What is CBD Oil? Learn the Facts: Uses, Benefits and Side Effects

Hemp leaves and jar of CBD oil.

CBD oil is quickly becoming one of the most popular health trends, used for treating everything from sleep disorders and anxiety to addiction and other health issues. It’s also spawned a billion-dollar industry in virtually no time at all. This once controversial substance can now be found throughout the United States, in foods like brownies, gummy bears, and even café lattes.

There’s seemingly no end to the amount of CBD oil products available, but there’s still a cloud of confusion surrounding this naturally-occurring medicine. For instance, how does CBD work? What are its benefits? Are there any potential risks or side-effects associated with it? Does it actually promote better sleep, and how?

For those of you looking to answers to questions like these, I hope to shed some light on the subject with a few straight-forward facts about the history, benefits, side effects, safety, and legal status of these products.

What is CBD Oil?

CBD is short for cannabidiol, which is only one of 104 known chemical compounds contained in marijuana and hemp plants. These compounds, referred to as cannabinoids, work through the endocannabinoid system, which is a bio-chemical communications network used by the body. These newly discovered cannabis receptor pathways play a necessary part in certain physiological functions, such as pain, mood, sleep, and appetite.

The marijuana plant is probably best known for the effects of the cannabinoid THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the compound that causes the “high” associated with its use. However, even though marijuana contains cannabidiol as well, it does not cause any intoxicating or psychoactive effects.

Rather, CBD oil is used by many people as a way to promote relaxation, sounder sleep, and pain relief, and is often marketed as a remedy for sleep disorders (such as insomnia) and other conditions like anxiety, chronic pain, and epilepsy.

Even though it’s possible to create CBD oil synthetically, it’s typically harvested from hemp, which is an easier and more natural source. To do this, manufacturers make use of certain extraction solvents that allow them to separate and remove CBD oils directly from the stalks and seeds of the hemp plant. After that, the oil is measured for cannabidiol levels and undergoes a heating process called decarboxylation, allowing the oil to be better absorbed by the body.

The hemp used in production of CBD oil is known as industrial hemp, which is part of the cannabis family. Industrial hemp contains large amounts of cannabidiol but almost none of the psychoactive compound THC – less than 0.3%, in fact.

Although industrial hemp is part of the cannabis family, and contains high levels of naturally-occurring cannabidiol, it only contains  less than 0.3% of the psychoactive compound THC. Within the United States, there are two main types of hemp-derived CBD oil products produced:

  • Crystalline isolates – When oil is labeled as a crystalline isolate, it means that the CBD has been isolated from THC and other cannabinoids, with the end result being pure cannabidiol.
  • Whole plant/full spectrum CBD’s – CBD oil that’s labeled as either whole plant or full spectrum will contain all or most of the cannabinoids found in the plant. This means there will possibly be minute amounts of THC,  THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin), and CBN (cannabinol) found in the oil. Research has shown that full spectrum CBD could be more beneficial because it works synergistically with other compounds found in the plant. (1)

Please note that even though the amounts of THC found in full spectrum CBD are minuscule, it could be enough to create a positive for a drug test. Since there is almost no THC found in CBD oil derived from industrial hemp, it is pretty much impossible to get high from using it.

That said, in those states where marijuana is legal, you may also find CBD oil that’s been extracted from marijuana plants. In this case, CBD oil derived from marijuana plants will have much larger amounts of THC (as much as 30%!), which will almost certainly produce mind-altering effects.

CBD oil website screenshot


CBD and THC are two of the most popular and commonly used used compounds found in the family of cannabis plants. Although these two compounds are derived from the same genus of plants, your body responds to them in significantly different ways.

THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), is a psychoactive compound. By triggering the release of dopamine and turning on cannabinoid receptors, THC can modify the brain’s function in several ways, creating certain changes in perception, or  a “high”.

However, CBD is not a psychoactive compound and does not produce mind-altering effects. By itself, CBD is used to treat conditions such as insomnia, stress, depression, and anxiety. CBD might actually reduce the psychoactive effects of THC when they’re combined by hindering THC’s ability to bind to cannabis receptors. Studies indicate that by combining these two compounds, many of the negative effects associated with THC (such an increase in anxiety and paranoia) might be reduced. (2)

Benefits of CBD

Bottle of CBD oil with dropper.

After years of being demonized along with the marijuana industry and classified as a Schedule I Narcotic by the DEA, CBD is only now beginning to be seriously studied and accepted. Even so, researchers have already learned that CBD may be useful in the treatment of a wide range of bodily and psychological conditions.

In particular, studies have shown CBD oil to be helpful for the treatment of the following health conditions of the body:

    • Cancer – Long ignored for the stigma associated with marijuana, cannabinoids are being researched more thoroughly, and scientists are increasingly showing interest in CBD oil as a potential cancer-fighting medicine. Recent studies show that CBD oil and cannabinoids can inhibit the spread of cancer and help kill cancer cells. (3)
    • Heart disease – More and more, research indicates that CBD can protect against inflammation in the body, which not only enhances the health of the cardiovascular system overall, but also helps treat heart disease. (4)
    • Chronic pain – CBD has been shown to relieve pain and reduce the inflammation that’s associated with several chronic pain conditions, such as arthritis and MS. (5)
    • Seizures and epilepsy – Because CBD and other cannabinoids have anticonvulsant properties, there has been a lot of research lately in CBD being used as a treatment for epilepsy and seizures, for children in particular.
    • IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome) – Research has shown cannabidiol to be an effective treatment for IBS due to its controlling effect on the neuroimmune system, which connects immune function, gut flora, and the central nervous system. (6)
    • Glaucoma – Studies have shown that CBD has potential as a topical treatment for glaucoma. CBD and other cannabinoids demonstrate an ability to protect neurons from glutamate-induced death. (7)
    • Acne – Another anti-inflammatory benefit of CBD is its ability to combat acne. (8) Many skin care products are now adding cannabidiol to the ingredients to treat acne and minimize its effects.

Besides treating conditions of the body, research indicates that CBD may be useful in treating the following psychological issues:

    • Depression – It’s believed that individuals with improperly functioning endocannabinoid systems may have an increased risk of depression and suicide. (9) Studies indicate that CBD oil can help boost and regulate the release of serotonin, which is the body’s natural mood regulator. (10)
    • Anxiety – A growing amount of research indicates that cannabidiol might be useful in helping to reduce the symptoms of anxiety. (11) In fact, CBD could prove to be a potent and effective treatment for different types of anxiety, such as social anxiety, OCD, and PTSD (see below).
    • Insomina – Of particular interest is cannabidiol’s ability to promote a deeper, more restful sleep. Various cultures around the world have been using CBD for hundreds of years as a sleep aid. Current research shows that CBD can enhance sleep quality in a number of different ways, such as balancing sleep patterns, pain relief, and stress reduction. (12)
    • Stress Relief – Research evidence shows a relationship between the endocannabinoid system with the regulation of certain emotional behaviors, including stress.
    • PTSD – Research findings indicate that the endocannabinoid system could be an excellent route for treating PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder. (13) CBD oil is often used to help reduce the symptoms of PTSD, such as anxiety and sleep-related issues like nightmares and insomnia.

Potential Risks From Using CBD Oil

A review of research conducted on both animals and humans shows a potential for certain risks associated with the use of CBD oil, including:

    • Insufficient Research – Although a variety of promising benefits associated with CBD oil have been seen in animals, only a relatively small amount of research has been conducted with humans. Additionally, there’s little information concerning how CBD might affect children or long-term users over the years.
    • Toxicity – Even though studies show that CBD has a fairly low level of toxicity, there are still potential interactions that may exist that have not yet been researched. More data is still needed to fully understand the effects of CBD on hormones, immunity, and embryonic development. This brings us to the next point.
    • Drug Interactions – There is some evidence to indicate that CBD oil may adversely interact adversely with certain medications. (14) CBD and other cannabinoids might restrict a specific liver enzyme that’s important for metabolizing of prescription drugs. Depending on the amount, CBD could also interfere with the metabolization of pharmaceutical medicines such antihistamines, anti-epileptics, and steroids.
    • Overdose – Currently, there has been no fatal overdose levels associated with CBD or any other cannabinoids. Research indicates that individuals can actually tolerate very large amounts of cannabidiol. (15) Even so, large amounts of CBD oil could increase the severity of negative side effects like nausea and sleepiness, and might even be less effective than moderate doses.
    • Inadequate Regulation – Because of the confusion surrounding marijuana laws, there is minimal FDA regulation pertaining to CBD oil. Insufficient regulation could lead to CBD products that are not consistent in quality, purity, labeling, and effectiveness.

Side Effects

A few mild to severe side effects have been seen in individuals using CBD oil. Some of these side effects may include:

    • Sleepiness – Since CBD oil is an effective sleep aid, it naturally could cause drowsiness. A sensation of drowsiness might last from 2 – 6 hours, depending on how the CBD was ingested.
    • Dizziness – CBD oil can lead to a slight lowering of blood pressure, producing dizziness or a lightheaded sensation.
    • Diarrhea – Some users have reported experiencing diarrhea as a side effect of consuming larger doses of CBD oil. To prevent diarrhea, it’s recommended to start with a lower dose.
    • Increased Appetite/Weight Gain – CBD oil, just as with other cannabinoids, can produce increased feelings of hunger. An boost in appetite may result in eating more food, which could very likely result in weight gain.
    • Dry mouth – CBD oil, like other cannabinoids, could temporarily restrict saliva production, the result being a dry mouth or “cottonmouth”, which could cause sensations of thirst and slight discomfort.

How to Use CBD Oil

Middle-aged woman using CBD oil.

Because of the sudden widespread interest in CBD oil, there is no shortage of cannibidiol products currently available, in a variety of different forms. These various CBD oil products are administered in a number of ways, the most common being orally, topically, sublingually, and vapor inhalation. Your individual preferences and health needs will play a large part in deciding which works best for you.

Here’s a closer look at these four primary delivery methods for using CBD.

Taking Orally

Orally ingesting CBD oil is by far the most popular method, and there’s currently a big demand for edible cannabidiol products, including anything from candy to pastries to drinks. CBD oil supplements and concentrated tinctures are also available. CBD oil tinctures can be ingested directly by squeezing a few drops into your mouth, or by blending them with food and drinks. They can also be used sublingually (see below).

No matter if you choose to take CBD capsules, or snack on a CBD-infused cookies, the results are pretty much the same. The CBD oil travels through the digestive system and is metabolized by the liver prior to entering the bloodstream, no differently than with vitamins and supplements. It may take longer to experience the effects and last for a greater length of time. Ingesting CBD oil orally is best for individuals with stress, anxiety, and insomnia, or for those just wanting a good night’s sleep.

Applying Topically

There are a variety of topical CBD oil products available, from lotions, salves, balms, and ointments, to patches and bath and body-care items.

Products like these are applied directly to the skin where they treat a specific area of the body rather than entering the bloodstream. Topically-applied CBD products are mainly used for relieving pain, stiffness, and inflammation. Rubbing these CBD products directly to a problem area helps target sore joints, muscles, and damaged skin rather than circulating the cannabinoids through the entire bloodstream.

Sublingual Delivery

Besides oral ingestion, CBD tinctures can be administered sublingually. Rather than blending the oil into your food or squeezing drops into your mouth, you can use CBD tinctures sublingually by dropping the oil under your tongue.

Sublingual delivery of CBD oil is a faster way to experience its benefits. By using CBD oil sublingually, it gets absorbed directly into the body, bypassing the digestive system altogether and circulating immediately into the bloodstream. Where full effects from the oral ingestion of CBD oil might take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, sublingual delivery of CBD oil can give relief in just 5 – 20 minutes. For those dealing with pain, migraines, or sudden stress, taking sublingual CBD might be the best option.

Vapor Inhalation

One other method for administering cannabidiol is by inhaling vaporized CBD oil. Vaporized inhalation generally involves using a vaporizer device, such as a vape pen, to inhale CBD vape oil mist into the lungs. Vaping CBD oil allows the body to receive larger quantities of CBD at a quicker rate.

When you vape CBD oil, the cannabidiol is delivered directly to the lungs where it gets circulated throughout the bloodstream and the body. This is a fast-acting and powerful method of delivery that is frequently used by individuals having panic attacks or those needing strong, instant pain relief.

In Which States is CBD Oil Legal?

CBD oils can be found in health food stores, smoke shops, and even pet shops. They are also available online for purchase with delivery to many U.S. locations, including those states that prohibit the use of medical and/or recreational marijuana. Even so, U.S. laws pertaining to CBD use  can be very bewildering, and the legal status in some states remains unclear.

Federal CBD law was first established by the Agricultural Act of 2014. (16) This federal bill allows the farming of industrial hemp for the purpose of academic study under approved pilot programs or according to state law where farming and research occurs. The term “industrial hemp” was classified as cannabis plants containing less than 0.3% THC. In essence, this bill made CBD oil manufactured from industrial hemp legal nationwide. However, according to current federal law, CBD oil made from marijuana plants remains illegal.

At the state level, laws pertaining to hemp – as well as marijuana-derived CBD oil – tend to vary from one state to the next. The NCSL shows that 10 states currently have legalized both medical and recreational use of marijuana, THC, and CBD. (17) There are also 31 states (as well as the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico) that have legalized cannabis for medical use. Otherwise, there are 15 states that still prohibit the use of CBD products, even those made from industrial hemp containing less than 0.03% THC. Presently, 4 states (Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota) have no clear guidelines as to the legality of industrial hemp derived CBD, making the legal status of these products difficult to ascertain.

See the following chart for further clarification concerning the current marijuana and CBD laws in your state.

Map of US states showing current legal status of CBD.

Where to Buy CBD Oil

For sheer quality and reliability, we recommend the products offered by Fab CBD (FabCBD,com). Founded in 2017, FAB is at the forefront of the CBD industry when it comes to superior products, customer service and innovation.

Their award-winning CBD Oil is produced from the highest-quality organic industrial hemp plants, while preserving the naturally-occurring terpenes and other beneficial cannabinoids. In addition to the standard CBD oil, it is also available in a wide range of flavors, such as berry, citrus, mint, and vanilla.

Besides oil, they also offer a selection of other CBD products, including soft-gel capsules, gummies, CBD cream, salve and even pet treats. For pricing and more information, visit the FAB CBD website.


Praised for a long list of positive health benefits, CBD has exploded onto the marketplace, available as edible products, topical treatments, tinctures, and vape oils. For those thinking about buying CBD oil, it’s vital to think about your individual health needs in order to choose the best CBD oil product for you. If you’re looking to get a better night’s sleep or help beating your insomnia, using edible cannabidiol products or adding tinctures to your food or drinks is highly suggested.

CBD oil website screenshot


1. http://www.scirp.org/Journal/PaperInformation.aspx?PaperID=53912#.VP4EIildXvY
2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306987705004317
3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22506672
4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22670794
5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17257464
6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22163000
7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14578199
8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25061872
9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21916860
10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24923339
11. https://www.projectcbd.org/anxiety
12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17712817
13. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/da.22031
14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4189631/
15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5569602/
16. https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-113hr2642enr/pdf/BILLS-113hr2642enr.pdf
17. http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/state-medical-marijuana-laws.aspx

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