychoactive component at all.

Almost all CBD is made from the hemp variety of Cannabis Sativa that contains very minute amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive component found in some strains of cannabis.

In fact, it's often marketed as "hemp oil" just to highlight that difference, and to ensure it doesn't conflict with certain laws some states still have regarding the use and sale of CBD substances—but we'll get to that.

So, no—CBD, made from the hemp plant commonly used for industrial purposes like rope making, does not have the capacity to make you feel dizzy, giddy, or "stoned." While this might disappoint some people, it makes CBD really fantastic for use as a medicinal compound, considering the almost complete lack of side effects.

But how is CBD extracted from hemp, and what exactly does that entail?

What It's Made From, and How

cannabis plants and leaves

Cannabis plants and leaves. Image via: Max Pixel

CBD is made from cannabis sativa—but not the kind a lot of people think of at first. The hemp plant, which (as we mentioned) is used primarily for industrial applications, is also a type of cannabis sativa, and it's from this low-THC plant that almost all CBD oil currently manufactured is made.

There are a couple of different ways that CBD is extracted from hemp, and each has its advantages. Let's take a look at those.

Alcohol extraction is the simplest and most common and involves soaking the raw plant matter in an alcohol solvent like ethanol (think: Everclear—it's the exact same stuff). The plant material steeps in the ethanol, like tea, and the alcohol gently extracts the CBD as it sits there.

Once enough time has elapsed to allow the alcohol to release the CBD and other cannabinoids from the plant material, the ethanol solution is then drawn off and allowed to evaporate completely.

As the alcohol evaporates, it leaves behind pure CBD oil. At this point, it's potent, powerful, and ready to be used for a variety of health and medicinal purposes.

Not Just Hot Air or Blowing Smoke

man blowing smoke with HOPE tattooed on his knuckles

Man blowing smoke Image via Verahelen

Another, less common, method of CBD extraction relies on a more complex and time-consuming system called CO2 extraction. Carbon dioxide is introduced into sealed chambers containing hemp plant material, heated, and put under pressure in a process very similar to how pressure cookers work.

As the CO2 (under pressure and heat) reacts with the plant matter, it is drawn off into separate chambers and separated into isolates—which are "pure" versions of either cannabidiol or other cannabinoid compounds that can be used separately for various purposes.

Once extracted in one of these two ways, the CBD is ready for use—but at this point, it is really strong. For this reason, it's almost always mixed with various other consumption-safe, food-grade oils to dilute it into different strengths or concentrations for different applications.

These different extraction methods have taken a long time to perfect—so how long has it been around?

Since the Forties?!

1940s pharmacy

1940s pharmacy image via Wikimedia

Yep. CBD has been around for a long while—in fact, since 1940. The first person to ever extract CBD from the cannabis sativa hemp plant was a Harvard chemist named Roger Adams.

Like many intrepid explorers, Adams wasn't even aware of what he'd done until well after the fact. He had extracted and isolated CBD by accident while doing other experimental work on cannabis, and it was a while before his discovery was even noticed.

roger adams in black and white

Roger Adams. Image via: wikimedia

When, years later, Adams and other scientists realized that this isolated compound was cannabidiol, they started looking into it and any possible benefits it might provide.

Siegfried Walter Loewe

Siegfried Walter Loewe. Image via: wikimedia

Another chemist named Walter Loewe began testing the substance on lab animals in 1946, and through his studies conclusively proved that CBD didn't cause any alteration in the mental state of its test subjects.

Meanwhile, a Bulgarian-Israeli organic chemist named Raphael Mechoulam was the first scientist to successfully identify the three-dimensional molecular structure of CBD, which enabled further study on how it would react to other molecules, and the true "discovery" of the compound is often credited to him.

Monkeying Around with CBD

monkey selfie on green background

Monkey selfie. Image via: Wikimedia

Research continued on the novel compound in the 1960s on different types of primates. These studies continued to show no ill side effects and no change in mental state.

Finally, in the early 1970s, the first example of cannabidiol oil was approved for use and released by an organization called the British Pharmacopoeia, which is similar to the UK's version of the US Food and Drug Administration.

This initial tincture was the first instance of broad-spectrum CBD and cannabinoid substance released for therapeutic use, and it was an important historical milestone in the medicinal use of cannabis.

A Brazilian Reasons to Use It

brazilian flag appearing to wave

"Brazil_flag" Image CC by 2.0, by gaby_bra, via 

Dr. Mechoulam (he's still around!) wasn't done with the substance just yet.

Dr. Mechoulam

Dr. Mechoulam. Image via: Wikimedia

In 1980, he made another breakthrough discovery when he conducted a double-blind study along with a team of scientists from Brazil's Sao Paulo Medicine Faculty of Santa Casa that analyzed the effect CBD had on sixteen different people—many of them children—that suffered from severe forms of epilepsy.

Through that study, which was one of the first big breakthroughs in the scientific study of medicinal cannabis use, Dr. Mechoulam and the team of Brazilian scientists showed that each test subject who was administered cannabidiol showed drastic improvements in the symptoms of their epileptic disorders, and with little to no adverse side effects.

So, while it might be a new craze in alternative medicine, this "miracle drug" is no fad—it's been around for ages.

And It's Totally Legal

smiling happy woman doing a thumbs up gesture

Thumbs up! CBD is totally legal! Image via: Max Pixel

Though it hasn't always been the case, CBD (as of this writing) is legal in all fifty states, provided it doesn't contain any of our old friend THC. The vast majority of CBD oil has no THC in it (or at least not in measurable quantities).

It's even legal to ship across state lines, which makes it easily available for purchase from manufacturers all over the country.

This is because CBD is almost always made from the hemp plant, which naturally has less than 0.3% THC within it. By the time CBD oil is extracted from hemp using the methods we described above, virtually all of that THC is gone, and any that remains is in such small quantities that it passes the few existing regulations, making it entirely legal.

Prior to passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, CBD could be considered illegal on the federal level and in some states, though it was never an enforcement priority for the US Drug Enforcement Agency. But there's no cause for worry at all, now—unless otherwise specified, CBD oil contains zero THC.

No High, No Joke

Let's take a look at that aspect of CBD. Unlike CBD, THC is the psychoactive component that other strains of the plant have in abundance—it is, in short, the stuff that makes people feel stoned or high.

The minuscule amount of THC present in the plant matter used to make CBD is already insufficient to have any noticeable sensory-altering effect, but the extraction process generally removes even these traces of THC, leaving it totally inert from a psychoactive standpoint, and totally safe to use.

If you're one of those people who has been intrigued by the medical use of cannabis but, for one reason or another, didn't want to experience the giddy sensations often associated with the plant, CBD is the right choice for you, as it's good for what ails you, but won't change your mental state in any drastic manner the way THC can.

If you're one of those people who has been intrigued by the medical use of cannabis but, for one reason or another, didn't want to experience the giddy sensations often associated with the plant, CBD is the right choice for you, as it's good for what ails you, but won't change your mental state in any drastic manner the way THC can.

How It Does What It Does

Your body has a naturally occurring, innate method of dealing with cannabinoids called the endocannabinoid system. This system helps regulate some very important functions in the body, including memory, the ability to sense and respond to pain, appetite, sleep, and even immune function.

Cannabinoids are naturally produced in the body all the time, and interact with this system to control and influence these functions (and no, they can't make you high, either). CBD oil effortlessly interacts with the body's natural endocannabinoid system.

health benefits of CBD listed on body

Just some of the benefits of CBD Image CC by 2.0, by, via Flickr

When you introduce CBD, you enhance the entire function of the endocannabinoid system, as CBD itself is a cannabinoid. You read that right: CBD oil is a substance that is remarkably close in chemical structure to a compound your body naturally produces.

This is why it provides such wonderful, all-natural, beneficial effects, and for so many different conditions: it mimics one of the ways the body heals itself.

The endocannabinoid system is made up of two specific types of cells, called CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors exist mostly in the brain, and bond more easily with compounds like THC, which is what causes the "high" when people ingest cannabis products that contain high amounts of the chemical.

CBD oil, on the other hand, reacts indirectly with both kinds of receptors—including the CB2 receptors, which are found all over the body. This is another key factor that allows CBD to deliver its beneficial properties without causing any mind-altering effect, and what makes it such great medicine.

So What's It Good For?

cannabis oil in shape of heart around a nug with dropper on white plate

Cannabis is good for the health. Image CC by 3.0, by Sherpa SEO, via Wikimedia

Almost everything, no kidding. CBD has been shown to provide benefits to those suffering from many different ailments. It aids in the treatment of stress, anxiety, depression, pain, and inflammation.

On the more serious side, it's been shown to have a direct benefit in the treatment of neurological disorders like epilepsy, PTSD, Tourette's Syndrome, and even schizophrenia. Wow, right?

As if all that weren't enough, it's also a natural source of essential fatty acids, Omega-3 oils, and certain vitamins that are critical for proper cell function.

It can even be used as a topical or massage oil to promote good skin health by reducing acne and the bacteria that causes acne, and by restoring the skin's natural elasticity.

Rub It In

therapist doing an oil massage

Rubbing in CBD oil can help. Image via whitesession

CBD oil is increasingly being used as a topical ointment or in conjunction with massage oils. When CBD is used in a massage, its interactions with your natural endocannabinoid system can cause a number of greatly beneficial effects.

A massage with CBD oil can greatly reduce inflammation in joints and muscles, which is often directly linked with acute pain.

By applying CBD infused massage oil to problem areas, the cannabinoid's natural anti-inflammatory properties can begin to immediately reduce inflammation and remove pain and discomfort caused by sore or inflamed tissues.

Don't Get Swole, Get Whole

medical marijuana on a plate

Medical cannabis with a leaf. CBD is not like whole herb. Image via Max Pixel

Inflammation results when the body detects what it perceives as a threat, whether it's an injury, infection, a defect in posture, or the effect of some other underlying condition.

Physical trauma like a sprain or strained muscle, strenuous activity, and even the presence of a long-term illness or disease can contribute to inflammation.

Here is a short video on inflammation, and some dietary ways to help with it: 

CBD oil can help reduce that inflammation because of its ability to indirectly interact with the CB1 and CB2 receptors, which can help it reduce swelling and all the complications that come with it.

Reducing inflammation is often the first step in making every ailment better—which is why doctors frequently prescribe anti-inflammatories for everything from the common cold on up to more serious ailments.

Get Granted Immunity

hand stopping germs in a space like area

Protect yourself from invading germs and viruses! Image via Pixabay

CBD oil has an especially significant impact on the CB2 receptors that affect the immune system, and the first type of immune response to any perceived threat is generally inflammation. This is what causes sore throats, swollen glands, and that stuffed up feeling you get when you have a cold.

CBD oil, working with the CB2 receptors, significantly impacts your body's natural immune system in greatly beneficial ways. Not only does it reduce inflammation, discomfort, and pain, it allows your immune system to focus on what it's there to do: keep you healthy.

And this is true whether you take it internally or rub it into the skin—those CB2 receptors we keep mentioning are all over the body, so there are as many ways to use CBD as there are uses for CBD.

chart showing ways to use cbd

Using cbd in different ways.

Chronic Benefits

What about chronic pain that is the result of muscle overuse, an injury that may not have healed completely or correctly, lower backache, or other pain suffered as a result of a medical disorder?

There's more good news here. CBD can do wonders in clearing up or alleviating some of the long-term pain experienced by people suffering from some of these conditions.

Studies have even shown that high doses of CBD, while having no toxic side effects, can inhibit or halt the growth of cancer cells.

There's more good news here. CBD can do wonders in clearing up or alleviating some of the long-term pain experienced by people suffering from some of these conditions.

Studies have even shown that high doses of CBD, while having no toxic side effects, can inhibit or halt the growth of cancer cells.

Whoa, what? That's right—it may not be proven to cure cancer (yet), but it can stop certain cancers in their tracks and can even be used to treat leukemia and similar diseases.

Pretty amazing stuff!

Great for Your Brain

brain shown stylized with blue lines coming out of it

Stylized brain. Image CC by 2.0, by Media News, via Flickr

We've mentioned a few of the neurological benefits of CBD oil, but let's take a minute to go into them in more depth.

CBD has been shown to have neuroprotective effects, which means it protects neurons in the brain from degeneration, which can guard against dementia, Alzheimer's, and other neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Huntington Disease.

CBD and Serotonin

CBD even interacts with your serotonin system, which is another amazing effect of this incredible compound.

Our serotonin system regulates the release of hormones like cortisol—which in turn regulates metabolism and stress reactions—and oxytocin, which positively affects social behavior and bonding.

Serotonin also affects your mood (it makes you happier), cognition (makes you more alert and aware), metabolism, and appetite.

It's through specific action on some serotonin receptors that CBD manages to block neuropathic pain (or pain that originates in the brain and central nervous system), anxiety, depression, helps with schizophrenia symptoms, and blocks nausea caused by things like pregnancy and even chemotherapy.

Better Than Aspirin and Xanax

different kinds of pills

different type of pills. Image via: Pixabay

CBD oil has been proven in studies to suppress pain, having an analgesic effect by blocking certain pain receptors in the brain. Because of this, scientists who have researched the substance suggest that it's useful not just for acute, short-term pain like headaches or sprains, but for the treatment of any chronic pain condition—because it stops pain signals right in the brain.

And anxiety? Forget it. CBD has been shown to markedly reduce symptoms of anxiety in those who suffer from Social Anxiety and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

anxiety face drawn on a card board

Anxiety can be a lot of things. Image via: Max Pixel

In one study, it was shown to reduce anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort in subjects who were treated with CBD oil.

It doesn't stop there. Studies have even shown that its unique action on the CB1 receptors in the brain is how it provides direct benefits to people afflicted with neurological disorders like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Bipolar, and more extreme conditions like psychosis.

Paging Doctor CBD

doctor holding two thumbs up

Doctor holding two thumbs up. Image via: PublicDomainPictures

Many people wonder if they need a prescription to get CBD, and here's where it gets a little tricky. In most places you won't—you can even buy "hemp oil," which contains CBD, at online retailers like Amazon, but it's such a recent trend that the legal landscape is continually evolving.

Some states have laws which compound regular, THC-free CBD with some oils that might contain THC, and in those states, you may need a prescription. The laws just haven't quite caught up with CBD yet, but this is changing all the time.

In the meantime, when all else fails, you can go online—it's readily available there from a variety of sources.

But Is It Safe?

Cannabis leaf backlit on bright clouded sky

Is marijuana or Cannabis safe? Image CC by 2.0, by Satish Krishnamurthy, via Flickr

It's very safe—it may, in fact, be one of the safest chemicals you can ingest. Like anything, you can overdo it, but even at very high levels, CBD oil has minimal (and generally safe) side effects.

Some of these side effects include dry mouth (familiar to anyone who's ingested CBD's cousin compound, THC), the possibility of lowered blood pressure (which is also one of its beneficial effects, so this one's sort of fifty-fifty), and very high doses can cause some dizziness or lightheadedness.

And while it's good for the majority of neurological conditions—including peripheral neuropathy and nerve pain or sciatica caused by conditions like stenosis (or a narrowing of the spinal column)—it does have some slight side effects in those suffering from Parkinson's Disease, as it may increase the tremors they experience.

It's also been shown to be beneficial to many other symptoms of Parkinson's Disease, however, like mood, appetite, back and lower leg pain brought on by the disease, and (as in other neurological conditions) has been shown to be mostly advantageous, so this one's a bit of a toss-up.

As with any medical compound, it's best to start slow and see how it affects you, but it is less dangerous than aspirin and (like medical cannabis) virtually impossible to overdose on.

In fact, we mention these side effects only for the sake of completion and complete transparency—the vast majority of people who use CBD will never experience a negative side effect.

Some CBD side effects include: Dry mouth, light-headedness, and drowsiness. Some people may experience a slight drop in blood pressure, and in very high doses, some people experience nausea. For some patients, tremors from Parkinson's may increase.

The Last Word on CBD Oil

Cannabidiol is only one of over a hundred different cannabinoids found in cannabis, and as we mentioned earlier, only one of over four hundred separate chemical compounds.

It isn't currently regulated on the federal level, but some states do have (mostly unenforced) laws in place that do regulate its sale or consumption.

CBD is here to stay. Projected retail sales of CBD products are expected to be as high (no pun intended) as $1.9 billion by 2020, and CBD oil products can currently be purchased online, over the counter, and at dispensaries nationwide.

seeds and leaves of the Cannabis plant

Seeds and leaves of the cannabis plant Image via Pixhere

In fact, the FDA recently approved a medication called Epidiolex—which is basically CBD oil—as a treatment for certain types of pediatric epilepsy (which should give you some idea of the compound's safety).

As we've detailed above, it has shown wide-ranging benefit in almost every application in which it has been studied, and with more studies and uses being found all the time, it is an extremely safe bet that not only is CBD here to stay—its use will continue to increase as more medicinal properties and advantages are discovered all the time.

If you haven't tried it yet … what are you waiting for? It's great for you, and everyone can benefit from one of mother nature's greatest gifts: CBD oil.

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