- Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabinoid sourced from hemp plants. The cannabinoid comes from resins found in the plant’s flowers, leaves, and stems.
- There are various methods to extract CBD and different cannabinoids from raw hemp. Most CBD brands use solvent-based extraction methods or the Supercritical Fluid Extraction (SFE) process.
- Hemp plants are grown as a source of CBD, food, cosmetics, and fiber in building materials. Meanwhile, marijuana plants are grown for their relaxing and psychoactive properties.
- Studies stated that CBD helped treat chronic pain in adults and anxiety-related disorders(1-2).
Where Does CBD Come From?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabinoid, or a naturally occurring chemical compound, mostly derived from hemp plants, a cannabis plant. Cannabis has two main classifications: Cannabis indica plants and Cannabis sativa plants.
Hemp belongs to the Cannabis sativa species, while marijuana may come from both Cannabis sativa plants and indica plants.
Because the two share certain traits, hemp and marijuana are often confused for being the same plants. However, the two cannabis plants are different from each other, most notably in the CBD they possess.
CBD is made from a concentrated extract from the hemp plant, specifically from a thick substance in the plant’s glandular trichomes (tiny, hair-like formations in the hemp flower).
The thick substance in the trichomes, called resin, may also be found in the plant’s stems and leaves. However, the stems and leaves of the cannabis plant contain only a small amount of resin.
Aside from CBD, other non-psychoactive cannabinoids isolated from hemp include cannabichromene (CBC) and cannabigerol (CBG).
Flavonoids and terpenes are also other chemical substances that come from hemp. The former gives cannabis flowers their distinct color while the latter gives cannabis flowers their distinct smell.
How Is CBD Made?
To make CBD, CBD farmers grow female cannabis plants. Farmers cull male plants because, after pollination, most of the plants’ energy goes into producing seeds.
Once the plants reach maximum cannabinoid potency, the hemp plants are harvested, dried, and then put through an extraction process to separate the essential oils from solid plant matter.
CBD brands use various extraction methods to pull CBD from industrial hemp plants.
One of the extraction methods used by the brands is solvent-based extraction methods. During a solvent-based extraction method, manufacturers use solvents, such as butane, propane, and ethanol, to extract cannabinoids from the plant.
Another extraction method is the supercritical fluid extraction (SFE) process, which uses carbon dioxide (CO2) to extract CBD.
During the SFE process, manufacturers use an extraction machine to freeze and compress CO2 until it reaches a supercritical cold liquid state. The hemp oil then passes through the plant material, taking the cannabinoids and terpenes with it.
Initial extraction produces raw hemp extract, a very thick, black, and bitter oil.
After initial extraction, the raw hemp extract goes through a series of filtration and distillation processes to make it more palatable. The filtration and distillation processes also remove unwanted active ingredients and chemical compounds, including remaining solids, waxes, and chlorophyll.
After the extract is filtered and distilled, the remaining extract is what brands use as CBD oil. Most brands mix the oil with carrier oils, such as coconut oil, hempseed oil, or emu oil.
Hemp, CBD, and Marijuana
What Is Hemp?
Hemp is a variety of cannabis plants harvested commercially for its seeds, stalks, and flowers. A hemp plant may grow up to 13ft in height, making it challenging to grow in indoor settings.
Hemp farmers offer hemp seeds to food and cosmetics industries, while hemp stalks may be used for building materials and clothing. Meanwhile, farmers grow hemp flowers as a source of CBD.
A 2018 research concluded that the use of hemp-derived CBD was safe and effective in improving patients’ treatment-resistant epilepsy(3).
Industrial hemp cultivation was legalized in 2018 when former President Donald Trump signed the Farm Bill, which excluded hemp from the Controlled Substances Act.
The legislation defines hemp as cannabis and derivatives of cannabis with less than 0.30% of the psychoactive compound, THC.
What Is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabinoid present in cannabis trichomes, which are typically found in female cannabis plants. CBD is non-psychoactive and is derived from the hemp variety of cannabis.
It has gained popularity over the years after medical researchers discovered its therapeutic benefits. According to a 2018 study, CBD had potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects(4).
CBD is usually sourced from the indica strain of the cannabis plant. However, small traces of CBD are also present in the sativa strain of cannabis.
Most brands mix CBD with tincture carrier oils to create their CBD oil products. Some brands use hempseed oil while others use medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil.
Aside from CBD oils, CBD’s other forms include gummies, topicals, teas, vape juice, or capsules.
The following, which are prevalently sold on the market, are the three types of CBD:
Full-spectrum CBD possesses the full chemical profile of the raw plant material. Products with full-spectrum CBD contain various cannabinoids, including CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive component of cannabis.
However, there are only trace amounts of THC in full-spectrum CBD. Other compounds retained from the cannabis plant are terpenes, flavonoids, fatty acids, and other plant material.
Most CBD users buy whole-plant or full-spectrum CBD products for the “entourage effect,” a mechanism by which cannabis compounds work synergistically with each other and with other hemp components for better results.
Broad-spectrum CBD, much like full-spectrum CBD, consists of a wide array of compounds from hemp plants. The main difference is that THC is removed from the oil entirely.
CBD isolate or pure CBD contains only one phytocannabinoid: CBD. All other compounds from the plant are removed from the oil.
What Is Marijuana?
Harvested for its relaxing and psychoactive properties, marijuana is a cannabis plant that may contain up to 30% of THC per dry weight. However, advanced research in cannabis breeding indicated that some plant varieties may contain higher levels of THC(5).
The term marijuana refers to the resinous flower clusters of strains of cannabis that are specially harvested to produce intoxicating or psychoactive effects.
While THC is present throughout all of the aerial parts of a marijuana plant, it is most abundant in the flowers of female marijuana plants.
Unlike hemp, marijuana seeds and stalks are not used as a food source or in the textiles industry. Instead, the plant is harvested for its highly resinous flowers, which contain various cannabinoids.
Under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, the US federal government does not recognize any medical uses of marijuana as legal.
Although not federally legal, some states have begun passing legislation that legalizes the use of medical marijuana and recreational marijuana.
Hemp vs. Marijuana
People incorrectly refer to the cannabis plant in general as marijuana, which may cause confusion in some CBD customers. This belief is incorrect because a variety of products can be extracted from cannabis and not all of them are marijuana.
The term marijuana describes the flowers of female cannabis plants that are derived from strains high in cannabinoids, especially THC.
Meanwhile, the term hemp is used to describe the fibrous, seed-bearing plants that contain a high amount of CBD. Hemp plants are also known for producing copious seeds and fibers.
Although marijuana and hemp plants appear to be very similar, they have significant differences.
Hemp and marijuana are both cannabis derivatives. Most cannabinoids from marijuana and hemp are extracted from cannabis flowers.
However, unlike hemp, marijuana is listed in the Schedule I drugs of the Controlled Substance Act because of its high potential for abuse. This potential for abuse may be attributed to the plant’s psychoactive properties.
Meanwhile, hemp and hemp-derived products have been removed from the FDA’s list of controlled substances as long as they have less than 0.30% of THC content.
Misconceptions About CBD, Hemp, and Marijuana
People have several misconceptions when it comes to CBD, hemp, and marijuana.
One of the most common misconceptions is that hemp is the male version of marijuana
and that CBD may only be extracted from these male plants.
The statement above is inaccurate because hemp is not the ‘male’ version of cannabis. Just like any other cannabis strain, hemp may be male or female.
Additionally, hemp is also genetically different from marijuana because it contains very low THC. It also has a tough fibrous stalk and grows taller compared to marijuana.
Another misconception is that CBD might get users high and cause them to fail drug tests. As mentioned, CBD is not psychoactive.
Some CBD products possess trace amounts of THC, which are not enough to cause psychoactive experiences.
However, frequent CBD users are advised to visit their healthcare provider if they have to undergo a drug test. Frequent use of CBD to the point of ingesting detectable traces of THC may result in a failed drug test.
Another misconception is that CBD has to be smoked, which is inaccurate.
Benefits and Risks of Using CBD
Benefits of CBD
Over the years, there have been several studies published about the medicinal benefits of various cannabinoids, including CBD.
According to a recent study, CBD showed analgesic properties and helped treat chronic pain in adults(6). Another research concluded that CBD might help treat anxiety-related disorders(7).
A study conducted in 2012 also noted that CBD might also improve the state of patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)(8).
A different study published in 2016 found that CBD helped reduce pain and inflammation in patients with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis(9).
Studies also found that CBD may also help treat patients who have cancer. A study observed evidence showing that cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system (ECS) may play a crucial role in the cancer regulation processes(10).
ECS is a human biological system composed of endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids are neurotransmitters that interact with cannabinoid receptors, which are biological receptors present in the vertebrate central nervous system and peripheral nervous system.
Research also noted the health benefits of CBD in pets. In 2014, medical researchers concluded that CBD might help prevent seizures in animals(11).
Meanwhile, another study discussed more benefits of CBD for pets. According to the study, veterinarians stated that CBD helped in acute and chronic pain management and anxiety in pets(12).
Risks of CBD
Despite the health benefits of CBD, it is essential to note that using it may entail some risks, primarily since the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not regulated the use of CBD.
The following are the potential risks of CBD according to the FDA(13):
- Liver injury
- Interactions with other medications
- Gastrointestinal distress
- Loss of appetite
- Mood changes
- interactions with alcohol and other drugs
According to the FDA, several unknown factors make using CBD potentially harmful. The following questions on CBD have not yet been researched by the FDA(14):
- What are the effects of long-term CBD use?
- How much CBD is needed to trigger the known risks associated with it?
- Do different methods of consumption change the effect of CBD?
- How does CBD affect developing brain functions in kids?
- How does CBD affect developing fetuses or breastfed newborns?
- How does CBD interact with other plants?
- Is CBD toxic for the male reproductive system?
According to the FDA, future research may prove CBD’s efficacy in treating various illnesses and medical conditions. However, the department advises people not to depend on CBD as an alternative to proper medical care.
Legality of CBD
Under the 2018 Farm Bill, which determines the legal status of hemp in the US, all hemp-derived products are legal in the US at the federal level. The products should contain less than 0.30% of THC to be considered legal.
The legislation determines the regulations CBD companies have to follow to legally grow, manufacture, possess, and sell CBD hemp products. Under the legislation, the transportation of CBD products across state borders is also legal.
It is important to note that state laws supersede federal laws, so CBD users must read up on their state laws before purchasing CBD products.
In South Dakota and Hawaii, CBD products, regardless of the levels of THC they contain, are still illegal(15).
The 2018 Farm Bill does not cover Marijuana-derived CBD products. However, US state lawmakers have the right to draft their own legislation on the legality of marijuana and marijuana-derived products.
Below is the list of states where the medical and recreational use of marijuana is legal. Data is collected from a January 2020 report from the CBD Awareness Project, a research organization focused on disseminating information about CBD(16).
- Washington, DC
History of CBD Oil
Canadian physician William Osler, the “Father of Modern Medicine,” advocated the medical use of cannabis in the 1800s. Osler believed that cannabis was effective in treating headaches.
Roger Adams continued Osler’s advocacy for the medical use of cannabis in the 1900s. The American chemist discovered the first cannabinoid in cannabis, which he named cannabinol (CBN).
After Adams’ discovery, farmers began to breed plants for these cannabinoids. Breeding cannabis plants paved the way to the discovery of the plant’s health benefits.
In 1937, Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act, a legislation that regulated and taxed hemp production for industrial uses and medicinal purposes.
However, the use of hemp and marijuana was criminalized under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, halting research into the medicinal properties of cannabis for several years.
The research into the beneficial properties of hemp has continued recently after the 2018 Farm Bill‘s passage. President Donald Trump signed the bill into law in December 2018.
Under the legislation, lawmakers amended the definition of hemp, removing it from FDA’s list of controlled substances.
The law marked the legalization of hemp products with 0.30% of THC throughout the United States.
Medical researchers have picked up where past researchers have left off and have been actively studying CBD’s potential in the medical field.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is CBD Safe?
Although deemed by many as safe and effective, CBD has potential side effects. Side effects of CBD include reduced appetite, dry mouth, diarrhea, tiredness, and sleepiness(17).
The FDA also warns users that CBD products may also interact with other drugs in the human body.
CBD brands suggest that first-time users of CBD products should visit their physicians before taking CBD. This consultation is crucial, especially if CBD users take medications for severe medical conditions.
What Is the Endocannabinoid System?
The ECS was first discovered in 1988. ECS is a biological system composed of lipid-based retrograde neurotransmitters called endocannabinoids.
A 2013 research noted that cannabinoid receptors in the ECS were essential in treating chemotherapy’s adverse effects. The receptors also played a role in stimulating appetite in weakened patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)(18).
When and How Does One Use CBD?
There are various ways to consume CBD. Some of the most common methods include:
- Mixing CBD into meals or drinks
- Taking CBD with a measured dropper
- Ingesting CBD capsules
- Massaging CBD creams or balms into the skin
- Spraying it under the tongue
The recommended dosages vary depending on the individual and the product. Most CBD brands have recommended dosages for every product they offer.
Dosage also depends on several factors, such as body weight, the product’s CBD potency, the product’s CBD concentration, and the reason for product use.
Research suggested that CBD, a cannabinoid sourced from hemp plants, has potential medicinal benefits and therapeutic effects(19). The cannabinoid comes from resins found in the hemp plant’s flowers, leaves, and stems.
Most CBD brands extract CBD and other cannabinoids from raw hemp plants through solvent-based extraction methods or the SFE method.
To avoid confusion between hemp and marijuana, remember that cannabis plants with less than 0.30% of THC are classified as hemp.
Under the 2018 Farm Bill, all hemp-derived CBD products are legal in the US at the federal level. The law requires the product to contain less than 0.30% of THC to be considered legal.
As of November 2020, CBD products are still illegal in South Dakota and Hawaii(20).
Although the 2018 Farm Bill does not cover marijuana-derived products, lawmakers have the right to draft their state’s own legislation on the legality of marijuana products.
- Shannon, S., Lewis, N., Lee, H., & Hughes, S. (2019). Cannabidiol in anxiety and sleep: a large case series. The Permanente Journal, 23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6326553/
- Vučković, S., Srebro, D., Vučetić, Č., & Prostran, M. (2018). Cannabinoids and Pain: New Insights From Old Molecules. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 9: 1259. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6277878/
- Pamplona, F., Silva, L., & Coan, A.l (2018). Potential Clinical Benefits of CBD-Rich Cannabis Extracts Over Purified CBD in Treatment-Resistant Epilepsy: Observational Data Meta-analysis. Frontiers in Neurology, 9: 759. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6143706/
- Kogan, M. & Mechoulam, R. (2018). Cannabinoids in health and disease. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 412-430. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3202504/
- Federation of American Scientists. Defining Hemp: A Fact Sheet. Retrieved from https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R44742.pdf
- Shannon, S., et al. op cit.
- Vučković, S., et al. op cit.
- Schier, A., Ribeiro, N., Silva, A., Hallak, J., Crippa, J., Nardi, A., & Zuardi, A. (2012). Cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent, as an anxiolytic drug. Brazillian Journal of Psychiatry, 104-110. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22729452/
- Hammell, D., Zhang, L., Abshire, S., McIlwrath, S., Stinchcomb, A., & Westlund, K. (2016). Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis. European Journal of Pain, 936-948. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4851925/
- Rocha, F., Dos Santos, Jr., J., Stefano, S., & Silveira, D. (2014). Systematic review of the literature on clinical and experimental trials on the antitumor effects of cannabinoids in gliomas. Journal of Neuro-Oncology, 116(1):11-24. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24142199/
- Kogan, R., Schoenfeld-Tacher, R., Hellyer, P., & Rishniw, M. (2018) US Veterinarians’ Knowledge, Experience, and Perception Regarding the Use of Cannabidiol for Canine Medical Conditions. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 5: 338. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6338022/
- Devinsky, O., Cilio, M., Cross, H., Ruiz, J., French, J., Hill, C., Katz, R., Di Marzo, V., Aswad, D., Notcutt, G., Orgado, J., Robson, P., Rohrback, B., Thiele, E., Whalley, B., & Friedman, D. (2014). Cannabidiol: pharmacology and potential therapeutic role in epilepsy and other neuropsychiatric disorders. Epilepsia, 791-802. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24854329/
- US Food and Drug Administration. What You Need to Know (And What We’re Working to Find Out) About Products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis-derived Compounds, Including CBD. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/what-you-need-know-and-what-were-working-find-out-about-products-containing-cannabis-or-cannabis
- Hemppedia. Is CBD legal in all 50 states? – The complete 2020 Guide. Retrieved from https://hemppedia.org/cbd-oil-legal-us/
- Mayo Clinic. Consumer Health. CBD: Safe and Effective? Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/expert-answers/is-cbd-safe-and-effective/faq-20446700
- Gamage, T. & Lichtman, A. (2013). The Endocannabinoid System: Role in Energy Regulation. Pediatric Blood & Cancer, 58(1): 144-148. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3696506/
- Vučković, S., et al. op cit.
- Hemppedia. Op cit.