What is CBD Used For?

  • Several studies support the therapeutic potential of cannabidiol (CBD) as an analgesic.
  • Past studies also show that CBD works as an anti-inflammatory agent.
  • Long before CBD garnered mainstream appeal, it was widely utilized as an incredibly effective treatment in reducing epileptic seizures in both and adults.
  • CBD has become a popular alternative treatment for insomnia and other sleep-related issues.
  • It’s important to distinguish the difference between hemp-derived CBD oil and marijuana-derived CBD oil.

Nowadays, it’s nearly impossible to go on a quick shopping spree without stumbling upon some type of product infused with cannabidiol (CBD). The buzz surrounding this non-intoxicating cannabinoid has prompted many to adopt it into their daily health and wellness routine, with CBD products available at major pharmacy chains and local cafes alike. 

You might have heard people boast about the various benefits of different CBD products, but what, exactly, does research tell us about the therapeutic properties of this cannabis compound? In order to maximize the benefits of this non-intoxicating cannabinoid, it’s critical to answer the following questions:

  • What is CBD used for? 
  • What’s the optimal method of delivery?
  • How long do the effects of CBD last?  

Before we delve into the best methods of delivery, let’s examine what past studies have to say about the therapeutic and medicinal value of CBD.

What are the Benefits of CBD?

When CBD is introduced into the system, it conjures up bodily mechanisms, leading to a complicated interaction that still requires further research to fully comprehend how it generates certain therapeutic properties. However, based on what past research has already established, we can paint a relatively accurate picture of the relationship between CBD and the human body. 

Pain Relief / Anti-Inflammatory Properties

The therapeutic potential of CBD as an analgesic is well-supported throughout multiple studies. For instance, research has found that CBD oil is an effective treatment for a variety of chronic pain conditions, including neuropathic pain in multiple sclerosis (MS) and intractable cancer pain. A 2010 study published in Future Medicinal Chemistry concluded that CBD also demonstrated the ability to suppress inflammatory pain. 

From past research, we know that CBD interacts with a wide range of proteins located throughout the body and central nervous system. The bulk of this interaction transpires in the endocannabinoid system (ECS), an internal system that helps regulate our bodies’ homeostasis (stability among bodily functions), specifically involving the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors. CBD is an inverse agonist to the cannabinoid receptors, essentially functioning as the opposite of THC, which binds to these receptors to create an intoxicating effect.  

CBD has demonstrated an ability to inhibit the absorption of anandamide, which is a natural endocannabinoid molecule that regulates pain. (Photo by Gina Coleman/Weedmaps)

CBD has demonstrated an ability to inhibit the absorption of anandamide, which is a natural endocannabinoid molecule that regulates pain. When CBD interacts with the cannabinoid receptors, it ends up increasing levels of anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol, both endocannabinoids that are located throughout the body. Past studies also show that CBD targets alpha-3 glycine receptors to suppress chronic pain and inflammation associated with dysfunctional glycine receptors.   

Outside of the ECS, CBD also has an effect on other receptor proteins, such as the serotonin receptor 5-HT1A and vanilloid receptor TRPV1. Some believe that the purported anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties of CBD could stem from the activation of these additional biological pathways. 

Anxiety / Depression

There’s also evidence that points to CBD as a potential treatment for depression and anxiety disorders. For instance, a February 2019 study published in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry concluded that 300 milligrams of CBD was the optimal dose for reducing anxiety during social activities such as public speaking. 

Similar findings have also been established through research conducted on animal models, such as the 2014 study that found CBD exhibits anti-anxiety and anti-depressant effects. Additionally, there’s also evidence suggesting that cannabis with a high CBD-to-THC ratio could help reduce depression.

Epilepsy / Seizures

Long before CBD garnered mainstream appeal, it was widely considered to be an incredibly effective treatment in reducing epileptic seizures in both children and adults. In fact, Epidiolex, the very first cannabis-derived medication to be approved by the FDA, is a treatment option for people suffering from severe forms of epilepsy such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, both of which cause frequent seizures in children. A 2018 study focused on pediatric patients found that whole-plant CBD oil reduced epileptic seizures in patients, while 10% end up becoming completely seizure-free.  

Addiction

CBD has also arisen as a potential candidate for the treatment of addiction to opioids or tobacco. In a 2015 review authored by researchers from the University of Montreal Hospital Centre, the work compiled 14 studies and concluded that CBD could provide therapeutic properties for opioid, cocaine, and psychostimulant addiction. In a 2013 study published in Addictive Behaviors, researchers examined whether CBD could reduce tobacco addiction. After treating 12 people with CBD inhalers and another 12 with placebos for one week, the team found that those treated with CBD significantly reduced the number of cigarettes smoked by 40%, while the placebo group showed no notable difference.  

cbd for pain
CBD has also arisen as a potential candidate for the treatment of addiction to opioids or tobacco. (Photo by Gina Coleman/Weedmaps)

Other Conditions 

More research is needed to fully understand the benefits of CBD, but many consumers are still taking the leap and integrating this non-intoxicating cannabinoid into their daily lives. For instance, CBD has become a popular alternative treatment for insomnia and other sleep-related issues. 

In a 2019 retrospective case study published in the Permanente Journal, researchers examined the use of CBD for anxiety and sleep on 72 patients, 25 of which cited poor sleep as a primary concern. After a month of CBD treatment, 66% of the patients experienced an improvement in sleep, compared to 25% who actually had worse sleep. When the research team assessed the patients after two months, 56% reported an improvement in sleep compared to the first month. Still, the study found that subjects treated with CBD saw a more marked reduction in anxiety than in insomnia.     

Types of CBD Products 

There are many forms of CBD products available on the market. Each offers a potential path toward therapeutic relief. The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which took effect in January 2019, legalized the production of hemp plants with THC content below 0.3%, placing hemp-derived CBD products under the watchful eye of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

Outside of the United States, CBD products have also been a hit on an international scale. In Canada, where adult-use cannabis has been legal since Oct. 17, 2018, both hemp-derived and marijuana-derived CBD are available in all provinces. The European Union (EU) has also established regulatory guidelines for hemp-derived CBD oil, allowing the cultivation of hemp provided that the THC content does not exceed 0.2%. A number of Central and South American countries, including Mexico and Brazil, have also eased restrictions for CBD oil and medical marijuana. 

There are many forms of CBD products available on the market. Each offers a potential path toward therapeutic relief. (Photo by Gina Coleman/Weedmaps)

Needless to say, the sweeping acceptance of CBD across the globe has prompted an influx of new products onto the market. Method of consumption is a major factor in the effectiveness and onset time of CBD. Here are the most common types of CBD products and how they are taken: 

Ingestion 

Out of the different methods of consumption, ingestion is commonly seen as the quickest and easiest way to administer a CBD tincture or CBD oil. Simply use the dropper that comes with the CBD oil and place a couple of drops directly into your mouth. When CBD oil is swallowed, however, it first goes through the digestive tract and into the liver, where it is broken down before reaching the bloodstream. 

When ingesting CBD edibles, the body processes the non-intoxicating cannabis compound in the same way. Because CBD travels through the digestive tract and liver before reaching the bloodstream, this method will reduce the total concentration of CBD found in plasma. 

Existing evidence suggests that, when CBD compounds are metabolized by the liver they undergo a process referred to as the “first pass effect.” When the cytochrome P450 (CYP450) oxidases enzymes in the liver, it reduces the concentration of CBD before whatever is left over and directed into the bloodstream and circulated throughout the body.

Sublingual

Considered as a more effective way to consume CBD orally, the sublingual method allows you to bypass the digestive system and liver. Instead of instantly ingesting the CBD oil, place a few drops underneath your tongue and hold it there for 60 seconds before swallowing so that the CBD is absorbed by mucous membranes in the mouth. This way, the sublingual method completely skips over the metabolization process and allows the active cannabinoids to enter the bloodstream sooner and in more abundance.   

Inhalation

If you’re looking for an effective delivery method that enables the body to rapidly absorb CBD into the bloodstream, smoking high-CBD strains or vaporizing CBD is also a viable option. 

When CBD is inhaled, the cannabinoids are directed into the lungs and rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and put into circulation throughout the body. 

Topical 

In the topical form, CBD can be applied to the skin and absorbed through the surface where it interacts with localized cannabinoid receptors. There’s a wide selection of CBD-infused topical products that could be beneficial for dealing with specific areas of pain or inflammation, such as CBD creams and CBD salves. Keep in mind that skin has a low cannabinoid absorption rate, so you might need to apply a fair amount of CBD-infused topical to penetrate the skin via the pores. 

CBD Isolates 

If you’ve ever wondered what is CBD isolate used for, the answer is crystal clear — both figuratively and literally. This unadulterated form of CBD is best described as a crystalline solid or powder that contains upwards of 99% pure CBD. It can be directly ingested, mixed with edible food or drink, as well as smoked or vaporized.

Hemp-Derived CBD vs. Marijuana-Derived CBD

It’s also important to distinguish the difference between hemp-derived CBD oil and marijuana-derived CBD oil. As required by U.S. federal law, CBD products derived from hemp plants must contain under 0.3% THC. But CBD can also be extracted from intoxicating marijuana plants, leading to CBD products that contain significantly higher THC levels. 

While these THC-enriched marijuana-derived CBD products are only legally available on the medical and adult-use market, the combination of these two cannabinoids leads to a synergistic relationship known as the entourage effect. For example, studies have shown that when CBD is combined with THC, it reduces the adverse effects associated with high levels of THC, such as paranoia and anxiety. 

sugar leaf marijuana
It’s important to distinguish the difference between hemp-derived CBD oil and marijuana-derived CBD oil. CBD can be extracted from both hemp and marijuana plants. (Photo by Gina Coleman/Weedmaps)

Those who don’t have legal access to marijuana-derived products are likely wondering: If the entourage effect is so great, then what is CBD hemp oil used for? No need to fret, hemp-derived CBD can still provide therapeutic relief without producing the intoxicating buzz of THC. More research is needed to assess CBD’s efficiency, both with and without THC.

How Long Does CBD Last? 

The onset time and duration of CBD is contingent on numerous circumstances, including the method of administration, the dosage, as well as individual-specific factors such as body mass and metabolism. 

  • Ingestion: With ingestion, it could be 1 to 2 hours before the effects of CBD finally set in, but the effects can last for up to 6 hours.  
  • Sublingual: Once the CBD is absorbed by mucous membranes underneath the tongue, it quickly enters the bloodstream, allowing consumers to feel the effects shortly after consumption. With the sublingual method, the effects of CBD can last anywhere from 4 to 6 hours, depending on the dosage amount.  
  • Inhalation: If CBD is smoked or vaporized, it reaches peak concentrations in plasma within 3 minutes after consumption, meaning the effects can be felt almost immediately after use. Depending on the dosage, the effects of inhaled CBD should last for a couple of hours.  
  • Topical: When CBD is applied topically to the skin, the permeability of CBD is tenfold higher than THC and peaks after 90 minutes. This method of administration is ideal for dealing with chronic pain in specific areas.