Girl sitting holding a pack of CBD Joints

The Definitive CBD Guide

“I’ve packed everything I need for this trip – swimsuit, vitamins, bike gear, CBD oil, I’m good to go.” Those were the parting words of my travel companion last month as she checked things off her packing list, one precious item at a time before we set out on a two-week road trip along the coast. “CBD oil?,” I asked. “Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it,” she replied.

In fact, the world is awakening to the benefits of CBD, the non-psychoactive cousin to marijuana, and as more and more people try it out (in products as diverse as tinctures, cocktails, cookies, beauty creams, and pre-rolled joints), the number of naysayers is declining rapidly. Despite decades of stereotypes, depicting marijuana users as red-eyed stoners with a burrito in hand, CBD is redefining the cannabis landscape, putting the plant firmly on the map of the mainstream. 

WHAT IS CBD? 

CBD (also known as cannabidiol) is a non-psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant. 

There are a few important things to note here:

  • First, CBD is just one of the compounds found in cannabis (there are over 500 in total).
  • Second, CBD is non-psychoactive, which means it does not get you high.

A report from the World Health Organization states, “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential…. To date, there is no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CBD AND MARIJUANA 

So what is the difference between marijuana (most commonly thought of as a favorite pastime for adolescents cutting class) and CBD (a newfound favourite for athletes, fashionistas, pet lovers, parents, and senior citizens alike)?

Let’s start by taking one step back.

The plant Cannabis sativa has two primary species, hemp and marijuana.

Marijuana is rich in THC, the psychoactive compound that gets you high.

Hemp, on the other hand, contains a significantly lower amount of THC (in fact, in order to be legally cultivated, hemp must contain less than 0.3% THC), and is rich in CBD, which, as we’ve already covered, will not have you trolling Uber Eats at 3 a.m.

SCIENTIFICALLY SPEAKING

Scientists have identified two receptors in the human body that respond to cannabis – CB1 and CB2. These receptors are part of the larger endocannabinoid system, which helps your body regulate the hormones that influence appetite, pain sensation, mood, memory, anxiety, and more.

Scientifically speaking, both CBD and THC have the exact same molecular structure: 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms, but a tiny difference in how the atoms are arranged leads to different effects on your body. Jeffrey Raber, CEO of California-based cannabis chemistry lab The Werc Shop, describes it well, “it’s a wildly different key going into the lock.”

Where THC binds with the cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors in the brain (producing a high), CBD binds very weakly, if at all, to CB1 receptors, but has a stronger affinity for CB2 receptors. A bunch of very particular reactions occur in the middle and the result is that THC produces psychoactive effects by affecting the brain and spinal cord, while CBD acts on the receptors that help reduce inflammation (aiding in a number of ailments) without being psychoactive.

IS CBD LEGAL?

Let’s switch now from Science 101 to study the law, more specifically, if CBD is legal. From the explosion of mainstream CBD-infused products, you probably assume it is. But you know what they say about assuming…

The exact legality of CBD (at least in the U.S.) is a bit confusing, and depends in part on whether the CBD comes from hemp or marijuana. The Drug Enforcement Administration maintains that CBD is federally illegal (but won’t go after anyone for possessing or using it). But many argue that the 2018 Farm Bill (which made hemp an agricultural commodity) took away the DEA’s authority over hemp and, as a result, CBD from hemp is now legal nationwide. Even under that assumption however, there is still an important consideration – only CBD containing less 0.3% of THC is legal in all 50 states so quality is key.

On an international level, CBD is legal in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Romania, Italy, and Spain. Ditto for Canada. Cheers to our neighbours to the north.

POTENTIAL USES AND HEALTH BENEFITS OF CBD 

It’s important to note before we get into the next section that Pure CBD Exchange makes no claims about the medical or health benefits of CBD.

In June 2018, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of Epidiolex as a medication to treat rare forms of epilepsy – it was the first prescription medication to contain CBD. With the exception of Epidiolex, the FDA has not approved CBD to treat any other medical conditions. The below resources and articles are listed only provide to an index of studies and areas where CBD shows promise as a medical treatment. One or two studies does not guarantee that CBD will work as a treatment for a given condition or that it should be used for one. Even if approved as a treatment for a certain condition by the FDA, there’s no guarantee that CBD will prove effective for you. Every human body is different and each responds to different substances in different ways. Consult your physician before taking any CBD supplement.

With that out of the way, CBD has been touted for many possible health benefits, including:

Anxiety & Stress

The ingestion of cannabis and CBD for anxiety appears in a Vedic text dated around 2000 BCE, so suffice to say this is truly an ancient remedy for today’s modern times. CBD has been shown to reduce anxiety in a number of animal and human studies and this is one of the most common reasons people today seek out this compound in everything from edibles to tinctures to pure hemp flower.

Acne

The skin has the highest amount and concentration of CB2 receptors in the body so it’s not surprising that many CBD-infused products are being touted as a treatment for acne.

Depression

Cannabinoids can have a positive effect on serotonin levels, a chemical messenger that is believed to act as a mood stabilizer in the body. CBD might be especially effective for depression related to chronic stress.

Arthritis & Pain Management

Of all the reasons that people use CBD today, pain is the most common… and one of the most historic. 160 years ago noted neurologist, epilepsy research pioneer, and physician, Sir John Russell Reynolds, wrote to Queen Victoria, “for the relief of certain kinds of pain, I believe, there is no more useful medicine than Cannabis within our reach.” 

Migraines

Some laboratory studies have suggested that CBD oil may help all forms of chronic and acute pain, including migraines.

Diabetes & Obesity

Several studies have shown that regular cannabis users have a lower body mass index and a reduced risk of diabetes and obesity. In 2015 an Israeli-American biopharmaceutical collective began stage 2 trials studying the use of CBD to treat diabetes.

Alzheimer’s

Cannabinoids are neuroprotective, which means they help maintain and regulate brain health and CBD has also been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect on the brain, both of which hold promising outlooks for the treatment of nerve-related diseases like neuropathy and Alzheimer’s.

Sleep Disorders

Studies suggest that CBD may help with both falling asleep and staying asleep, alleviating some of the suffering brought on by insomnia. 

In general, more studies are needed to definitively substantiate the claims of positive health benefits from CBD, but for many people, the proof is seeing it with their very own eyes. “I’m a true convert because it works for me,” said Sara Rotman, a former New York–based creative director turned cannabis farmer, who was interviewed in Vogue on her stranger-than-fiction tale of starting a cannabis farm after turning to CBD to cure the debilitating pain she suffered as a side effect of Crohn’s disease.

CBD, LET ME COUNT THE WAYS

How many ways are there to CBD? How much time do you have? 

Whatever your tastes, chances are you can find a CBD-infused product to satisfy them. There are CBD-infused deodorants, muscle salves, and dog treats. You can spread CBD on your face, drop it under your tongue, or include it on the menu for a dinner party with friends. Even Coca-Cola is reportedly working on a CBD-infused beverage, hoping to get a piece of what some experts suggest will be a $1 billion pie by 2020.

So what’s the best way to CBD? The answer is, it depends. But here are some of the most popular methods available.

Tinctures

Tinctures is a fancy name for CBD oil in a discreet little eye dropper that you take by placing a few drops under your tongue. This is the second-fastest way to absorb CBD (after smoking), and one of the most popular methods to enjoy the many benefits of CBD. Available in different doses (Pure CBD Exchange for example offers tinctures in concentrations of 2500mg, 1500mg, 1000mg, and 500mg), tinctures are generally mixed with some type of oil to improve flavour and aid absorption. 

Smoking

For purists, all-natural CBD hemp flower may be the way to go, either in all its plant-like glory or ready-to-smoke in pre-rolled joints. Smoking offers the highest bioavailability of CBD, which basically means you get more CBD into your system, faster than with other forms of consumption, and mounting evidence suggests that CBD may be more effective in its whole and natural state (an outcome known as the entourage effect).

Vaping

Vaping involves a vape pen that heats up a small portion of concentrated CBD oil until it boils, allowing you to inhale the vapor. Controlling dosing can be difficult as how much CBD you absorb depends on how hard and how long you inhale, but vaping is also one of the quickest ways to get CBD into the bloodstream (though for the shortest period of time), making it an accessible vehicle for near-instant effect.

Edibles

Edibles are an excellent alternative to smoking or vaping because they’re discreet, easy to use, and come in just about any form including cookies (this hazelnut pretzel recipe is out of this world), cocktails, butter, brownies, tea, honey, and gummies. You can even go with a straight up CBD capsule – the equivalent of your daily vitamin. Edibles must be digested and absorbed into the bloodstream, so it takes a while to kick in (anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours), but the effects are longer-lasting as the CBD is released more slowly over time.

Lotions, Salves & Creams

The options for CBD-laced beauty balms are seemingly endless and run the gamut from luxury serums fit for red-carpet royalty, to no-nonsense, uber-functional balms and topical creams. Topical applications may not be as fast acting or as potent as some of the other options on this list, but they’re easy to apply and offer some promising benefits including relief from dry skin, acne, and anxiety-induced wrinkles to boot.

DOSING

CBD dosing is a confusing topic. Unlike other supplements, the FDA has not created a Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for CBD, and CBD does not have an official serving size. How much you should take depends on a variety of factors including the concentration of the CBD in the product; the method of consumption; individual characteristics like your genetic makeup, gender, and weight; potency of the strain; and what you’re hoping to achieve by using it. One person might simply be using CBD to promote general health, while another might be using it to address acne or insomnia. How much they take will differ accordingly.

To give us a starting point, previous studies have said that around 300 milligrams daily are required to achieve stress-relieving results, but new research shows that as little as 25 milligrams a day can already elicit positive effects. That’s important news, especially since it makes any CBD regimen more affordable and accessible for people seeking relief and results.

Determining your ideal serving might take a little patience and experimentation but whether you’re consuming CBD for the first time, or you’re a regular user, it’s always a good idea to start small and progress slowly so you can determine what works best for you. A 2018 article from Medium recommended using three simple steps to determine your ideal dose:

1. Estimate your dosage based on your body weight

A good rule of thumb is 1-6 milligrams of CBD for every 10 pounds of body weight. For example, 20-33 milligrams would be a good starting dosage for a 200 lb patient, while 15-25 milligrams would be best for someone who weighs 150 lb.

2. Start small and increase gradually

Determine your initial dosage based on your weight, then gauge how your body reacts to that amount of CBD. Increase gradually (continuing to monitor your body’s reactions) until you achieve the desired results.

3. Consult your physician

When in doubt, consult your physician, especially if you have an existing medical condition. 

QUALITY COUNTS

Since the market for CBD is unregulated, it can be difficult to know what you’re getting. A 2015 study by the F.D.A. revealed that many CBD-labeled products actually contained very little CBD. A 2017 article in JAMA reported that, in a study of 84 products sold online, 26% contained less CBD than advertised and 43% contained more. A 2017 study by the American Medical Association of 84 CBD products purchased online, found that almost 70% were mislabeled with respect to the amount of CBD.

With such wildly varying results, it’s no wonder some people are wary of trying CBD. But it’s important to know what you’re getting because, when it comes to what you put into your body, quality counts and low-quality CBD products won’t provide you with the same benefits as high-quality products.

Do your research. Don’t be afraid to reach out to companies and ask questions. Look for brands that are transparent and committed to quality, like Aspen Valley Hemp Company and Pure CBD Exchange who use only the cleanest and most potent varieties available, grown naturally, and hand selected from growers across the country, ensuring an exceptionally pure product, straight from nature, and ready to consume, however you choose.

In general, be sure to look for:

  • Third party testing (companies that stand behind their products don’t have anything to hide).
  • Products with less than 0.3% THC (the standard to be considered an industrial hemp product, making them legal in all 50 states).
  • Naturally-derived products sourced in the U.S. (hemp is a heavily regulated commodity in the U.S. so domestically-sourced products will be Farm Bill Compliant and of higher quality).

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS 

We’ve covered quite an encyclopedia of CBD info in this guide, but before we wrap up, here are some of the questions we hear most often:

Will CBD make me high?

No. Quality CBD products, derived from hemp, contain less than 0.3% THC, not enough to get you high. 

What are the side effects of CBD?

You would have to consume quite a bit of CBD before it results in any truly adverse health effects but CBD is an organic compound, so its effects can vary from individual to individual. A 2017 literature review noted that CBD oil can, in some cases, be linked to fatigue, lightheadedness, changes in appetite, and dry mouth. Check with your doctor if you’re unsure about interactions with certain medications or if CBD is right for you. And always start slow and increase your dosage gradually to achieve the desired effect. 

How do I take CBD?

You can take CBD in a number of ways including smoking, vaping, edibles, oils, and creams or lotions.

Is CBD legal to use in all 50 states?

Yes. Hemp is legal in the United States provided that the plant contains less than 0.3% THC by dry weight.

Are there studies on CBD?

Thousands of scientific studies have been carried out on CBD. Project CBD is a California-based nonprofit organization dedicated to publicizing research into the medical uses of CBD for physicians, patients, industry professionals, and the general public.

CHOOSE A GOOD COMPANY AND STICK WITH THEM

CBD is a complicated product and the current market can be confusing for newcomers and experienced users alike, but by following some of the recommendations laid out in this guide, you’ll be well positioned to dip a toe into the (extremely calm) waters of CBD, or to cannonball into the deep end of cannabidiol. 

Perhaps the best takeaway is this: find a good company that you trust and stick with them. That’s a proven path to a more present, grounded, CBD-centred state of mind.