What Is CBD? Our 2023 Ultimate Guide

What is CBD? | CannaCubans

CBD has skyrocketed in popularity over the last few years in the mainstream world. Although it is only gaining the attention it deserves now, CBD has a rich background and history. Now it is considered a therapeutic compound that is available in various forms such as topicals, gummies, oils, and other products, sparking the curiosity of consumers. Curiosity comes with a lot of questions and concerns.


We have designed this CBD guide to provide you with detailed know-how about CBD and answers to the most intriguing questions, starting with the basic level, so you don't feel overwhelmed.


CBD has emerged as the most popular exogenous cannabinoid extracted from the Cannabis genus. It can be sourced from Cannabis sativa or industrial hemp, which also contain other important phytocannabinoids and nutrients essential for our body. THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is the most prevalent cannabinoid of Cannabis known for its mind-altering properties. 


It is addictive and causes severe side effects in regular users. Interestingly CBD is quite different from THC and does not cause any euphoric effects. The therapeutic properties of CBD can help the body in performing better by reducing the symptoms of various health issues.


History of CBD


Farmers cultivating CBD in a field in ancient times.


While decades of prohibition of Cannabis may lead someone to think that the therapeutic potential of CBD is a recent discovery, but it is far from the truth.


Cannabis has been around for centuries, and the first documented use dates to 2737 BC when Emperor Shen Neng used CBD Cannabis tea to help with a variety of problems such as gout, rheumatism, malaria, and memory. Later, it is rumored Queen Victoria also consumed the plant to manage menstrual cramps. Unfortunately, with the advancement in modern medicine, Cannabis got neglected as a result of misunderstood regulations fueled by different issues.


In 1839 before the prohibition began, the medicinal importance of CBD was researched by William O'Shaughnessy. Sadly, his work was not recognized until his death. In his search, he outlined the possibility of the therapeutic potential of the Cannabis extracts. He emphasized the anesthetic properties of the plant.


After many years of negligence, Roger Adams again brought it back to light when he identified and extracted CBD from the Cannabis plant. Along with CBD, he also discovered other cannabinoids such as CBN, THC both of which are intoxicating compounds of Cannabis.


However, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam comprehensively studied CBD and identified its structure, which is why he is known as the godfather of Cannabis research. He also isolated THC and identified its structure. With both structures in hand, when the stereochemistry of both the compounds was compared, researchers concluded that the mind-altering effects of the Cannabis plant are due to THC and not because of CBD. CBD was identified as a compound that is related to the therapeutic benefits of the Cannabis plant. In search of a mechanism through which the cannabinoids provide therapeutic benefits, Mechoulam postulated that the human body has a specific system with which these cannabinoids interact. In 1985 Allyn Howlett discovered the CB1 receptor, and later CB2 receptors were also discovered. After that discovery, Mechoulam suggested that these receptors are part of a system later discovered to be known as the endocannabinoid system.


Late in the 20th century, New Mexico legalized research on Cannabis to study the therapeutic properties of this plant. In 1940 Brazilian researchers initiated a clinical trial on epileptic patients who were given 200 mg of CBD oil. 40% of participants reported no convulsions over months. In comparison, the other 40% reported a reduction in the occurrence of seizures.


As the research on medicinal properties continued, individual states started efforts to decriminalize the plant. With the decriminalization of Cannabis in Oregon in 1973, more and more states began to legalize the use of medical marijuana. In 1996 California became the first state to legalize medical Cannabis. And from then onwards until now, 18 States have legalized Cannabis for medical and recreational use.


How do CBD works?


Our body contains a set of receptors that can interact with cannabinoids such as CBD and THC. These receptors are a part of the endocannabinoid system- a complicated signaling system that maintains homeostasis in our body. These receptors are scattered throughout the body and make sure balance is maintained. CBD is found to interact with the endocannabinoid system. It can influence cannabinoid receptor activity and promotes the production of natural, innate endocannabinoids. Surprisingly its binding ability goes beyond the endocannabinoid system as it may also interact with serotonin, dopamine, and opioid receptors.


The ability of CBD to interact with many different systems suggests that it may have the potential to manage various health concerns.


Can CBD make you feel high?


The most interesting thing about CBD is that it cannot produce euphoria or intoxication, unlike THC. So how is this possible? When both are cannabinoids and obtained from the same plant, how can they produce different effects? It is because THC interacts with and stimulates the CB1 receptor in our body. The consumer generally feels euphoria, anxiety, or even paranoia when this happens.


In contrast, CBD loosely binds with the CB1 receptor which cannot activate it the way THC does. Therefore, it cannot produce the sensations of anxiousness, euphoria, or sedation. In fact, it is found that if THC and CBD are simultaneously consumed, CBD can decrease the ability of THC to activate CB1 receptors. It may block the effects produced by THC.


Health benefits of CBD

 Chart showing the health benefits of CBD and the human endocannabinoid system.


CBD has become a cure-all compound with diverse medical potential in the wellness industry. Medical claims associated with CBD are from animal studies, early research, anecdotal evidence but studies on human subjects are slowly beginning now. With that caution in mind, here are some of the potential therapeutic benefits of CBD.


Anxiety and depression


One of the most popular effects CBD offers is its ability to promote calmness. A study published in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry in 2017 tested anxiety levels in 57 participants suffering from public speaking anxiety. Some participants were given varying amounts of CBD, while others received a placebo before their public speaking test. It was found that participants who received 300mg of CBD experienced less anxiety compared to the placebo. Participants who received 600 mg and 150 mg of CBD reported more anxiety than the 300 mg group.


A study on mice revealed that CBD offers effects like the popular antidepressant imipramine. Many research studies also suggest that it may be helpful for anxiety symptoms as it positively affects the activity of the serotonin system.


CBD and pain


According to research, CBD may help manage neuropathic and inflammatory pain. For other pain types, CBD seems to be less effective. Studies in the US show that CBD administered topically to patients suffering from symptomatic peripheral neuropathy reduced sharp, cold, itchy, and intense pain sensations as compared to placebo.


Opioid addiction


Opioid addiction can be a very debilitating condition. Human clinical trials and preclinical animal trials suggest that CBD may be helpful for people dependent on opioids. In one study, researchers found that administration of CBD for people dependent on heroin for a week significantly reduced withdrawal anxiety, cue-induced cravings, salivary cortisol levels, and resting heart rate. Other studies found CBD helpful in decreasing medical and psychiatric symptoms such as pain, insomnia, and anxiety due to substance use disorder. This indicates that CBD may prove to be an effective treatment for opioid addiction.




Studies have indicated that CBD can be helpful to manage epileptic seizures, especially in children. FDA approved CBD-containing drug called Epidiolex in 2018 to manage Dravet syndrome and Lennox Gastaut syndrome in children under 2 years. Three vetted studies supported this FDA's decision. Trials were conducted on 516 patients suffering from these two forms of epilepsies. They were either given Epidiolex or a placebo, and researchers found that when Epidiolex was consumed along with prescribed medicines, it decreased the frequency of seizures in participants compared to placebo.


It may help protect the brain against neurological problems


Chart showing benefits of CBD on the brain. 

Clinical and preclinical studies have found that CBD has strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Researchers believe that these properties can help offer neuroprotection or protection of the brain against many pathological problems. Many preclinical studies also indicate that CBD can be beneficial for Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and multiple sclerosis. However, positive results were not recorded when used for cerebral ischemia and Huntington's disease.




Arthritis is a disease characterized by pain and inflammation in and around the joints that deteriorate the tissues. There are many types of arthritis and symptoms include loss of motion, stiffness, and intense pain. Many different treatment options are used to get an improvement of joint function and pain relief. 


A study in 2006 found that using Sativex significantly improved pain during movement pain, at rest, and quality of sleep in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Sativex is a botanical CBD-based drug approved in the United Kingdom. This study was the first controlled trial of this drug to treat rheumatoid arthritis that involved 58 participants. It was found that CBD can decrease disease activity and reduce pain.


Another study in 2018 administered synthetic CBD gel daily to patients with knee pain due to osteoarthritis. Patients were also asked to stop taking anti-inflammatories or painkillers except for acetaminophen. The results of this study were exciting but not very conclusive. Patients treated with CBD did not report any improvement in the condition compared to placebo. However, there was a significant difference between the groups receiving placebo and the 250 mg dose CBD grow when their average weekly improvement of worst pain levels and physical function rating was measured.


Types of CBD


In theory, there may be hundreds of types of CBD oils but depending upon the extraction process and the cannabinoid content there are mainly the following three types of CBD.




Isolate is the purest form of CBD as it does not contain any natural compound or cannabinoid of Cannabis. All of the compounds and cannabinoids are removed from the plant mixture through an elaborate extraction process to make this possible. On the basis of the extraction process, the best quality CBD isolates are usually 99% pure. This is the biggest benefit of CBD isolate since you can maintain the potential of CBD even if it is added to shampoos, foods, or lotions. It is also a good choice to avoid THC as isolates do not contain any cannabinoids. Finally, this might be the right product for you if you want an odorless, flavorless product.


Full Spectrum CBD 


Full-spectrum products contain all the cannabinoids of Cannabis alongside trace amounts of THC, terpenes, and flavonoids. Some people prefer full-spectrum CBD over other types of CBD because of the entourage effect theory.


According to this theory, when all the cannabinoids are consumed together, they may be more effective than taking any cannabinoid alone. It is believed that in the presence of other cannabinoids therapeutic potential of individual cannabinoids is enhanced. Moreover, full-spectrum CBD also contains a wide range of flavonoids and terpenes that are also very beneficial. So full spectrum CBD can be the right choice for you if you prefer less refined products and don't mind the earthy flavor.


Broad-spectrum CBD


Broad-spectrum CBD lies between CBD isolate and full spectrum. This type of CBD mostly contains good amounts of CBD and other cannabinoids except for THC. Like full spectrum CBD, this type may also produce heightened effects as it contains a variety of compounds that work together synergistically. It is a good option for people who want to benefit from the entourage effect but don't want to consume THC.


Legality of CBD


Under the farm bill 2018, CBD obtained only from hemp plants is considered federally legal. This bill removed hemp and its derived products from the Schedule I substance and reclassified them as agricultural commodities. CBD, if not obtained from hemp, is still a Schedule I substance making it illegal according to the DEA. For CBD products to be legal it must be:

- Derived from hemp

- Contains no more than 0.3 % THC

- Adheres to Federal state regulations

- Should be grown by a licensed grower


This bill also removed all the previous restrictions on the growing, transportation, and sale of hemp and its derived CBD products. You made come across different CBD regulations in different states. Therefore, check the local laws and regulations before buying or selling CBD products.


Side effects of CBD


According to the World Health Organization CBD is generally well tolerated. Clinical research indicates that CBD may trigger the following side effects.

- Changes in mood and appetite 

- Diarrhea

- Drowsiness 

- Dizziness 

- Nausea 

- Vomiting

- Dry mouth 

- Increase in liver enzymes

- Interaction with other medications

The type and severity of each side effect may vary from person to person.


Ways to use CBD 


CBD can be used in various forms, such as orally, sublingually, and topically.


All methods of using CBD are not equal, and their effectiveness varies depending upon the ingredients in the products, bioavailability, and consumption method. The bioavailability of any compound is the amount of serving that reaches the bloodstream at the end. Intravenous administration ensures 100% bioavailability of CBD. All other methods deliver less CBD in the body than what was consumed due to metabolism and entrapment in the fatty tissues.




CBD sublingual is a popular method to consume CBD orally. CBD oil is placed under the tongue, which is absorbed quickly by the capillaries underneath our tongue. A tincture is a sublingual product, and its bioavailability is 13-19%, and it takes 5-20 minutes to show its effects.




CBD can also be consumed orally, but its bioavailability is less than other methods. The absorption rate is also slower because CBD has to pass through the digestive system before entering the bloodstream. After passing through the digestive system, it reaches the liver, where the enzymes reduce the concentration of CBD before the leftover CBD enters the bloodstream. CBD normally takes 30-120 minutes to start its effects through this method, and only 10 to 20% CBD reaches the bloodstream.


CBD edibles include capsules, gummies, drink products, and more.


Topical CBD


Topical products include gels, creams, lotions, and patches infused with CBD. Except for CBD patches, all other topical compounds cannot penetrate deep layers of the skin. This is due to the poor absorption of the skin layer that acts as a barrier for moisture. They are a good option for localized treatment of pain and inflammation. The rate of absorption of CBD topicals is very high as the consumer can feel the effects within 10 minutes when the skin is massaged with the product. However, the bioavailability is very low due to the poor absorbing ability of the skin.


Vape products


Vape products or intranasal products containing CBD are inhaled using a vaporizer pen. This method delivers CBD directly into the lungs, from where it quickly enters the bloodstream. The bioavailability of CBD through this method is 34 to 46%. It was found that the effects of CBD can be felt within 10 minutes of intranasal administration.


Buying high-quality CBD products


In recent years we have seen an exponential rise in CBD products in the market. However, this quantity may overwhelm many consumers who wish to try it. Before buying CBD products, there are many factors to consider, including the potential of CBD and the type of CBD product.


Why do you want to use CBD


Before selecting or buying a CBD product, the most important thing is to decide why you want to try it. Depending upon your condition, you will select the type of product. Although research studies suggest that CBD may be helpful with many health conditions such as pain, anxiety, and inflammation, different methods of CBD administration are used for different problems.


For example, topical lotions may be very effective if you are experiencing local pain and inflammation. On the other hand, inhaling CBD for anxiety or muscle cramps may prove beneficial.


THC content


If you are not interested in the entourage effect, you would like to use CBD products containing the least THC concentration. In this case, it would be best to use CBD products obtained from the hemp plant as they contain THC as low as 0.3 %. If you want to try a CBD product with THC, you need to be in a state where marijuana is legalized. You will also require to go to a state-licensed dispensary to buy the CBD product after you get a recommendation from a physician.


Where the plant was grown


The majority of CBD products sold in retail stores or online come from hemp, and the source of a plant is a very important factor. Most of the hemp used to obtain CBD comes from Oregon, Colorado, and Kentucky or is imported from overseas.


Among the sources state of Colorado has the most vigorous hemp program to check the potential of CBD and THC levels of the plants in the field. But if plants were grown overseas, they can be even more problematic because they are not subject to any Federal or state testing. So check labels to see whether the products obtained from hemp are grown in the United States or overseas. Sometimes you may not find the label, so you will have to ask the dispensary or retail store staff to give you information about the hemp.


Test results


One of the most important documents that we need to look at and check is the certificate of analysis of the CBD products. This document clearly shows how the product performed on test checking for contaminants and levels of CBD and THC. Beware if retail store online manufacturer doesn't have the information it is better to avoid the retailer and the product.


It is important to check the certificate of analysis to see whether this product meets the ISO 17025 standards. CoA indicates that products adhere to safety standards. It would help if you also looked at whether the CBD company utilizes testing methods that are validated by one of the three renowned national standard-setting organizations, i.e., the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia, the US Pharmacopeia, and the Association of Official Agricultural Chemists.


Amount of CBD


It is very important to choose CBD products that clearly show the amount of CBD present in them. You may come across products that list the number of total cannabinoids present in the product instead of the CBD concentrations. Companies use this approach to avoid strict inquiry from FDA. Some of these products may be labeled as whole-plant extracts or rich in flavonoids or fatty acids. In this case, check the certificate of analysis to check THC and CBD levels.


At Canna Cubans, we strive to be a reliable source of information as well as premium CBD products. So, make sure to follow us and look out for more articles dissecting the latest CBD health benefits, scientific research, and trends in the industry.

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