What is CBD? A Beginner’s Guide to Cannabidiol

This blog post may contain affiliate links. If you decide to purchase a product based on my recommendation, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

CBD oil has been all the rage in recent years and its popularity will only continue to grow. Many people who suffer from joint and muscle pain, insomnia, anxiety and other ailments have turned to Cannabidiol for some type of relief.

If you’ve heard the term “CBD” and you’re not entirely sure what it all means, I break down the science of CBD in easy-to-understand chunks of information so you can get a basic understanding of CBD.

What is CBD? A Beginner's Guide to Cannabidiol

What is CBD? A Beginner’s Guide to Cannabidiol

There’s a lot to learn when it comes to CBD. In fact, the Internet is chock full of good information, but at the same time, there’s a lot of misinformation.

We’ll start with the basics so you can get a decent understanding of what CBD is and how it interacts with the human body.

What does CBD Stand For?

First before we get into specifics about what CBD is and what it does, the acronym CBD stands for Cannabidiol.

CBD Chemical Structure
Chemical Structure of Cannabidiol

What is CBD?

What is CBD anyway?

Cannabis (commonly referred to as marijuana, weed, pot, etc) and Hemp both come from the plant Cannabis Sativa (though marijuana also comes from another member of the Cannabis family, Cannabis Indica).

The cannabis plant has over 80 chemicals called cannabinoids – the two main types of cannabinoids are Cannabidiol (CBD) & Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

CBD is a natural compound that is produced by the cannabis or hemp plant.

What is CBD?

Even though hemp and Cannabis (marijuana) plants are both the same Cannabis Sativa species, they have distinct phytochemical compositions.

Hemp is low in THC and high in CBD whereas Cannabis strains are grown to be high in THC and lower in CBD.

CBD is a therapeutic cannabinoid, while THC is the cannabinoid that makes you “high”.

It’s important to point out that CBD is both non-intoxicating and non-addicting.

Is CBD Legal?

The cultivation of industrial hemp became legal due to President Obama signing the The Agricultural Act of 2014, where the federal government lifted any restrictions on the cultivation of industrial hemp, including allowing colleges and state agencies to grow and conduct research on hemp in states where it is legal.

By the end of 2017, at least 34 U.S. states had industrial hemp programs.

The THC content in marijuana is usually between 10 and 15 percent; but hemp must have a THC content of 0.3 percent or less to be legal in the United States according to the bill passed in 2014.

However, CBD oil with more than 0.3 percent of THC dry weight is only protected in states within the United States that have legalized medical marijuana.

How the 2018 Farm Bill Changed the Legalization of Hemp

In December 2018, the 2018 Farm Bill was passed and changed hemp from being classified as a controlled substance to an agricultural commodity.

What is CBD? Your guide to everything hemp

The Department of Agriculture will oversee the hemp growing process in the United States rather than the Department of Justice.

With this new law passing, farmers who have crops of hemp that test over 0.3% in THC will no longer worry about being charged with a federal crime – they’ll simply have to lower the THC content to an amount under the legal limit.

This new 2018 law also makes it easier for farmers to get loans to grow hemp and allows them to purchase crop insurance in the event weather or some other disaster ruins their harvest.

Hemp Seed Oil vs. CBD Oil

When choosing a CBD oil product, it’s important to first understand the difference between hemp seed oil and CBD oil as you’ll see these two quite a bit in the market place.

The two are different and contain different properties.

First, hemp seed oil is made by squeezing only the seeds from hemp. Hemp seeds have little or no CBD or THC in them.

What is CBD? The difference between hemp seed oil and cbd oil

However, hemp seed oil contains a 3:1 ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids, and because this matches the exact balance required by the human body, it makes hemp seed oil a very nutritious oil for consumption.

Hemp seed oil is mainly used for cooking and skin care, but can be used for wood varnish, among other things. You’ll also see hemp seed oil as a carrier oil in CBD products (more on that a bit later).

CBD oil, on the other hand, is produced by the stalks and flowers of either the cannabis or hemp plants and contains certain levels of CBD and/or THC depending on which plant (Cannabis vs. Hemp) the CBD is derived from.

What is CBD? The difference between hemp seed oil and cbd oil

While Hemp Seed Oil is mainly used for nutritional purposes, CBD oil is used for therapeutic purposes. I’ll expand more on that in just a moment.

How Does CBD Oil Work?

CBD interacts with a neurotransmitter system inside our bodies known as the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). This system has very important functions to maintain homeostasis.

The editor’s note from this CBD publication explains the ECS best (even better than I could):

The endogenous cannabinoid system—named for the plant that led to its discovery—is one of the most important physiologic systems involved in establishing and maintaining human health. Endocannabinoids and their receptors are found throughout the body: in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells. With its complex actions in our immune system, nervous system, and virtually all of the body’s organs, the endocannabinoids are literally a bridge between body and mind. By understanding this system, we begin to see a mechanism that could connect brain activity and states of physical health and disease.

CBD Receptors

CBD interacts with two main receptors inside the Endocannabinoid System – CB-1 and CB-2.

CB-1 receptors are mostly found in the central nervous system, while CB-2 receptors are mainly found in peripheral organs, bones, liver, skin, and immune cells.

Generally speaking, phytocannabinoids like CBD can help to restore a more balanced “tone” within the ECS.

How CBD Works in the Endocannabinoid System

In a more broad sense, CBD may positively affect various processes that control brain signaling, via neurotransmitter function, ion channel and membrane dynamics, and inflammatory responses.

The ECS has vast influence over areas of the brain involved in sensations such as pain perception, movement, immune support, mood/emotion, memory/cognition, digestion, and sleep. This is likely the reason the ECS influences the brain’s health conditions.

Evidence suggests that the active compound found in CBD (cannabidiol), boosts the circulation of natural molecules that trigger the activation of the ECS, producing therapeutic effects.

The triggered molecules are called endocannabinoids, and they are the human equivalent version of the chemicals found in the cannabis plant.

Sounds like the cannabis plant was made for the human body, right?

In addition, research also indicates that the molecules also interact with other receptors, such as the serotonin system (antidepressant drugs target this system) and the capsaicin receptors which play an important role in the body’s inflammatory response.

As you can see, CBD engages the Endocannabinoid System in various ways and offers many health benefits.

Main Types of CBD Oil

Now that we understand how CBD interacts with the human body, let’s talk about the main types of CBD Oil so you know the difference.

What is CBD? The different types of CBD

Full Spectrum CBD Oil

Full spectrum CBD Oil is when the CBD Oil is in its closest form to the original plant, meaning it contains all or most of the phytochemicals and terpenes from the plant.

Terpenes are the essential oils of plants and flowers that give them their aroma and flavor.

Research shows that having terpenes present in CBD Oil produce an “entourage effect”, meaning that when both terpenes and CBD are working together in tandem, they have a greater effect.

We can take this “entourage effect” one step further. When THC is present and working together with CBD and terpenes and other phytochemicals, it provides an even greater benefit for different ailments.

What is CBD? A brief overview of full spectrum

Broad Spectrum CBD Oil

Broad Spectrum is similar to Full Spectrum. The main difference is that Broad Spectrum CBD Oil has all the THC removed during a process called decarboxylation. When you see companies selling their THC-Free CBD Oil, it’s a broad spectrum oil.

In addition to Broad Spectrum CBD Oil having the THC removed, most of the time many of the other compounds and terpenes naturally found in the plant are no longer present in the oil, or are present in very low amounts.

Many companies who offer a Broad Spectrum CBD Oil without THC will add back in a few select terpenes to give their oil an added boost that would naturally occur in a Full Spectrum oil.

CBD Isolate

Another type is CBD isolate. CBD isolate is when the cannabinoid is extracted from the hemp or cannabis plant and is separated from all the other nutrients and phytochemicals that are naturally found in the plant.

Many CBD isolates are infused in a carrier such as hempseed oil, MCT oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, or olive oil, just to name a few.

While a CBD isolate is extremely effective, many can miss out on the extra benefits of terpenes and other phytochemicals found in a broad or full spectrum CBD Oil.

How to Use CBD Oil

There are many ways to use CBD oil and each have their own unique benefit and effectiveness. Here are a few of the main ways to use CBD Oil:

  • Inhaling (i.e. vaping)
  • Sublingual (under the tongue)
  • Oral (edibles, capsules, etc)
  • Topical (i.e. creams)
What is CBD and how much should I take? I break it down so you can find your CBD sweet spot!

How Much CBD Oil Should I Take?

I’ll preface this by saying a few things:

1. Always consult with your health care professional; and

2. Each person’s experience with CBD will be different.

Your CBD Oil Serving Sweet Spot

The best way to find your “sweet spot” is to start low and go slow. Your starting serving will likely depend on various factors – the manufacturer’s strength of the CBD Oil, your weight, etc., so read the manufacturer’s label first.

The good news about CBD oil is that it’s non-intoxicating and non-addicting, so you don’t have to be concerned about these things when trying to figure out your serving sweet spot.

What is CBD? How to find your sweet spot dose

If you’re not seeing much difference in how you’re feeling by day five to seven, you may want to consider adding in an extra serving during your day or evening as CBD stays in your body for four to five hours.

Wait another five to seven days and really pay attention to how you’re feeling and increase your serving, as necessary, until you find your sweet spot.

Biphasic Effect and CBD

A biphasic effect is when low or high serving sizes can produce the opposite effect.

For instance, alcohol produces a biphasic effect. When a person has one beer, they might feel pretty happy and flirty. After that same person drinks a six pack of beer, he/she might be passed out in the back room.

CBD is a compound that also produces a biphasic effect. A lower serving size might help relieve pain, increase energy and brain function in a person, while a higher serving size might make that same person lethargic where a long nap might be required.

Having too low of a serving size can also produce a biphasic effect. Hence the reason a “sweet spot” serving size is what you’re looking for.

CBD Biphasic Effect Bell Curve

The graph above resembles a bell – which is why it is referred to as a bell-shaped-response-curve. It clearly demonstrates that if you give too little of a CBD serving size (aka low dose) or too much (aka high dose) it didn’t work as well to achieve peak-effectiveness.

Unfortunately, there is no one serving size fits all when it comes to CBD. Every person metabolizes CBD differently. A certain amount of CBD that works for one person may not work for another.

Serving sizes of CBD oil is very much individualized.

Finding your CBD oil serving sweet spot is important so you feel the effects you’re meant to feel at the optimal serving size.

CBD Oil Side Effects

Although CBD is generally safe and many don’t experience side effects, there have been cases in CBD studies where participants reported tiredness, diarrhea, and changes of appetite/weight as more of the common side effects.

CBD is also known to interact with different medications, so always make sure you consult with your health care professional prior to taking CBD.

CBD Oil Daily Diary

When you’re first starting out, it’s a good idea to keep a daily diary of dates, times, and serving size, along with any and all differences you notice (reduction in pain, better sleep, less anxiety, etc).

Keeping complete and accurate records will provide historical data so you know how CBD is working or not working for you.

Keep a dosing diary to keep track of your CBD doses

Make sure you record ALL the feels – seeing subtle changes over time add up! Pay close attention to ALL the changes you’re seeing, even if they seem insignificant, so you get a very clear picture of CBD’s affect on you.

Remember, start low and go slow to find your optimal CBD Oil serving size.


This Beginner’s Guide to CBD is only the tip of the ice burg. While we covered the basics of CBD oil and how it interacts with your body, there is a lot more to CBD, so be on the lookout for more information from Busy Bee’s Wellness Co.

If you’re interested in trying a full-spectrum CBD Oil, make sure to check out Joy Organics CBD Oil.

A large majority of this blog post first appeared in my other blog, Simply CBD & Me. You can find the original blog post here.

Sharing is caring!

Let's Discuss! Leave your comment below...