A Guide to Using CBD

CBD Guide

CBD. Chances are by now you’ve heard of it. Maybe you’ve even tried it. Maybe your mom has tried it. CBD is suddenly everywhere. And yet most of us are still a little murky on the details surrounding it. Is CBD legal? (Yep). Can CBD get me high? (Nope). Where can I get CBD? (It depends).

Luckily, you’re in the right spot. Welcome to CBD 101. Take a deep breath; all of your questions will be answered. Consider this your one-stop guide to the benefits, applications, health regulations, and science behind CBD. 

Rise of CBD’s Popularity

In the last few years, CBD has garnered plenty of exciting buzz. And honestly, it’s 100% earned. CBD has proven itself to be a sort of “wonder drug.” It is highly effective, yet causes little to no negative side effects.  

Let’s clear up one thing right off the bat. CBD will not get you high. CBD is an abbreviation for cannabidiol. As its name suggests, CBD is a natural compound derived from cannabis. Another natural compound in cannabis is THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol (say that three times fast). 

However, unlike THC, cannabidiol does not induce psychoactive effects. In fact, CBD has been proven to counteract the psychoactive effects of THC. 

Separating CBD from all of the preconceptions about the cannabis plant (marijuana, weed, ganja, kush…you get the drift) is the first step in its resurgence. CBD is not only safe and (mostly) legal; it has the potential to benefit millions of people with chronic health conditions. 

Health Benefits of CBD

Part of the rapid rise of CBD’s popularity in the United States is the huge range of health benefits it provides. Here’s just an initial rundown of some of those benefits:

  • Provides pain relief
  • Eases anxiety / depression
  • Alleviates cancer-related symptoms
  • Helps provide restful sleep
  • Eases arthritis and joint-related pain
  • Reduces acne
  • Improves heart health

It’s hard not to be a tiny bit skeptical when you look at that list of health benefits. It looks to be somewhat overpromising, right? Wrong! People forget that we have an entire body system that is set up to interact with CBD — the endocannabinoid system.   

Endocannabinoid System

To understand the full benefits of CBD, you first need to understand how it makes contact with your body. So let’s take a quick trip through the endocannabinoid system. 

The endocannabinoid system (or ECS) is found in lots of different places throughout your body. It is most prominently located in your central and peripheral nervous system. But researchers have also located receptors in our skin, liver, muscle, heart, gastrointestinal tract, and beyond. So essentially, we’re stocked with this system everywhere. 

The ECS is the ultimate regulator of homeostasis. Homeostasis is basically the “checks and balances” of the body to make sure everything is in the right range. The ECS plays a role in important functions like: 

  • Mood
  • Sleep
  • Appetite
  • Inflammation
  • Pain

So here’s how it works. Our bodies naturally produce endocannabinoids. You read that right. We already produce cannabis-like compounds without the help of the plant! The endocannabinoids’ sole purpose is to find their cannabinoid receptor and link up with it. Luckily for us, the ECS has stationed cannabinoid receptors all over our body. 

When our homeostasis is out of whack, our body sends out a flood of endocannabinoids. These little guys find their stressed out cannabinoid receptors in the specific area of the body that is affected. They attach to the receptors like a lock in a key, the cannabinoid receptors breathe a sigh of relief (metaphorically speaking, of course) and homeostasis is achieved! 

Then comes the last step of the process. After the job is done, the body sends in enzymes to break up the bonded endocannabinoid and cannabinoid receptor. This prevents any overcorrecting of the process. Remember, homeostasis is all about balance

Our endocannabinoid system is precise and effective. So why do we need CBD if we already produce our own endocannabinoids? Here are two very simplified answers to that question: 

  • CBD modifies receptors (cannabis effects without getting us high)
  • CBD enhances the natural effectiveness of endocannabinoids

Since CBD is not naturally produced by our bodies, it doesn’t actually prefer to link up directly with the cannabinoid receptor. Instead, it modifies the receptor to remove the potential of the psychoactive THC. It also is known to weaken the receptor that signals for inflammation. 

Remember the enzyme clean-up crew? Usually, that process is completely needed for regulation and homeostasis. But CBD is uniquely designed to slow down the enzymes that break down anandamide (a neurotransmitter that boosts your mood). In turn, this allows anandamide to stick around in your system longer and keep you happy! 

Further Reading: A recent study in the British Journal of Pharmacology considers the therapeutic role of cannabinoids (CBD) in easing collateral cancer symptoms, especially as it relates to the endocannabinoid system.    

What to Look for in CBD Products

Now that we have the science of CBD under control, let’s take a closer look at the product itself. As a general rule, before you ingest something, you want to understand a little more about how it works. So here are some good questions to ask: 

  • How will it taste? 
  • How will it make me feel? 
  • How will it be absorbed into my body? 
  • How long will it affect my system? 

Well, we’re glad you asked! In this section, we’ll tackle some common words and phrases you might see on a CBD product label. The bottom line is labels are important! They provide helpful answers to the questions above regarding dosage, absorption, flavor, and more.   

CBD Isolate vs. Full Spectrum vs. Broad Spectrum 

CBD operates on a spectrum, as does most everything in life. Each product has a varying amount of cannabinoid in it. This all depends on how much cannabinoid is extracted from the cannabis plant in the first place. The process of CO2 extraction is fascinating and complicated

This is where the cannabis plant meets the science lab. During the extraction process, it is possible to isolate a specific component — even down to a specific cannabinoid — within the cannabis plant. Then, companies can be more exact about the potency, composition, and quality of the product they deliver. 

There are three main players in the cannabinoid spectrum: CBD isolate, full spectrum, and broad spectrum. Each serve a different purpose and undergo a different process of extraction and refining. In the end, none of the three are better than the other. Different strokes for different folks! We’ve outlined all three of them below, along with some basic pros and cons of each.  

CBD Isolate

As the name implies, CBD isolate is a product that has extracted just CBD from the cannabis plant. Out of all the other possible compounds in the plant, the CBD has been isolated. CBD isolate, then, is the purest form you can find. 

Some might assume that the CBD isolate is the most potent, since it is in the purest form. However, that distinction is left to full spectrum CBD. 

CBD isolate is good for folks who have a sensitivity to THC or who are trying to avoid it altogether. A CBD isolate will not be flagged on a standard drug test. Even more, CBD isolate is virtually odorless and tasteless, which is a plus for folks who dislike the “weed” smell. 

Pros

  • Purest form of CBD
  • Does not contain THC
  • No taste or odor
  • Does not show up on drug tests

Cons

  • Not as potent as full spectrum CBD 
  • More rigorous distillation process

Full Spectrum CBD

Full spectrum CBD gets its name for representing the full spectrum of the cannabis plant. In its distillation process, it leaves nothing behind. So in a full spectrum CBD product, you’ll find a range of other cannabinoids, terpenes (more on that in the section below), oils, and other compounds. 

This bundle of distilled goodies is a powerful cocktail. In fact, full spectrum CBD is proven to have the strongest results. This is often referred to as the “entourage effect.” Essentially, the entourage effect argues that CBD is most potent in its natural state — with an army of compadre compounds working synergistically. 

If you recall the earlier discussion on CBD’s root compounds, you’ll remember that CBD naturally contains THC. THC plays a part in the entourage effect of full spectrum CBD. Even though the high is cancelled out (the cannabinoid receptor has been modified), THC’s presence is crucial in delivering results. That said, however, the amount of THC in a full spectrum CBD extract is tiny; you won’t feel any sort of high. 

Pros:

  • Contains full essence of cannabis plant
  • Strongest and most effective form of CBD
  • Least amount of processing

Cons

  • Contains tiny amount of THC (not psychoactive though)
  • Might show up on a drug test
  • Smells / tastes like cannabis

Broad Spectrum CBD

Broad spectrum CBD is the middle ground between a full spectrum CBD and a CBD isolate. Like full spectrum CBD, a broad spectrum CBD product brings with it all the extra good stuff in the cannabis plant — terpenes, essential oils, and other cannabinoids. However, like CBD isolate, it does not contain THC. 

So broad spectrum still technically enables the “entourage effect” (multiple compounds of the cannabis plant joining forces). But it just doesn’t include the THC. Some would argue that this cancels out the entourage effect, but the jury’s still out. 

Broad spectrum CBD is good for folks who still want a little more “oomph” to their CBD product, but want to avoid THC. For some who live in states in which THC is illegal, broad spectrum CBD is a safe, legal choice. In general, broad spectrum CBD is less available and less popular than its other two siblings. But it works great for some people!  

Pros

  • Enables “entourage effect”
  • Does not show up on drug tests
  • Does not contain THC

Cons

  • Not as well-researched as the others
  • Smells / tastes like cannabis

Terpenes

In the discussion about the CBD spectrums, you maybe noticed a new word — terpenes. It’s a good word to know; it comes up frequently in CBD products and labels. 

The nerdy answer? According to the Oxford Dictionary, terpenes are a group of “volatile unsaturated hydrocarbons that can be found in the essential oils of plants, especially conifers and citrus trees.”

The more palatable answer? Terpenes are an organic compound that affect taste and smell in plants. In the cannabis plant, terpenes are the aromatic compound that accounts for its unique smell. While there is a universal “cannabis smell,” each cannabis plant contains its own unique configuration of terpenes — and therefore each captures its own smell and flavor. 

You have maybe experienced this already (or, your nose has). Cannabis embodies its own essence through fragrance and flavor palate — piney, lemony, skunky, fruity, spicy, you name it! All of that variance comes down to the molecular work of terpenes. 

Terpenes play a role in CBD beyond just the smell and taste factor. Since terpenes are basically an essential oil, they help out in the absorption process of CBD topicals. Terpenes increase skin permeation in topical products. 

This dynamic plays into the term we reviewed above — the “entourage effect.” Without the natural oily state of terpenes, we would need a synthetic oil to promote the permeation of CBD into our skin. Terpenes are present in full spectrum and broad spectrum CBD, but not CBD isolate. 

CBD Dosage

“So CBD can help with my depression, you say? Great! How much should I take?” 

That is a very good question! Figuring out an appropriate CBD dosage is crucial to achieving safe and effective results. The only problem is it sometimes needs to be a “trial and error” process. 

Part of the issue with CBD dosage is that it is still largely unregulated. That means, among other things, that there are no hard and fast rules to dosage. Folks use anywhere from 20mg to 1,000mg (milligrams) of CBD per day. So where do you fall on that spectrum? 

The first and best thing you can do is talk to your doctor. She or he will likely recommend a dosage that fits your specific needs and lifestyle. Your doctor (and therefore you) will need to consider four essential factors before deciding on a CBD dosage: 

  1. Your body weight / BMI (Body Mass Index)
  2. Your sensitivity to chemicals 
  3. The condition you intend to treat
  4. The amount of CBD in your product

Some folks will absorb CBD faster than others, whether that is due to their body weight, BMI, chemical composition, or a whole slew of other factors. Some folks will react better to full spectrum CBD than CBD isolate. For others, it will be the reverse! As we said before, CBD dosage is a process. Be patient and persistent — you’ll find the right combination! 

Here’s a tip: start low on dosage and gradually work your way up. That way, you’ll be able to observe how your body reacts to a range of dosages. For example, start at 30mg of CBD per day for a full week. Assess your symptoms. Jump up to 40mg if you feel like you need more. It might be a good idea to log your results and track your dosage.  

For most CBD products, the label will make it clear how much CBD is concentrated in a serving. This will be simple enough for single-serve products like CBD gummies and capsules. The label might indicate 10mg per gummy, for example. 

However, if you are taking CBD oil via a dropper, you’ll want to be more precise. Take into account how much CBD is in the entire bottle. Unfortunately, this is usually what is printed on the label — total CBD in the bottle, not how much CBD is in a single drop. 

You’ll need to get your calculator out and do some number crunching, but here’s a quick example to give you a frame of reference:

  • Total CBD in 5-mL bottle: 1,000mg 
  • 1 drop = 0.05 mL (100 drops in the bottle)
  • 1000mg / 100 drops = 10mg per drop

All in all, when it comes to CBD dosage, just take your time, read the label, and start your dosage low. The great thing about CBD is that it is really hard to overdo it! Good luck! 

Methods of Taking CBD

One highly marketable aspect of CBD is its ability to “shapeshift” into numerous forms for intake. For example, these methods include gummies, drops, capsules, topicals, and more. This shapeshifting happens at the production stage. CBD manufacturers are asking: What are the easiest, most efficient ways to take CBD? 

Here’s what they came up with! At this point, the three most popular methods of taking CBD are orally, topically, or inhaling through vaping. Another way to put that — you can ingest CBD through your mouth, skin, or lungs

There are pros and cons to all of the methods. Each serve a specific purpose, too. We’ve laid them out below for you to decide what fits best with your needs!  

Orally

The first method of taking CBD is orally, or through your mouth. This is probably the method that most people associate with taking a pill. And therefore, oral ingestion of CBD tends to still be the most popular method.  

Oral intake of CBD is most effective for folks who want a systematic approach to their symptoms. Usually folks find that oral intake of CBD scores big in the following: it is more exact in dosing, faster in implementing effects, and achieves results that last longer. Within this category, you’ll find the sublingual and buccal CBD methods, as well as the edible CBD method.

Sublingual / Buccal 

Sublingual technically means “situated or placed under the tongue.” So to ingest CBD sublingually, it means you will place a few drops of a CBD tincture or oil under your tongue. It is recommended that you hold it there for at least 60 to 90 seconds before swallowing. 

Here’s why the sublingual method works so effectively. Underneath the tongue is a bed of capillary-rich tissue. By placing the CBD directly on this tissue, you are essentially delivering the goods directly to your bloodstream. You will feel the effects within 1 hour. 

In fact, the sublingual method totally side-steps the first-pass metabolism process that happens when a substance goes through your digestive tract (if you were to ingest it like food). This metabolism process can delay the effects of CBD and lessen its potency. It can take up to 2 hours to feel the effects of CBD that is eaten. 

Another similar approach is the buccal method. Buccal is another fancy anatomical name for “cheek.” So in this case, you would drop a dosage of CBD oil against the inside of your cheek and hold it there for 60 to 90 seconds. Our mouths, in general, are rich in capillaries. The sublingual method tends to be more effective than the buccal method, but both work well. 

We’re discussing a term here known as “bioavailability.” Basically, it’s how much of a substance is available to your body after you ingest it. 

For example, to get 100% bioavailability, you would need to administer CBD intravenously (directly into your bloodstream). Since the sublingual method routes the CBD almost immediately into your bloodstream, it has a higher bioavailability than swallowing a CBD capsule.    

Pro Tip: If you swish the CBD oil around your mouth and teeth during that 90-second window, you’ll boost the effects even more. This maximizes the surface area that can absorb the CBD into your bloodstream. 

If you forget to hold the oil under your tongue, or if you accidently swallow it immediately, don’t worry about it. You’ll still get the CBD dosage — it just might take longer to feel the effects. 

The sublingual and buccal method is best used with CBD oils or tinctures. You might not be familiar with the word “tincture.” A tincture is a medicine (or CBD) that has been infused with another solvent, usually alcohol or oil. 

CBD tinctures differ from CBD oils in that it is infused (rather than in its purest form). Other ingredients — like terpenes, other carrier oils, etc. — can be added to tinctures, too. 

You can buy CBD tinctures alongside CBD oil. But tinctures can also be a great DIY approach to CBD. You can really dial in a lot of factors — dosage, flavor, concentration, and more. 

Boiled down to the most basic steps, here’s a guide to how to make a CBD tincture

  1. Grind up your cannabis flower (about ⅛ oz works well)
  2. “Decarb” your cannabis at about 225 degrees for 30-40 minutes
    • Decarboxylation (“decarb”) is the process of heating up (and therefore activating) your cannabis plant.
  3. Soak directly in alcohol (190 proof is best) for 3 weeks! 
    • Shake it around every now and then to keep it mixed up. The alcohol will slowly extract the CBD (cannabinoids) from the cannabis flower.
  4. Use a filter (a coffee filter will work!) to strain out the concentrate
  5. Add any additional terpenes, oils, etc. 
  6. Dose it out, bottle it up, and you’re done! 

When you’re using a CBD tincture, just remember our recommendations about dosage. Start small (at around 20mg of CBD) and build up slowly according to your symptoms. CBD tinctures can really pack a punch. You don’t need much to feel the effects. 

One big benefit of using a CBD tincture or oil is that you can control your dosage better than a pre-dosed capsule or edible. As you consider whether the sublingual and buccal method are best for you, here’s a round-up of the big benefits of this method: 

Pros of Sublingual / Buccal Method: 

  • CBD goes into effect fast (within 1 hour)
  • Higher bioavailability
  • CBD effects last longer than vaping
  • Tinctures have a long shelf life
  • Droppers are an accurate way to dose CBD 

Cons of Sublingual / Buccal Method:

  • Some people don’t like holding oil in their mouth for so long
  • Oil can carry cannabis flavor (terpenes)
  • Not as good for targeting a specific area of pain

Edibles

The second category within oral intake of CBD is (drumroll) edibles! CBD edibles are a popular method of intake, largely for their versatility. As a classification, edibles are probably more than what you’re picturing (gummies, brownies, etc.). In its broadest definition, CBD edibles are anything that can be eaten or swallowed. 

CBD edibles can take numerous forms, then. They could be pill capsules, powder, or oils that you mix into food or drink. CBD capsules will be dosed to a single serving size. CBD powder will likely give you exact measurements on how much to add to a smoothie or drink. 

The most popular form of edibles are CBD-infused food. There are so many products out there that are infused with CBD — gummies, chocolates, mints, truffles, gum…the list goes on and on. Part of the draw is that we love these foods on their own. The addition of CBD is just a bonus! 

But there is another more practical reason CBD pairs well with food. Food boosts the overall effectiveness of CBD. CBD is fat-soluble. This means that the body will absorb your CBD dosage at a much higher rate if it is travelling through the body with a dietary fat. 

Further Reading: This 2016 study from the American Journal of Translational Research takes a look at how dietary fats and pharmaceutical fats can boost your body’s exposure to cannabis.   

One drawback of consuming CBD via edibles is its decreased bioavailability due to the “first pass effect.” When we consume CBD orally, it travels through our digestive tract and eventually makes its way to our intestines. There, the CBD is absorbed into our bloodstream and passes through the liver (via the hepatic portal system, if you want to get exact). 

The liver is tasked with filtering our blood and metabolizing drugs. This is the “first pass effect.”  Unfortunately, that means the liver sends enzymes to break down the CBD. This dramatically reduces the strongest effects of CBD. In fact, most of the CBD ends up traveling out of us via urine.

However, there are ways to increase the reduced bioavailability of consumed CBD. As was explained above, foods that contain fatty acids and high lipid (fat) content are perfect pairings for CBD. The CBD binds to these compounds and is metabolized into energy, rather than going through the first-pass effect. Here are a few foods that will pair well with CBD: 

  • Coconut oil
  • Avocado
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Coffee with cream

Further Reading: A 2012 study from the European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology shows that the bioavailability of CBD is 3 to 5 times higher if it is consumed with food.    

Dosage for CBD edibles is a little trickier than it is for the sublingual and buccal methods. For one, you’re now combining CBD with other food. This introduces lots of other factors in how the body will absorb and process the CBD. In turn, this makes it harder to get dosing precise. As always, take the time to read labels and start slow! 

Pros of Edibles:

  • Delicious! 
  • Versatility of using other foods
  • Cannabis flavor can be masked
  • Discreet way to ingest CBD
  • Long-lasting effects if consumed with food

Cons of Edibles:

  • First-pass effect limits bioavailability
  • Harder to dial in dosage
  • Not as good for targeting a specific area of pain

Topicals

The next method of using CBD is via topicals. Topicals are a medication (in this case, CBD) that can be applied directly on the skin. This could include creams, lotions, balms, salves, or anything else in that category. 

CBD topicals provide great anti-inflammatory relief for joint and muscle pain. You can use CBD topicals for acute and chronic pain. Instead of offering a systemic approach, topicals target specific areas that are causing pain. Topicals perform best when applied on a local area using a high concentration CBD product. 

Further Reading: A study published in Molecules last year (2018) explores the beneficial effects (and the variety of delivery methods) of CBD as it addresses chronic pain and inflammation.   

While topicals can get very specific in location, they sometimes lag in precision when it comes to timing. In general, the effectiveness of topicals varies greatly depending on the location. Unfortunately, our skin does not have great permeability. Permeability is the level to which substances can pass through a membrane. 

One way to boost your chances of permeability is to find a topical that includes terpenes (so a full- or broad-spectrum CBD topical). The essential oils in terpenes naturally boost skin permeation. Another great option is to pair a CBD topical with other products. That way, you can increase your pain relief to an isolated muscle or joint, while still experiencing systemic benefits. 

While our skin does not have great permeability, areas with mucous membranes do. They lack the dermal “defense layers” of our skin. Mucous membranes are usually found in our internal organs. However, one area in which skin is continuous with a mucous membrane is our genital areas. 

In fact, CBD has been known to address numerous gynecological issues, such as:

  • Severe menstrual cramps
  • Pain during sex
  • Pregnancy nausea
  • Painful urination
  • Hemorrhoids 

CBD topicals aren’t just for addressing pain. CBD lubrication is becoming increasingly popular for its benefits in the bedroom. It is known to reduce pain and anxiety during sex, and even act as a natural aphrodsiac. Genital topicals can be found as lube, creams, sprays, or suppositories. 

In areas that are not a mucous membrane, the best chances you have at an effective topical is a CBD patch. Unlike a cream or lotion, CBD patches are transdermal. This means they are “pre-loaded” with a dose of CBD and have the ability to cross over the skin (dermal) barrier. 

Further Reading: This 2015 study demonstrates (using rats!) that transdermal application of CBD reduces pain and inflammation symptoms of arthritis.  

Even though it is harder to find a topical that is 100% effective, CBD topicals are changing the game for many people with chronic health issues. 

Folks who suffer from arthritis or bursitis (or other joint pain conditions) can greatly benefit from topicals. Topicals are also effective at the muscular level. Folks who deal with chronic back pain or fibromyalgia have reported big successes with CBD topicals. 

Further Reading: In early October 2019, the Arthritis Foundation released a set of guidelines instructing patients on how to use CBD to manage arthritis-related pain. 

CBD topicals are starting to enter into health businesses, too. With the appropriate waivers and legal parameters, massage therapists, physical therapists, chiropractors, and acupuncturists are beginning to incorporate topicals into their sessions. Another great market for topicals is in the sports arena for athletes who need targeted pain relief. 

Pros for Topicals:

  • Topicals target specific, localized areas for pain relief
  • Safest approach to consuming CBD
  • Avoids first-pass effect
  • Highly effective on mucous membranes (genitals)
  • Transdermal patches permeate skin barrier

Cons for Topicals:

  • Skin offers poor permeability (hard for CBD to reach the bloodstream)
  • Not a systemic approach to pain relief
  • Need high concentration of CBD for any effect (can be expensive)

Vaping 

The final method of taking CBD is vaping, or inhaling it. This is the method that yields the fastest and strongest effects of CBD. However, it is also one of the more controversial methods because of the potential harmful effects it can have on your lungs.  

Vape pens are ubiquitous these days. Their rise in popularity is in part due to their branded status as a healthier counterpart to smoking. As opposed to smoking, vaping is a potentially less toxic process. It occurs at a lower temperature, activates vapor (rather than smoke), and does not contain as many carcinogens. 

In light of the limitations that other methods have because of their decreased bioavailability, vaping is a super viable option. Inhaled as a vapor, the effects of CBD hit your bloodstream almost immediately (usually within 30 seconds). The results, then, are faster and more powerful. 

Let’s back up for a second. Maybe vaping is new to you. If so, vaping is a method of inhaling CBD (and other substances). Vaping requires a device that heats up to vaporize a substance, which you subsequently inhale. 

When it comes to inhaling CBD, you’ve got three main hardware options

  • Vape pens
  • Wax pens
  • Dab pens

We’ll go into much more detail about these devices below. But as you sort through these three methods, here are some key factors to consider: 

  • What is the vaping technique?
  • What is the hardware that is required?
  • How does the quality compare? 
  • How much does it cost? 

Vape Pens

Vape pens are probably the device that you’re most familiar seeing people use. They contain a cartridge that holds the CBD oil or liquid. When you inhale, an atomizer inside the pen will heat the CBD oil, turning it to vapor. Vape pens are battery-operated, usually rechargeable, and fairly discrete. They fit easily into a pocket or purse. 

Wax Pens

Wax pens are quite similar to vape pens in their hardware structure. However, instead of an oil or liquid in the cartridge, wax pens literally melt down a CBD wax concentrate. Since they are dealing with a more solid substance, wax pens require a higher heat. 

Dab Pens

Dab pens are a more specialized device — they only work with dab concentrates. So what is a “dab”? A dab is a highly concentrated extract of CBD that gets flash heated in the dab pen. The dab turns into a liquid, which in turn gets vaporized when inhaled. Wax and dab pens sometimes are seen as interchangeable. However, even though they both deal with concentrates, they require separate substances. 

Overall, the three techniques share many similarities, mostly in their hardware. However, here are some key differences to consider: 

  • Dab pens are more potent in CBD content than vape pens
  • Dab and wax pens can be messier to load than vape pens
  • Dab pens use a much higher temperature than vape pens 

While vaping is a relatively fast and effective way to ingest CBD, recent reports have revealed a more dangerous side to vaping. First, vaping and e-cigarettes are still largely unregulated. This means you need to be extra careful about where you source your vape liquid, oil, waxes, and dabs. Some companies use flavoring and additives that prove to be carcinogenic and toxic. 

Second, while vaping cannabis exposes you to less toxic chemicals than a cigarette, inhaling foreign substances can still by harmful to your lungs. This is especially the case when if you are regularly vaping. 

Some associated health issues include:

  • Chronic cough
  • Congestion
  • Asthma

Since CBD liquid can be an expensive product, some distributors have been known to add propylene glycol to the concentrates. Propylene glycol is a thinning agent that can be carcinogenic when it is heated up. Bottom line, know exactly what is in your CBD product before inhaling it! 

Further Reading: A 2017 study in Psychological Reports shows that one side effect of e-cigarette vapors is a gene modification of your circadian rhythm — therefore altering core biological expressions. According to the study, this is largely due to exposure to propylene glycol. 

Pros of Vaping CBD

  • Fastest and strongest effect
  • Absorbed into bloodstream immediately (side-steps first-pass effect)
  • Potentially less toxic counterpart to smoking
  • Discrete way to consume CBD in public

Cons of Vaping CBD

  • Health concerns associated with vaping / dabbing
  • Still unregulated; hard to know exactly what is in your concentrate
  • Dosage hard to control

CBD and Regulation

Despite the relative widespread access to CBD nationwide, regulation and legality are still somewhat unclear. Policy is still catching up to public interest. In July 2019, the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) released their take on the science and safety of CBD products. The current status of CBD at the federal level is complicated. We’ve done our best to spell out some of the big questions below. 

Is CBD Legal?

The big question everyone is wondering: Is CBD legal? The short answer is yes! But the longer answer is a bit more complicated. 

On the federal level, purchasing CBD is legal as long as the strain contains less than 0.3% THC. In the 2018 Farm Bill, Congress legalized hemp sales federally. The hemp plant is in the cannabis family. If hemp contains more than 0.3% THC, however, it is considered marijuana, which is still illegal on the federal level. 

There are currently 11 U.S. states that have legalized the use of marijuana: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and Washington, DC. An additional 22 states have legalized the use of medical marijuana, which essentially allows marijuana as long as you have a prescription from a doctor.  

When it comes to the legal status of CBD worldwide, it varies somewhat. In Europe, most countries have legalized hemp-derived CBD, as long as it stays below 0.2% THC content. In Asia, however, many countries maintain strict laws against cannabis consumption. Latin America has opened the door for a number of laws regarding hemp-derived CBD. 

Mexico, in particular, is leading the pack. In fact, the country is gearing up to vote on the legalization of recreational marijuana

Across the globe, both the public and policy makers are gaining interest in the positive potential of CBD. Already, nearly 50 countries around the world have legalized hemp-derived CBD use. That number will continue to grow as science and research catches up to public interest. 

Is CBD Well-Researched?

Part of the difficulty in legitimizing and legalizing cannabis products on a federal level is the relative lack of clinical research to back up claims about CBD. Until the FDA backs CBD as a whole, the research will be under-funded and less accepted in the medical community. 

Further Reading: This 2017 article explores the various regulatory and financial barriers that face the cannabis industry, especially as it relates to conducting ongoing research.  

That is not to say there is a total lack of studies out there on CBD. In fact, we’ve included numerous interesting studies throughout this guide that are backed by clinical trials and peer-reviewed journals. As a whole, though, CBD research is still in its early stages. There is much more to learn about this amazing plant! 

Are There Side Effects to CBD?

If you are considering using CBD for the first time, the best thing you can do is talk to your doctor. Your doctor will be able to give you a recommendation for dosage, method, and use according to your specific health needs. 

While the side effects of CBD are relatively non-existent, there are a few precautions to consider. In some rare cases, CBD side effects have included:

  • Diarrhea
  • Weight change / Appetite change
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety

Another precaution to take before using CBD for the first time is to review your current medications. Your doctor will be helpful in advising which prescription medications could possibly mix poorly with CBD. 

Maybe you’ve heard of the “grapefruit rule.” Doctors warn against mixing some medications with grapefruit juice. Common ones are Lipitor (cholesterol medication) and Claritin (allergy medication). Grapefruit juice interferes with enzymes in your liver, which in turn affects how you metabolize the medication. 

If you are on these medications, it can be dangerous to add CBD to the mix. CBD acts in a similar way to grapefruit juice by inhibiting the enzymes that metabolize your medication. As a result, your medication can stay in your system longer. As a rule, just make sure your doctor signs off on your CBD usage. 

The Bottom Line

Hopefully by now it’s clear to you that CBD is a wildly useful and versatile product that can yield huge health benefits. 

If you are new to CBD, you have lots of different options in using it for the first time: consuming it orally, topically, or inhaling it. You can use CBD to treat chronic health conditions, anxiety, sexual health, and more. Hemp-derived CBD products are legal in the United States, as long as they contain less than 0.3% THC. Similar laws are in place in over 45 different countries. 

Beyond ingesting CBD to address health concerns, you can find CBD in tons of other fun day-to-day products like makeup, soaps, shampoos, and bath bombs. Even more, CBD is not just beneficial to us. CBD is also a lifesaver for our best friends — our pets! You can find CBD pet treats and tinctures to help out with pet anxiety, joint pain, and more. 

Our understanding of CBD is continually expanding, especially as clinical research in the area picks up speed. But what’s the bottom line? CBD is safe and effective. Our bodies are literally designed to interact with its healing properties. Now that you’re practically an expert in CBD, go see/try for yourself!