CBD (cannabidiol) has ascended the ranks from a virtually known compound to a cultural phenomenon in just a few years. A decade ago, CBD was barely a blip on the radar of Americans, doctors and researchers. Now it’s the subject of countless studies, in major headlines and available for purchase online or even at your local organic grocery store.
With rising popularity, more people are coming into contact with CBD for the first time ever. It can be intimidating to sort fact from noise, so we’ve put together a helpful guide on the basics.
Let’s start with the fundamentals. What is CBD and how does it interact with your body? Warning: a hefty dose of science jargon ahead!
The Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system (or “ECS”) is a network (of receptors and elements that interact with these receptors), that winds through the entire body. Receptors reside in the skin, muscle and bone throughout the central and peripheral nervous system, immune system and even the reproductive organs.
The purpose of the ECS is whole-body homeostasis, or a state of balance between interdependent elements. It plays a role in many vital physiological processes like appetite and pain perception.
Compounds that interact with the ECS are called cannabinoids. They can be made by the body (“endocannabinoids”), by plants (“phytocannabinoids”) or in a lab (“synthetic cannabinoids”).
Cannabinoids interact with the ECS as ligands, binding directly or indirectly to ECS receptors and acting like chemical messengers to turn on or turn off physiological signaling. Phytocannabinoids like CBD are thought to mimic the body’s natural endocannabinoids by temporarily “filling in” on the duties of physiological signaling.
CBD v. THC
Hemp-derived CBD contains only trace, non-effective levels of THC, the cannabinoid associated with an intoxicating, euphoric “high.” This makes CBD an easy lifestyle addition for people who wish to avoid THC-containing products. Hemp-derived CBD can be ingested via vapor pen, tincture, capsule or edible; it also comes in topical forms like balms, bath bombs, oils, cleansers and even patches.
Where to Get CBD
Is CBD legal? As with most things in life, it’s not black and white. The short answer is: It depends where you’re located, what kind of CBD and what the product’s form is. In some states, dispensaries may be a trusted outlet for more high-quality products, but that is not true in all states—and patently false in California, which prohibits the sale of hemp-derived CBD in dispensaries.
Hemp-derived CBD with a potency of less than 0.3% percent THC is legally available throughout the country. You can find CBD products like these in organic grocery stores, online and maybe even in your corner pharmacy. (Find a store near you with our store locator.)
April Carter Grant
April Carter Grant grew up in the rural Midwest and has worked as a creative in the advertising, gaming, travel and beauty industries. An avid walker and sometime runner, she lives in LA with a young son and spazzy dog.