No one’s really sure: “It’s astonishing that there’s still no real consensus on how CBD works,” says McLaughlin. “One thing we do know is that it doesn’t work through the same receptors as THC, and, in fact, seems to have the opposite effect.” THC mainly binds to a certain type of receptor (known as CB1) in the brain. But with CBD, he says, “there seems to be a lot of complex targets”—which means CBD may affect multiple pathways throughout the body.
Because the FDA considers CO2 extraction to be GRAS or “generally regarded as safe” for commercial extraction, this method is popular in the food industry. The stability of supercritical CO2 also allows most compounds to be extracted with little damage. In the coffee industry, supercritical CO2 is already widely accepted as safer than traditional solvents to extract the caffeine from decaffeinated coffee beans.
For applications where pure CBD isn’t required, full spectrum CBD oil is the better alternative, as it provides patients the ancillary benefits associated with the many other cannabis compounds. However, important to note, is the issue of what medical conditions are best treated by either pure or full spectrum CBD oil, given the research is in its infancy.
Keep in mind, too, that CBD product companies use different CBD sources, extraction methods and production techniques – and not all resulting products are created equal. You'll have to do your own research to determine which companies you're willing to trust, Asquith says. Plus, how the products are packaged and consumed – be they in oils, creams or capsules – affect how they're absorbed in the body. Edibles, for example, are well-absorbed, while oils taken under the tongue are "baloney," Tishler says. And of course, salespeople at herb shops don't have the same mission, knowledge, training or oversight as physicians and pharmacists. "We have spent the last 100 years or so developing the pharmaceutical system because it works," Tishler says.