Heard about cannabidiol but find yourself asking, what is CBD? This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about the cannabis compound making headlines for its medical benefits and medicinal uses. This includes CBD benefits, how it works with the human body, where it comes from, and the different ways to take it.

What Is CBD? Cannabidiol, Explained.

What is CBD and can you benefit from it? CBD, which is short for cannabidiol, is a compound, also known as a cannabinoid, found in cannabis and hemp plants.

In other words, it’s a naturally-occurring element that can be extracted or distilled from both cannabis and hemp. However, all legal cannabidiol products today come from hemp as it is legal in all 50 states.

Hemp Production

A Hemp Compound

Though you might not be able to tell hemp and cannabis apart at first glance, they’re very different plants when it comes to their effects and the law. For starters, cannabis is still federally illegal whereas hemp is legal to farm across the United States.

From a legal perspective, hemp can contain no more than 0.3 percent THC. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the most common compound found in cannabis and the one primarily responsible for making you feel high.

This means that hemp cannot get you high. Instead, it has a long list of other applications, including fabric, construction materials, lotions and oils, paper, plastic and CBD.

It Won’t Get You High

CBD is the second most common compound found in cannabis, after THC. However, they produce vastly different effects. When it comes to CBD vs THC, the important thing to remember is that cannabidiol isn’t psychoactive, meaning that you can’t get high from it.

Not only is CBD a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, but some studies show that CBD can bind to the same receptors within the human body as THC. This can reduce the ‘high’ brought on by THC.

On top of that, all legal CBD oils on the market come from hemp, so you don’t have to worry about mistakenly ingesting THC.

CBD Benefits and Effects

What is CBD used for if it works differently than THC? Cannabidiol is surging in popularity because research and testimonials show that it has a long list of applications for day-to-day use and for treating specific health conditions.

These include pain management, assuaging anxiety and depression, coping with insomnia, treating seizures, protecting against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, and much more. This is thanks to its three main properties.


Cannabidiol can help preserve and repair the nervous system following damage caused by neurodegenerative diseases, strokes and brain injuries. Such diseases include Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Dementia and more.


CBD is also a powerful antioxidant. By definition, an antioxidant is a compound that prevents oxidation. This means tampering the production of free radicals, which cause cell damage and things like aging.


CBD benefits also include its anti-inflammatory properties. This makes it a powerful compound for people with multiple sclerosis and a useful skincare agent by reducing inflammation day-to-day.

Keep in mind that the FDA has yet to issue any official guidelines on dosage or how to take it. However, research shows it has a promising number of applications. Here’s what we know so far about the conditions cannabidiol can help assuage.

It's Commonly Used as a Treatment for Insomnia


Insomnia makes it challenging to fall asleep, remain asleep, or get back to sleep. Many people with insomnia resort to sleeping pills. However, they can often interfere with daily life by causing dizziness and drowsiness.

According to larger reviews, CBD can reduce sleep disorders without leading to daytime drowsiness. Here, it’s important to remember that cannabidiol and THC are very different compounds. By contrast, THC could potentially have a negative effect on REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, which is the deepest phase of sleep.

Epilepsy and Seizures

The most researched among CBD benefits is the potential to treat epilepsy. In fact, the first ever FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved cannabis medicine, Epidiolex, is a cannabidiol treatment for epilepsy.

Today, many common epilepsy treatments are addictive and only temporarily effective. At the same time, many people who suffer from epilepsy experience debilitating symptoms day and night. This can lead to developmental issues for children who struggle to stay in school, sleep through the night, and experience normal daily life.

A growing number of studies show that CBD benefits people with epilepsy. There have also been a few highly publicized cases, like that of Charlotte Figi, that brought cannabidiol and epilepsy to national attention.

What Is Cannabidiol (CBD)? A Guide to Its Benefits

Neurodegenerative Diseases

Among CBD benefits, the ability to prevent neurodegenerative diseases or slow their progression is another common reason why people take it. Some of the most common neurodegenerative diseases are:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Huntington’s Disease
  • Dementia


Acne is a common problem for adults and teens, and it can be notoriously hard to treat. More specifically, acne occurs when the skin’s sebaceous glands produce too much sebum, which is the oil that creates a waterproof layer on the skin.

Like other cells within the body, these glands have endocannabinoid receptors. This is the biological system affected by cannabinoids, which we’ll go into more later.

More specifically, CBD can lessen the production of sebum, which is what creates acne in the first place. And through its anti-inflammatory properties, it can lessen the redness that often comes with acne.

Assuaging Pain Naturally

Arthritis and Joint Pain

People who suffer from arthritis experience pain and stiffness in their joints. With rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system causes inflammation in the joints, which leads to swelling.

One study from 2016 found that topical CBD can relieve arthritic pain and inflammation without side effects.

Additionally, cannabidiol is commonly used as a treatment for athletic-related pain.


There are many reasons why people experience anxiety and depression. But overall, serotonin overactivity is a major contributing factor. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that serves many functions, including providing mood stability.

Typically, people who suffer from mood disorders are prescribed SSRIs, which stands for Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. These are designed to increase serotonin levels in the brain, which can reduce feelings of depression or anxiety.

However, SSRIs can have a host of negative side effects such as increasing suicidal thoughts, insomnia, and drowsiness.
For this reason, some people look for alternative treatments like cannabidiol. According to some research, CBD can affect serotonin levels similarly to anti-depressants.

What Is Cannabidiol (CBD)? A Guide to Its Benefits

Nicotine Withdrawal

What is CBD? For smokers, it could be the latest way to lessen the effects of nicotine withdrawal.

One study tracked 24 smokers over one week. Over the course of the study, the subjects were told to use a CBD inhaler when they wanted to smoke a cigarette. The other half were given placebo inhalers. The subjects who smoked CBD consumed 40 percent fewer cigarettes over that week than those who smoked the placebo.

One of the many forms of taking CBD is vaping. But unlike smoking cigarettes, vaping cannabidiol is non-addictive.

Blood Pressure

Approximately 1 in every 4 Americans dies from cardiovascular disease. This means that cardiovascular disease is the primary reason for death in the United States.

One of CBD’s most important properties is its ability to reduce blood pressure.

A study from 2017 uncovered that cannabidiol can decrease resting blood pressure and blood pressure in response to stress in healthy individuals.

The British Heart Foundation has also conducted research on cannabidiol for myocarditis, which is a condition in which the heart’s muscular tissue is inflamed. They found that CBD can significantly reduce the condition due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

One of the major contributors to heart disease is stress. Cannabidiol could also have a positive impact on cardiovascular health by decreasing anxiety.

Treating Nausea


For centuries, people have been using cannabis to combat nausea. It’s especially common for people to use cannabis in various forms to cope with nausea associated with chemotherapy and other medications.

This effect isn’t limited to psychoactive cannabis. Thanks to research we now know that this is due to CBD’s effect on serotonin, though THC is also a potent anti-nausea agent. Studies also show that CBDA, the unheated, raw form of CBD, is an even more effective medication against nausea.

Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. are types of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Generally, they lead to challenging symptoms like pain, diarrhea, nausea, and fatigue.

Using cannabis to treat IBD is well-documented. But research also shows that the endocannabinoid system plays an important role in IBD cases. Thanks to cannabidiol’s anti-inflammatory properties, it can have significant benefits for people with Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.

What Is Cannabidiol (CBD)? A Guide to Its Benefits

CBD for Pets

What is CBD? In addition to being helpful for humans, CBD oil for dogs and cats can also be beneficial. This is because dogs, cats and all animals have an endocannabinoid system, just like people.

It isn’t uncommon for dogs to suffer from seizures. Cannabidiol is an increasingly common treatment for controlling pet seizures, promoting cardiac health, and reducing pain and anxiety in animals.

Speak with a veterinarian to decide on the proper dose for your pet.

How Does Cannabidiol Work?

What is CBD and why does it have such a long list of health benefits? Cannabidiol can benefit humans thanks to the endocannabinoid system: an essential biological network made up of:

  • Enzymes
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Endocannabinoid receptors

In broad terms, the endocannabinoid system is supposed to help the body achieve homeostasis, meaning balance.

What Is Cannabidiol (CBD)? A Guide to Its Benefits

The Endocannabinoid System, Explained

Compared to other major systems within the body—circulatory, nervous, digestive—we know comparatively little about the endocannabinoid system.

In fact, the endocannabinoid system was only discovered during research on the effects of psychoactive cannabis. Scientists found an entirely new system in humans and animals that controls a long list of basic functions including:

  • Mood
  • Pain Sensation
  • Memory
  • Fertility

How CBD Works Within the Body

The human body contains endocannabinoids. These compounds are just like cannabinoids except that they’re naturally occurring in the human body. “Endo” means internal in Greek.

Endocannabinoids interact with the body’s endocannabinoid receptors, which occur on the surface of cells throughout the body. They help the cells respond to changing conditions, which maintains homeostasis.

It’s thanks to these receptors that the body can have such a powerful response to CBD and THC. In other words, this is how cannabidiol can function as an anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and neuroprotectant. Similarly, THC produces a high because of the way it interacts with the body’s receptors.

Chews Are A Common Method of Consumption

Different Ways to Take Cannabidiol

What is the best way to take CBD? A lot comes down to preference. How quickly you feel its effects and how long they last will also depend based on your method of ingestion.


CBD oil or tinctures are another common way to take cannabidiol. Hemp tinctures contain a diluted amount of cannabidiol made from steeping and heating in high-proof grain alcohol. With tinctures, it’s relatively easy for the human body to absorb the compound within it.

CBD Edibles

Edibles are one of the easiest ways to take cannabidiol because they can be so delicious. Just like edibles containing THC, anything can become an edible, such as CBD gummies.

CBD Lotions

Lotions and topicals more broadly are another popular way to take cannabidiol, especially for its soothing and anti-aging properties. These can come in the form of body lotions, creams, and more.

What Is CBD?

What is CBD? It’s an all-natural compound with a long list of benefits. Some people use it in part of their skincare routine. Others use it to treat more serious illnesses like epilepsy, or as preventative medicine for diseases like Alzheimer’s. But no matter which CBD product you choose, make sure that quality is your primary concern.