What's the Deal with CBD Oil?

Dr. Patrick Carroll, MD
Medically reviewed by Patrick Carroll, MD Written by Our Editorial Team Last updated 4/10/2020

With the recent passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, which effectively legalized industrial hemp and CBD nationwide with certain restrictions, we thought it was appropriate to talk about a question we get pretty often: what’s the big deal about CBD oil?

It’s kind of crazy to think just how far the world of cannabis has come in just the last couple decades. A tiny plant that, even 10 years ago, was still considered a gateway drug to substances like heroin and methamphetamines, is now on the brink of legalization across the U.S.

We’re putting it in the same joint papers, blunts, bongs and pipes we always have, but we’re also including it in our food and drink (There are entire cookbooks dedicated to cooking with cannabis), and we’re finding new ways to consume it every day. We’re priming an entire market with the best weed the world has ever seen, and we’re regulating and taxing it in ways we never have before.

But best of all, we’re not treating it like some juvenile party drug anymore. We’re not just using it to get stoned; we’re using it to treat and cure illnesses, soothe muscle and joint pain, promote healthy appetite, alleviate the side effects of conventional medical treatments, treat diseases and so much more. It seems the whole world is in the midst of a weed revolution.

Hell, some of us ain’t even getting high with the stuff anymore; we’re just using it for the health benefits.

Case in point? CBD oil.

What Is CBD Oil?

In a nutshell, CBD is what’s considered a cannabinoid. There are 0ver 100 different cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, and CBD — short for cannabidiol — is just one of them.

CBD is extracted from the leaves, stalk and stem of hemp plants, and bottled as an oil that gets sold on the open market. Unlike the other well-known cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD does not appear to have any psychoactive properties (which means it won’t get you stoned).

This is an important thing to remember. CBD oil won’t get you high.

What it will do, however, is work with your body’s in-house endocannabinoid system (ECS) to help regulate bodily functions such as sleep, immune system responses and pain management. Essentially, CBD oil works to help our bodies manage their most common — and even uncommon — stressers. It won’t get you high, but it will help activate your body’s ECS and allow it to work more effectively.

So, for instance, you might be prescribed a pure CBD oil to help ease epileptic seizures. Or, if you’re using CBD for anti-inflammatory purposes, you might need a different composition of CBD oil than for other uses such as easing the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

CBD may be an alternative  way to help with pain relief, anti-inflammation, anxiety, some symptoms of depression, relaxation, etc. But if you’re looking to get stoned, you should definitely stick to the “other” stuff.

What’s the Difference between THC and CBD?

This one is confusing for many people first learning about CBD, because when we think of cannabis, we generally think of THC. And it certainly doesn’t help that CBD and THC are both cannabinoids.

However, their functions in our body — and the effects they have on us — are completely different.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is one of the psychoactive components of the cannabis plant. It’s found in the flowers and buds of the cannabis plant (primarily in female plants, but male plants also contain smaller, less potent amounts). 

When these buds are ingested — by smoking, eating, etc. — they attach to and activate the cannabinoid receptors in a person’s brain. These cannabinoid receptors control areas that affect pleasure, memory, thought, bodily coordination and time perception. These effects on the cannabinoid receptors are what create the “high” feeling people who use cannabis experience.

Cannabidiol (CBD), however, is used for entirely different purposes and activates completely different neurotransmitters and cannabinoid receptors. Scientific studies have shown that CBD can be used effectively for the treatment of things like difficult to treat pains, anxiety, inflammation, depression and may even help alleviate things like menstrual cramps and migraines.

How does it work?

You can technically inhale CBD as a vapor and apply it directly to the skin, but the most popular method of ingesting it is as an oil, thanks to its easy fat solubility.

Once the CBD has entered your body, it eventually makes its way to your ECS, where it really begins to do its work.

Once it finds its way to your endocannabinoid receptors, CBD helps nudge them into higher gear. It can trigger things like your immune system response, your sleep functions, your appetite, decrease inflammation, etc.

How CBD gets to your ECS really all depends on how you go about ingesting it. There are sprays, liquids, edibles, tinctures, topical ointments and yes, smokeables. Different methods work more effectively than others, but the point is, once the CBD makes its way to your ECS, it goes right to work.

CBD Side Effects

Luckily, the risk factors in CBD oil are low. According to a World Health Organization report, “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential” and, “To date, there is no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”

However, that’s not to say it isn’t free of any side effects. Some CBD side effects include fatigue, irritability and nausea, and it can also cause an increase in the level of the drug Coumadin® — a blood thinner — in your body.

Additionally, it’s important to understand that CBD also isn’t yet FDA regulated in the U.S., which means there may be  a lot of snake oil salesmen out there. A popular scam is to sell people completely legal hemp oil labeled under CBD oil. Hemp oil — which is primarily pressed from the seeds of hemp plants — has useful benefits, but is probably not  as medicinally beneficial as real CBD oil.

Finally, because CBD oil is still a new product on the market, CBD oil dosage is still a tricky subject. There is a wide spectrum of CBD oils out there that can be used to treat different issues. 

Some oils are pure CBD, while others come mixed with different percentages of added THC. There are also a ton of different brands and different concentrations of CBD oil, and all of those things have to be considered alongside an individual’s body weight, chemistry and the condition they’re trying to treat.

But rest assured: While there are a few studies out there that discuss the possibility of a CBD overdose, instances appear to be few and far between, and don’t appear to be fatal. 

Where to Buy CBD Oil?

Perhaps one of the trickiest things about CBD oil is its availability. Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, industrial hemp is now technically legal across the entire United States.

However, just because the plants from which most CBD is extracted is legal doesn’t mean that CBD itself is. In fact, following the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, the FDA issued a statement reminding people that CBD is illegal to add to food or health products without the agency’s approval.

There are many states that have already legalized recreational and medical marijuana, and CBD oil is perfectly legal to purchase and possess in all of those states.

How you can purchase CBD oil really all depends on your state’s legislation. 

Want more advice from all the hims pros? Check out the blog. And you know what goes great with some CBD oil before bed? Our hims sleep gummies. *Cough cough* Just sayin'. 

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.