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CBD (Cannabidiol): What Is CBD, Benefits & Side Effects

CBD is among the most popular search trends on the internet today. Enjoyed for its non-psychoactive properties and a point of interest in many studies, cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound found in Cannabis sativa plants.

With the rising interest in products that contain CBD, many seek clarity on what it is and what it can do. This guide will provide a comprehensive overview of CBD, its properties, and how people use it.

A Brief History of Hemp

The hemp used to make CBD products sold in the UK comes from the Cannabis sativa L. plant (hemp). This species of cannabis is known to contain over 100 different cannabinoids, with CBD being the most abundant.

The history of hemp cultivation goes back thousands of years. Hemp was one of the first crops domesticated by humans and has been used for a wide variety of purposes throughout history.

In ancient China, hemp was used for medicinal purposes and was also a key component in producing paper, textiles, and rope. Hemp also has a long history in Europe and the Americas, where it was used for a variety of purposes, including food, fuel, and fabric.

In recent years there has been a resurgence in hemp cultivation and production as more people learn about the plant’s incredible versatility – especially in its ability to be used to produce CBD oil.

What is CBD oil?

The cannabinoid CBD refers to a chemical compound extracted from hemp plants to create CBD oil. Its chemical structure is similar to other cannabinoids, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound in marijuana. However, CBD does not produce the same psychoactive effects as THC.

To make absorption into the body easier, CBD extracts are blended with one or more carrier oils, such as coconut oil, MCT oil or hemp seed oil. This makes it easier for your body to absorb CBD.

CBD oil can be taken orally, applied topically, consumed in food and drink, or inhaled through vaping. It is also available in a variety of products, including CBD gummies, CBD capsules, and CBD creams.

CBD is sold in three forms: isolate, broad-spectrum, and full-spectrum. CBD isolate is a pure form of CBD that does not contain any other cannabinoids or compounds from the cannabis plant. Broad-spectrum products contain all of the cannabinoids except for THC. Full-spectrum CBD contains all of the cannabinoids, including THC (in very small amounts).

Why Do People Take CBD?

The choice to use CBD as part of a wellness routine is personal. Many people use it as a food supplement to support their overall health and wellbeing. CBD products are formulated with essential oils and other ingredients that can offer a host of purported wellness benefits.

Under special circumstances, others have more specific reasons for taking CBD or medicinal cannabis products. For example, in the United Kingdom, those with multiple sclerosis (MS) can legally access Sativex, a mouth spray containing CBD and THC. This medication is used to relieve muscle stiffness, spasticity, and pain in MS sufferers. 

And in the United States, those with certain seizure disorders can take an FDA-approved CBD-based medication called Epidiolex to manage severe forms of epilepsy like Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome.

Ultimately most choose to take CBD as a general health and wellness supplement.

How Does CBD Work?

When CBD oil is consumed, it and its included terpenes and flavonoids interact with CB2 cannabinoid receptors all over the body. The binding of hemp plant compounds to these receptors is what some studies are investigating in order to understand how the endocannabinoid system (ECS) works.

The ECS is a network of receptors and chemicals that helps maintain body balance. It regulates a variety of internal processes, including mood, sleep, appetite, immunity, and fertility.

CBD is thought to primarily interact with CB2, 5HT1A, and a variety of other calcium channels and ion channels. The binding of CBD and other cannabinoids to these receptors is believed to produce the entourage effect.

The entourage effect is the purported synergetic benefit of taking CBD with other cannabinoids and compounds from the cannabis plant. So, by consuming CBD, people hope to stimulate internal systems that maintain balance within the body and create a better overall sense of wellbeing.

How is CBD Oil Made?

CBD oil is made using advanced and complicated laboratory extraction methods. While manufacturing practices vary across brands, the general process for creating high-quality CBD oils is similar.

Hemp plants are first harvested and then dried. The dried plant material is then sent to a facility where it is broken down to facilitate the CBD extraction process better.

Next, the hemp plants undergo CO2 or other solvent-based extraction. This process pulls the CBD from the plant material and creates a concentrated oil. After the extraction method, the CBD is heated to evaporate residual solvents.

Once the CBD is extracted, a few different things can happen. For some brands, the CBD extract is then added to a carrier oil, such as hemp seed oil or coconut oil. This makes it easier for your body to absorb CBD.

For other brands, the CBD extract is further refined to remove any traces of THC. This produces broad-spectrum CBD oil, which does not contain THC. In many cases, advanced filtration and winterization methods are used to remove all plant material, waxes, cannabinoids, and other hemp compounds to create a 99.9% pure CBD isolate.

Is One Type of CBD Better Than Another?

With the need for convenience in today’s fast-paced society, CBD oil has been infused into a variety of products including tinctures, topicals, gummies, vape pens, and more. Which one you may prefer for your wellness needs varies depending on your lifestyle and what you are looking for in a CBD product.

For instance, some people prefer the convenience of tinctures, which can be easily added to your favourite beverage or food. CBD oil tinctures are also relatively fast-acting (within 15-30 mins), as the CBD is absorbed directly into your bloodstream when it is held under your tongue. Sold in 10-30mL bottles, tinctures allow you to easily customize your dosage by drops.

CBD edibles in the form of gummies, chocolates, and other candies are an excellent option for those who want to take CBD in a tasty way. These products provide discrete and easy dosing, as each edible generally contains a set amount of CBD. Edibles can take longer to kick in, as your stomach must first digest them. However, the length of time they stay in your system is much longer than other methods like tinctures or vape pens.

CBD capsules offer the same convenient and accurate dosing as edibles, but without the taste. CBD hemp oil can have an earthy flavour that some people find unpleasant. Capsules are a great option for those who want to see if CBD oil benefits their wellness needs without the hempy taste.

CBD topicals are made in the form of lotions, creams, salves, and balms. Many of these products contain ingredients that can improve your skin health, such as shea butter, vitamin E, and coconut oil. CBD topicals are applied directly to the skin in the form of a lotion or cream and are absorbed through the skin’s pores. These products are chosen by those that want to put CBD on specific areas of their body rather than wait for it to be absorbed systemically.

CBD vape pens provide an easy and convenient way to get your daily dose of CBD. These devices come prefilled with CBD vape juice or oil and can be used just like a traditional e-cigarette. Most use CBD vape pens for general wellness support on an as-needed basis.

What Are Terpenes?

Terpenes are aromatic compounds that are found in a variety of plants, including hemp. Each hemp strain contains its own unique blend of terpenes that contribute to the flavour, smell, and effects of the plant. 

Hundreds of terpenes have been identified, each with its own individual traits for plant and human consumption. The most commonly included terpenes in CBD products include:

  • Myrcene: Myrcene is a musky, earthy terpene that is also found in thyme, hops, and lemongrass. It is one of the most abundant terpenes in cannabis and hemp plants, and current studies are assessing whether it adds value to CBD oil products as a sedative.
  • Limonene: Limonene is a citrusy terpene that is also found in lemons, oranges, and limes. The citrusy smell of limonene is often used as a scent in cleaning products and cosmetics.
  • Linalool: Linalool is a floral terpene that is also found in lavender. Lavender is widely used across the globe as a natural means of relaxation. CBD products that contain linalool are often compared to the properties and effects of lavender oil.
  • Pinene: Pinene is a woody, pine-scented terpene that is also found in sage and rosemary. Several ongoing clinical trials are examining what, if any, efficacy it has as an anti-inflammatory, pain reliever, anti-microbial, and bronchodilator.
  • Caryophyllene: Caryophyllene is a peppery, spicy terpene that is also found in black pepper and cloves. This terpene binds to the CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system. In health and wellness circles, pepper and spices are well known for their anti-inflammatory properties.

What Are Flavonoids?

Flavonoids are a type of phytonutrient that is found in plants. In addition to giving plants their vibrant colours, flavonoids are also known for their antioxidant properties. Some of the most common flavonoids found in hemp and cannabis plants include:

  • Beta-Sitosterol: Beta-sitosterol is a type of plant sterol that is also found in avocados, nuts, and seeds. Plant sterols are known for lowering cholesterol levels in the body.
  • Quercetin: Quercetin is a flavonoid also found in green tea, red wine, and onions. This flavonoid is known for its antioxidant properties.
  • Catechins: Catechins are a type of flavonoid that is also found in green tea. They are known for their ability to scavenge free radicals and protect cells from damage.

What Are Cannabinoids?

One of the most common questions that come up when trying to understand what CBD is, revolves around what cannabinoids really are. Essentially, cannabinoids are a group of natural chemical compounds that are or are similar to those found in cannabis plants.

Both CBD and THC are considered cannabinoids, but they aren’t the only ones produced by plants or by the human body.


Phytocannabinoid comes from “Phyto”, meaning “plant,” and cannabinoid. These are the cannabinoids that come from plants. The two best-known and studied phytocannabinoids are CBD and THC. Other popular, naturally occurring phytocannabinoids in the hemp plant that are often included in full and broad-spectrum CBD formulas include:

  • CBG
  • CBC
  • CBDa
  • CBGa


While phytocannabinoids come from plants, endocannabinoids come from within the human body. Endocannabinoids are lipids that bind to cannabinoid receptors. These receptors help to regulate various crucial functions, including pain, mood, appetite, memory, and inflammation. The two most common endocannabinoids are anandamide (AEA) and 2-AG.

In the body, anandamide works to regulate pain, appetite, fertility, and memory. 2-AG is responsible for regulating immune response, inflammation, and energy balance.

What are the Side Effects of CBD Products?

Just because CBD has no psychoactive properties doesn’t mean it isn’t without some side effects, especially if overdosing CBD. However, it’s important to note that side effects may or may not occur when taking CBD, depending on individual factors related to the amount of CBD you’ve taken, your unique biome, and other medications you may be taking.

Some of the most commonly reported side effects of CBD products include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Slight fatigue/drowsiness
  • Skin irritation (common with CBD topicals using artificial ingredients)

Even with the occurrence of these side effects of CBD, it is important to remember that they are non-life-threatening and will often go away on their own after a few days or weeks of use.

If you experience any side effects while taking CBD that are severe or do not subside after a short period of time, discontinue use and consult with a doctor or healthcare provider. In some cases, adjusting your dosage, changing the time of day you take CBD, or switching to a different type of product may also be necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I use CBD while breastfeeding?

Like any wellness, food, or dietary supplement, it is not recommended to consume CBD while breastfeeding. Limited research on the subject is available, so it is best to err on the side of caution and avoid consuming CBD products until you have stopped breastfeeding.

2. Does CBD show up on a drug test?

CBD will not appear on a typical drug test for marijuana, as most drug tests look for THC and THC metabolites. However, if you are taking a large amount of CBD or using a CBD product that contains trace amounts of THC, it is possible that you could test positive for marijuana on a more sensitive drug test.

3. Is CBD good for pain management?

Many people often want to know if they can use CBD to manage neuropathic pain, back pain, inflammation or arthritic pain. Whether or not CBD can help manage pain or has any specific health benefits is nothing that has been proven scientifically. Not everyone responds the same way to CBD, so some people may not notice any benefits of CBD consumption, while others may love how it makes them feel.

4. Can I treat mental and neurodivergent conditions like anxiety disorders, depression, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease with CBD?

Medical advice related to CBD efficacy for treating mental and neurodivergent conditions is very limited and at this time, CBD should not be taken to treat any specific condition. Ongoing clinical studies are currently examining what, if any, benefits CBD may have on managing various mental health conditions.

5. Is taking CBD better than taking opioids?

Opioids and CBD are two entirely different types of substances. Opioids are addictive, psychoactive prescription medicines used to manage intense acute or chronic pain by binding to opioid receptors in the brain. On the other hand, all current evidence suggests that CBD is non-habit forming and does not interact with opioid receptors in the brain. There is, however, no absolute proof of CBD’s effectiveness at treating any given condition.

6. Can I take CBD if I use antidepressants or antipsychotics?

It is best to speak with your doctor or healthcare provider before using CBD if you are currently taking antidepressants or antipsychotics, as there is a potential for increased side effects. Additionally, some medications affect liver enzyme production needed to process CBD oil, so talking to your doctor first can help avoid any possible efficacy issues.

Understand CBD to Buy The Best CBD Products

Regarded as a food supplement, CBD is taking the wellness industry by storm thanks to its chemical similarity to medical cannabis without the psychoactive properties of THC. By understanding what CBD is, how it works, and what makes a quality CBD product, you’ll be able to make more informed purchasing decisions when it comes to incorporating CBD into your wellness routine.


1. Therapeutic Potential of Α- And β-Pinene: A Miracle Gift of Nature,

2. Phytocannabinoids,

3. Cannabinoid Interactions With Ion Channels and Receptors,,and%20serotonin%20and%20glycine%20receptors

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