What is CBD? A Guide to Health Benefits, Usage, and More!

In this comprehensive guide to CBD, we’re discussing where cannabidiol comes from, health benefits, how to determine quality, and how to consume it. All of your CBD questions answered!

CBD products on counter

CBD products on counter
Today I’m tackling every juicy detail you ever wanted to know about a super hot topic in the wellness world: CBD. Buckle your seat belts because this is a long one!

I used to know zilch about this powerful plant chemical but after days of perusing studies (thanks, grad school) and reading up on expert knowledge, I now feel like a cannabis queen!

So what the heck is CBD? Is it legal? Safe? Healthy?

CBD may not be a cure-all for cancer, but studies suggest that CBD is beneficial for reducing anxiety and mild to moderate chronic pain, enhancing mood and cognition, and combating insomnia.

While we need more controlled human clinical trials to learn more about dosage and efficacy, the existing body of research is promising for this powerful natural remedy!

Since CBD oil is an unregulated supplement, it’s important to do your research and choose a reputable brand. That’s exactly why I’m partnering with cbdMD today to teach you everything you ever wondered about CBD and if it’s right for you.

CBD has been a dream for my anxiety so I hope it can work some magic for you, too!

Get 15% off your order by entering code ALEXIS at checkout.

Let’s break it down. What is the difference between cannabis, cannabinoids, and CBD?

So we’ve got this cannabis plant. Marijuana and hemp are two completely different strains of the plant. Think of them as cousins. Both contain  cannabidiol (CBD), but hemp contains more and is legal in the US.

Cannabis bred for industrial and food hemp must have less than .3% THC. Cannabinoids are what we call all the chemicals in the plant, like CBD, THC, and a hundred others.

CBD oil dropper

CBD oil dropper
Cannabis is nothing new. It has a longer history than tea with its first documented used 2,600 years ago. Heavy research started in the sixties.

Will CBD get me high?

Negative. Hemp-derived CBD isn’t addictive and doesn’t have the euphoric effect that THC does. CBD actually works to reduce the effect of THC in the body.

You know that post-yoga or warm bath feeling? That’s how CBD feels.

How does it work?

is a phytocannabinoid, meaning one that’s produced by a plant. Endocannabinoids are cannabinoids produced naturally in our bodies. We all have an Endocannabinoid System (ECS) focused on the central nervous system where these cannabinoids interact as messengers to maintain balance.

This is the body’s ability to stabilize itself from the outside environment, especially during times of illness or stress. Receptors for cannabinoids are found in our digestive, immune, nervous, and reproductive systems.

Cannabinoids such as CBD and THC bind with the receptors located throughout the ECS to activate a wide range of cells and create a chemical reaction. Taking CBD mimics the look and function of other naturally produced cells in our bodies to maintain that healthy balance.

Because most mammals have an ECS system, CBD can improve your pet’s health as well!

What are the health benefits of CBD?

back label of CBD oil

back label of CBD oil
Studies suggest that CBD can help with anything from
stress, chronic pain, anxiety, PMS, inflammation, and sleep to
Alzheimer’s and social anxiety disorder. Of note, the dosing used in clinical trials is significantly higher than at home dosing.

More information on dosing for specific conditions will be beneficial for more targeted recommendations.

Pain Relief

There are numerous studies linking CBD with positive effects on depression, inflammation and and chronic pain.

A 2016 animal study from the European Journal of Pain suggested that CBD applied to the skin may offer relief of arthritis pain and inflammation. Another animal study suggested the association with CBD and reduced nausea from chemotherapy and other conditions.

CBD also treats symptoms linked to PMS like migraines, reduced inflammation, and pain. Research suggests that CDB is most effective for mild to moderate pain relief but not so much for severe pain.

Insomnia + Reduced Anxiety and Depression

CBD interacts with the serotonin receptor to reduce feelings of pain and anxiety, alleviate muscle tension, and promote relaxation. CBD may help you fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep.

Cognition and Psychosis

A 2018 double blind randomized clinical trial looked at the effect of a 600mg dosage of CBD on those with high clinical risk for psychosis. The study suggested that CBD may normalize dysfunction in brain areas that are critical to the pathophysiology of psychosis.

Should I talk to my doctor first?

CBD gummies in hand

CBD gummies in hand
Always speak with your doctor before starting any new supplement or medication, “natural” or not. It’s important to make sure the substance won’t interact with any of the other medications you’re taking.

My dad’s cardiologist, for example, strictly prohibited him from using CBD due to his medical history. Similar to grapefruit juice, CBD may raise levels of certain medications in your blood (like Coumadin) by the same mechanism.

Childhood Epilepsy

The strongest evidence from my research! In 2018, the FDA approved the first ever CBD-containing medicine called Epidiolex to reduce seizures and treat rare forms childhood epilepsy syndromes.

How do I know if it’s a quality CBD supplement?

Now that CBD is all the rage, it’s popping up in chocolates, lotions, and face masks everywhere. Choose brands that are transparent about the quality of their product and how they source it to make sure you’re reaping the benefits.

Quality Hemp

Not all hemp is created equal. There’s different hemp, different ingredients added, and different ingredients extracted. Like wine, it matters what kind of grapes were used, the conditions they’re grown in, and how the liquid is extracted.

What caught my eye about cbdMD is that they use 100% organic hemp grown in the US versus hemp that’s imported from overseas. They started out growing in Kentucky and are now also growing in Colorado.

Extraction Method

CO2 extraction is the cleanest and safest extraction process because there is minimal risk of contaminants. It’s also the best for the environment. This is also how caffeine is removed from coffee!

This method uses pressurized carbon dioxide to pull CBD, beneficial terpenes, and THC from the plant. cbdMD then removes the THC compound while other companies do not. With other extractions processes, often all that’s left is just CBD isolate.

CBD capsulesCBD capsulesLab Results

Testing of hemp-derived CBD is voluntary. Look for proof of an independent, third party laboratory to guarantee strict quality control procedures and high standards.

Ask for a Certificate of Analysis (COA) from the manufacturer, which is a document outlining independent third party testing for THC, CBD, and contaminants. Also make sure it’s recent as testing should be consistent.

Is CBD safe?

Yes. While CBD is generally considered safe, it may not be safe for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. CBD is also not recommended for those who are under the age of 18.

What’s the correct dose of CBD?

This is a tricky one as it’s dependent on the person and the condition.

Think of it like wine. One person may have a glass and feel tipsy while another may need two or three. With CBD, some people are taking it for chronic pain while some people are taking it to cure a headache, ease menstrual cramps, or just feel calm. The dosage for chronic pain is going to be a lot higher.

Be ready to experiment with the dose and find what’s right for you. You may find that 5mg a day is enough for you to feel the effects. You may find you need a much higher dose. If it’s new to you, start 10mg a day and see how you feel. Start low and go slow.

Some experts recommend dividing dosing throughout the day for better results.  CBD on an empty stomach will work more quickly than after a meal.

It can take your body around two weeks to adjust to CBD and truly reap the benefits. Receptors in the ECS can be dormant due to lack of use, so it may take a few days to awaken the system.

Some people feel relief right away while others may not have relief until they’ve taken it on a regular basis for this amount of time or more.

Too much CBD can make you sleepy and also render it ineffective.


On a federal level, yes.

Congress legalized industrial production of hemp when it passed the 2018 Farm Bill. This bill evolved into the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, which removed hemp from the Controlled Substance Act (CSA) definition of marijuana. This means hemp is no longer considered a Schedule I drug and that it’s now legal federally.

On a state level, it varies.CBD is currently illegal in South Dakota, Nebraska, and Idaho. You can use this interactive map to see what’s legal in your state. Fun fact: TSA just updated their guidelines to allow CBD derived from hemp on flights.

Will CBD make me fail a drug test?

Even though industrial and food hemp contains less than .3% THC, there is the possibility of trace amounts of THC. To be safe, avoid hemp products like hemp seeds and hemp oil if you’re going to be taking a drug test.

A 2017 study in JAMA found that 18 of 84 CBD products purchased online had THC levels possibly high enough to cause intoxication or impairment. Purchasing quality supplements is key.

What’s the difference between full spectrum and broad spectrum CBD?

CBD isolate is 99.9% pure CBD and nothing else.

Full-spectrum CBD offers everything from the hemp plant, including terpenes, cannabinoids,  essential oils, fatty acids, and flavanoids, all of which work together synergistically to create what’s known as the “entourage effect.” Whole plant medicine!

Science has shown that when THC is present with CBD, the effectiveness of cannabis is improved. This is challenging since THC is still a federally controlled substance.

Broad-spectrum CBD offers the benefits of full-spectrum CBD without the THC. cbdMD‘s broad-spectrum products a great option for those for can’t have any THC in their system, like professional athletes and anyone being drug tested.

CBD inflammation creamCBD inflammation creamHow should I consume it and what are your go-to products?

The most important thing to remember about cannabis is that it is a personalized lifestyle supplement. Everyone will respond differently.

You can drink it, pop it, bathe in it, eat it…the possibilities are endless! How exactly to take it depends on your personal goals.

Sometimes before bed, especially if I’ve been staring at a screen, Jeff and I will have a gummy to help calm us down. They taste really good and are super easy to take!

The topical inflammation cream has been my best friend and favorite CBD product so far. When I’m dealing with sciatica or general lower back pain, it really does relieve the discomfort quickly.

When applied topically, the CBD targets that area versus ingesting it and having it in your bloodstream. I’ve never found anything that works for back pain like this cream does.

When my feet hurt from standing all day, my go-to is this roll on which contains menthol for the hot and cold relief.

I take the capsule form if I’m feeling anxious and want something right away. I like to use the oil in smoothies and in my coffee to help me feel less jittery. Oil may be a better option if you have impaired digestion or want quicker relief than a pill.

If you’re taking the oil by itself, be sure to shake the bottle and then let it sit under your tongue for a minute before swallowing. The sublingual capillaries help absorb the CBD.

When I want the CBD + melatonin combo before bed, this CBD PM liquid is a dream. No pun intended.

Get 15% off your order by entering code ALEXIS at checkout!

Disclaimer: I am a Registered Dietitian, not a physician. All opinions expressed are my own. Please consult a health professional before making any changes to your lifestyle. Products and information mentioned on this blog are not intended to be used as a substitute for medical diagnosis, advice or treatment.

This post in in partnership with cbdMD. Thanks for supporting the brands that make Hummusapien possible!