Answering the question “what is CBD oil” would be incomplete without mentioning the many CBD oil benefits. In addition to positively affecting the endocannabinoid system, CBD has been the focus of more than 23,000 published studies about cannabinoids in relation to various medical indications including anxiety, epilepsy, inflammation, cancer and chronic pain to name few. You can even find CBD for pets that is specially formulated to safely allow your pets to experience the natural benefits of CBD. For a more comprehensive look at these and other studies, visit our medical research and education page. Stay up-to-date on the latest developments in CBD and cannabis in our medical marijuana news section.
Cutting-edge science has shown that the endocannabinoid system is dysregulated in nearly all pathological conditions. Thus, it stands to reason that “modulating endocannabinoid system activity may have therapeutic potential in almost all diseases affecting humans,” as Pal Pacher and George Kunos, scientists with the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), suggested in a 2014 publication.
THC-dominant edibles (like chocolates) can carry an even higher risk. “It can take one or two hours to feel an effect from ingestion as opposed to a few seconds from inhalation,” says Dr. Bonn-Miller. “This makes titration very difficult.” Add to that, an edible is made to taste good. So you can easily eat more than you should in the course of a few minutes—and end up feeling negative effects hours later.
Extracts of CBD—either from marijuana or hemp (a cannabis variant that is essentially free of THC)—are sold as an oil or in tinctures. You can also get CBD via a transdermal patch, capsule, sublingual spray, gel, cream, or vapor. Some contain pure CBD extract (or so they say); others—particularly if you’re in a state where recreational marijuana is not legal—will contain hemp extract, which includes CBD as part of its makeup. As of this reporting, recreational marijuana is legal in nine U.S. states and medical marijuana in 29. Don’t miss these 50 weird things that are banned in the United States.
CBD hemp oil has a number of uses and comes in many forms including capsules, tinctures, sublingual supplements, liquid oil, oil as a paste, sprays, salves, creams and in edible forms, such as candies or sweets. You can also inhale CBD oil from vapor-releasing pens, similar to the technology for e-cigarettes. This variety also provides a lot of controlled flexibility in terms of concentration, making CBD hemp oil useful and desirable for people of all ages, economic means, and personal needs.
CBD oil took the world by storm a few years ago when Dr. Sanjay Gupta investigated the cannabinoid’s ability to treat children with epilepsy. Initially, CBD oil was viewed as a medicine for the critically ill, but its appeal to the general public is surging. With few regulations, the CBD oil market is congested with questionable products. As a consumer of CBD oils, it is essential for you to know how they are made.
From anecdotal evidence in humans and from animal studies, CBD appears to affect the way we experience pain, inflammation, and anxiety. “Scientists have identified a number of receptors in the nervous system where CBD acts,” says Orrin Devinsky, MD, professor of neurology, neurosurgery, and psychiatry at NYU Langone. “It’s established that CBD has anti-inflammatory properties and can increase activity at some serotonin [the feel-good neurotransmitter] receptors.”
Full spectrum CBD includes hundreds of active compounds, each in varying amounts and potencies, each with their own subtle action. The Entourage Effect predicts that some of these compounds can work in concert with each other to produce larger effects than they could individually, and that some compounds support the actions of others or even help render active compounds that normally wouldn’t be.
At least one benefit of CBD is well-supported by science: It can be effective in treating children with rare, genetic seizure disorders. Adults, children and even animals with epilepsy have been shown to benefit from the chemical too, the World Health Organization reports. There's also some evidence that CBD can help with anxiety, says Dr. Robert Carson, an assistant professor of neurology and pediatrics at Vanderbilt University who focuses on children with epilepsy. "In children, especially those with autism spectrum disorders, this may manifest as improved interactions with others," he says. Other preliminary research shows CBD holds promise for conditions including Alzheimer's disease, cancer, psychosis and Parkinson's disease – and is pretty much impossible to abuse or become addicted to, WHO says.
Officially, marijuana is deemed as Schedule I herbal substance by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, meaning the drug offers "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse," according to the federal government. That categorization was adjusted after the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which included a provision that separated hemp from marijuana, as noted in the Controlled Subject Act.

There is a strong sedative quality to CBD hemp oil, making it a popular remedy for people with insomnia, sleeplessness, interrupted sleep, post-traumatic stress disorder, restless leg disorder, and other night-time issues. Dr. Scott Shannon, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, USA, published a report in the Permanete Journal, in which he recommended either inhaling a small amount of CBD oil, applying it to one’s chest, or even putting a few drops on one’s pillow to help get a good night’s sleep.
At least one benefit of CBD is well-supported by science: It can be effective in treating children with rare, genetic seizure disorders. Adults, children and even animals with epilepsy have been shown to benefit from the chemical too, the World Health Organization reports. There's also some evidence that CBD can help with anxiety, says Dr. Robert Carson, an assistant professor of neurology and pediatrics at Vanderbilt University who focuses on children with epilepsy. "In children, especially those with autism spectrum disorders, this may manifest as improved interactions with others," he says. Other preliminary research shows CBD holds promise for conditions including Alzheimer's disease, cancer, psychosis and Parkinson's disease – and is pretty much impossible to abuse or become addicted to, WHO says.

Cannabinol results from the degradation of THC. There is little of it in the fresh plant, but decarboxylation often raises the amount of CBN in the plant as an effect. CBN is only mildly psychoactive and has a higher affinity for the CB2 receptor than the CB1 receptor, linking CBN to the body’s immune system. In hemp oil, CBN is present in levels of 0.2% or lower.

When extracting a pure botanical oil from hemp, a solvent is passed through the plant material, pulling the compound rich oil from the plant. The solvent is then removed in a purging process, leaving behind a concentrated oil. When extracting from hemp, the oil can next be formulated into finished products or further refined and purified into a number of forms, including a golden dewaxed concentrate or crystallized CBD isolate.

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That leaves those touting CBD’s effectiveness pointing primarily to research in mice and petri dishes. There, CBD (sometimes combined with small amounts of THC) has shown promise for helping pain, neurological conditions like anxiety and PTSD, and the immune system—and therefore potentially arthritis, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and more.
“What is CBD oil” may be your first question, but the real question we have to answer is, “What does CBD oil do?” CBD interacts with the body through the endogenous cannabinoid system (ECS) or endocannabinoid system. First discovered in the late 1980’s, the endocannabinoid system regulates the body’s homeostasis, or general state of balance, impacting such functions as mood, sleep, appetite, hormone regulation, and pain and immune response. Like an acrobat on a highwire, as the environment around us impacts our normal balance, the endocannabinoid system “corrects” by mediating our body’s reaction to keep us level.
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