what is cbd oil used for

What Is CBD Oil?

This cannabis extract may help treat nerve pain, anxiety, and epilepsy

Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.

Meredith Bull, ND, is a licensed naturopathic doctor with a private practice in Los Angeles, California.

CBD oil is an extract of Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa , the same plants used to make marijuana.

CBD oil may treat pain, lower anxiety, and stimulate appetite the same way that marijuana does, but without affecting your mental state. CBD might also help treat some types of seizures.

CBD is the short name for cannabidiol , one of the two chemicals in cannabis with the most health benefits. The other chemical is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

THC is what's responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis—in other words, what makes you feel "high." CBD oil generally doesn't have THC, although trace amounts might be in products sold in certain states.

CBD oil contains CBD mixed with a base (carrier) oil, like coconut oil or hemp seed oil. The bottled CBD oil is called a tincture and is sold in different concentrations.

There are also CBD capsules, CBD gummies, and under-the-tongue CBD sprays.

This article goes over what CBD is used for, possible side effects, and what you should look for if you choose to buy CBD.

What Is CBD Oil Used For?

CBD's exact mechanism of action is unclear.

Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t have a strong connection with cannabinoid receptors in the brain. These are the molecules that THC binds to create psychoactive effects.

Instead, CBD influences other receptors, like the opioid receptors that control pain. It also affects glycine receptors. These control serotonin, a brain chemical known as the “feel-good” hormone.

People that support the use of CBD claim that CBD oil can treat a variety of health problems, including:

  • Acne
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Drug use and withdrawal
  • High blood pressure
  • Muscle spasms
  • Poor appetite

More research on CBD has been emerging as it has gained popularity. Still, there are only a few clinical studies on the effects of CBD oil.

As such, some of these health claims are better supported by research than others.

If you're thinking of using CBD oil to treat a health condition, talk to your healthcare provider to make sure it's an appropriate option for you.

Anxiety

A 2015 review of studies in the journal Neurotherapeutics suggests that CBD might help treat anxiety disorders.

The study authors report that CBD had powerful anxiety-relieving effects in animal research. But the results weren't what you'd expect.

In most of the studies, lower doses of CBD (10 milligrams per kilogram, mg/kg, or less) improved some symptoms of anxiety, but higher doses (100 mg/kg or more) had almost no effect.

The way that CBD acts in the brain can explain why this happens. In low doses, CBD may act the same as surrounding molecules that normally bind to the receptor, which "turns up" their signaling.

However, at higher doses, too much activity at the receptor site can lead to the opposite effect. This would take away the helpful effects of CBD.

There aren't many study trials that look at CBD's anxiety-relieving effects in humans. One of the few is a 2019 study published in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry.

For the study, 57 men took either CBD oil or a placebo (sugar pill) before a public-speaking event. The researchers based anxiety levels on measures like blood pressure and heart rate. They also used a fairly reliable test for mood states called the Visual Analog Mood Scale (VAMS).

The men who took 300 mg of CBD oil showed less anxiety than those given a placebo. Interestingly, the men who took 100 mg or 600 mg of CBD oil didn't have these results.

Addiction

CBD oil might help people with substance use disorder, per a 2015 review in the journal Substance Abuse.

The review analyzed 14 published studies. Nine of the studies looked at the effects on animals, and five studies looked at the effects on humans.

The researchers reported that CBD showed promise in treating people with opioid, cocaine, or psychostimulant addiction.

However, CBD affected each type of addiction very differently.

For example, CBD without THC didn’t help decrease withdrawal symptoms of opioid use. On the other hand, it did reduce drug-seeking behaviors in users of cocaine, methamphetamine, and other similar drugs.

Some experts suggest CBD may help treat cannabis and nicotine dependence, but more research is needed.

Nerve Pain

Doctors may prescribe medical marijuana to people with pain that’s resistant to treatment, like those with terminal cancer. There’s some evidence that CBD plays a role in this benefit.

One interesting piece of research is a 2012 study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine. Researchers injected rats with chemicals that prompt inflammation. Then they gave the rats CBD.

The rats that got CBD experienced less inflammation and nerve pain (pain caused by damage to your nerves).

Scientists believe CBD reduces nerve pain by binding to receptors in the brain that control the speed at which nerve signals pass between nerve cells.

However, there aren't many studies that examine the use of CBD in treating chronic pain in people. The studies that do exist almost always include THC. This makes it hard to isolate CBD's unique effects.

High Blood Pressure

CBD oil may reduce the risk of heart disease by relieving high blood pressure in some people, per a 2017 study in JCI Insight.

For the study, nine healthy men took either 600 mg of CBD or the same dose of a placebo. The men who took CBD had lower blood pressure before and after stressful things, like exercise or extreme cold.

The study also looked at stroke volume (the amount of blood remaining in the heart after a heartbeat). The stroke volume in the men who took CBD was lower than that in the placebo group, meaning the heart was pumping more efficiently.

The study suggests CBD oil may be a good complementary therapy for people whose high blood pressure is affected by stress and anxiety.

However, there’s no evidence CBD oil can treat high blood pressure on its own or prevent it in people at risk. While stress can complicate high blood pressure, it can’t cause it.

Seizures

In June 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Epidiolex, a CBD oral solution.

Epidiolex is used to treat two rare forms of epilepsy in children under 2: Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. These are very rare genetic disorders that cause lifelong seizures that start in the first year of life.

Outside of these two disorders, CBD's effectiveness in treating seizures is uncertain. Even with Epidiolex, it's unclear if the anti-seizure effects are from CBD or some other factor.

There’s some evidence CBD interacts with seizure medicines like Onfi (clobazam) and boosts their concentration in the blood. More research is needed, though.

Recap

CBD oil might help relieve stress, anxiety, seizures, drug withdrawal, and nerve pain. But taking higher doses doesn't always mean they'll have a stronger impact. Also, many studies on CBD have been done on animals, so it's hard to tell if these same effects will apply to people.

Possible Side Effects

Clinical research has shown that CBD oil can trigger side effects. The severity and type can vary from one person to the next.

Common side effects include:

  • Anxiety
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in mood
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

CBD oil may also increase liver enzymes (a marker of liver inflammation). People with liver disease should consult their healthcare provider before taking CBD oil and use it with caution. Regular blood liver enzyme level checks are recommended.

Don’t take CBD oil if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises pregnant women to avoid marijuana because of the potential risks to a baby’s development. Although the effects of CBD itself are unclear, CBD does pass through the placenta.

Don't drive or use heavy machinery when taking CBD oil since some of them contain THC. This is especially important when you first start treatment or use a new brand.

Interactions

CBD oil can interact with some medications, including those used to treat epilepsy.

Cytochrome P450 (CYP450) is an enzyme in your body that breaks down certain drugs. But CBD oil can block CYP450 from working the way it normally does. CBD oil can either make some drugs you take have a stronger effect than you need or make them less effective.

Drugs that could potentially interact with CBD include:

  • Anti-arrhythmia drugs like quinidine
  • Anticonvulsants like Tegretol (carbamazepine) and Trileptal (oxcarbazepine)
  • Antifungal drugs like Nizoral (ketoconazole) and Vfend (voriconazole)
  • Antipsychotic drugs like Orap (pimozide)
  • Atypical antidepressants like Remeron (mirtazapine)
  • Benzodiazepine sedatives like Klonopin (clonazepam) and Halcion (triazolam)
  • Immune-suppressive drugs like Sandimmune (cyclosporine)
  • Macrolide antibiotics like clarithromycin and telithromycin
  • Migraine medicine like Ergomar (ergotamine)
  • Opioid painkillers like Duragesic (fentanyl) and alfentanil
  • Rifampin-based drugs used to treat tuberculosis

To avoid interactions, tell your healthcare provider and pharmacist what medicine you're taking. This includes prescription, over-the-counter, herbal, or recreational drugs.

Many of these interactions are mild and don't demand a change to treatment. Others may require you to substitute the drugs you are taking or to separate doses by several hours.

Of course, never make changes to your medication regimen without your doctor's OK.

Recap

You might experience nausea, diarrhea, or dizziness when you take CBD oil. Don't take CBD oil if you're pregnant or breastfeeding. Also, CBD oil affects the way your body breaks down certain drugs, so talk to your healthcare provider if you're on any medications.

Dosage and Preparation

There are no guidelines for the proper use of CBD oil. CBD oil is usually taken by placing one or more drops under the tongue and holding it there for 30 to 60 seconds without swallowing.

There's no known "correct" dose of CBD oil. Depending on your needs and what you're treating, the daily dose may range between 5 mg and 25 mg.

The tricky part is calculating the exact amount of CBD per milliliter of oil. Some tinctures have concentrations of 1,500 mg per 30 mL, while others have 3,000 mg per mL (or more).

Most oils come in 30-milliliter (mL) bottles with a dropper cap.

How to Calculate CBD Dose

To determine an exact dose of CBD, remember that each drop of oil equals 0.05 mL of fluid. This means that a 30-mL bottle of CBD oil will have about 600 drops. If the concentration of the tincture is 1,500 mg per mL, one drop would contain 2.5 mg of CBD (1,500 mg ÷ 600 drops = 2.5 mg).

Capsules, gummies, and sprays are easier to dose, although they tend to be more expensive.

What to Look For

CBD oil comes in different forms. Isolates contain only CBD, but full-spectrum oils have several compounds from the cannabis plant. This includes proteins, flavonoids, terpenes, and chlorophyll.

Alternative medicine practitioners believe these compounds provide more important health benefits, but there's no clear evidence to support this.

Remember that CBD oils are mostly unregulated, so there's no guarantee that a product is safe, effective, or what it claims to be on its packaging.

A 2017 study reported that only 31% of CBD products sold online were correctly labeled. Most contained less CBD than advertised, while 21% had significant amounts of THC.

Here are a few tips to help you find the best CBD oil:

  • Buy American: Domestically produced CBD oil may be safer.
  • Go organic: Brands certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are less likely to expose you to pesticides and other harmful chemicals.
  • Read the product label: Even if you choose a full-spectrum oil, don't assume that every ingredient on the product label is natural. There may be preservatives, flavorings, or thinning agents that you don't want or need. If you don't recognize an ingredient, ask the dispenser what it is or check online.

Are CBD Oil and Hemp Oil the Same?

Not necessarily. While some use these names interchangeably, hemp oil might also be used for hemp seed oil, which is used for cooking, food production, and skincare products.

CBD oil is made from the leaves, stems, buds, and flowers of the Cannabis indica or Cannabis sativa plant and should contain less than 0.3% THC. Hemp oil is made from the seeds of Cannabis sativa and contains no TCH.

Summary

Unlike the THC that's in marijuana, CBD oil doesn't get you high. It contains a chemical called cannabidiol that might help relieve stress, anxiety, drug withdrawals, and nerve pain.

However, CBD oil might change the way your body breaks down certain medications. This could make the drugs have a stronger or weaker effect, which can be dangerous. Talk to your doctor before you use CBD oil, especially if you take any medicine or have liver disease.

Frequently Asked Questions

It would be hard to overdose on CBD oil because human tolerance is very high. One study reported the toxic dose would be about 20,000 mg taken at one time.

It depends on where you live, the form of the product, how it was sourced (via hemp or marijuana), and its intended purpose (medical or recreational). In many states, you must be 18 or 21 to buy CBD oil. Check your state's laws.

CBD Oil 101: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects, and More

Shannon Donnelly, a 30-year-old entrepreneur in Denver, was going through a difficult time several years ago that led to anxiety and occasional panic attacks. One night when h er heart began beating fast and she felt as if she couldn’t catch her breath, couldn’t think clearly, and couldn’t stand up straight, she knew a life adjustment was in order.

“I realized I really needed to do something different to change my life, that I could do something to stop my anxiety and change my life,” she recalls. That something turned out to be taking cannabidiol, aka CBD.

Google “CBD” and more than 150 million results will pop up, many purporting that this natural chemical derived from cannabis is a magical elixir that can do just about anything from relieving anxiety , pain , insomnia , and menstrual cramps to clearing your skin , staving off aging , and bulking up your bones .

The trouble is there’s scant scientific evidence to support most of those claims, and there’s still a lot of uncertainty about CBD’s potential side effects and even its legality. “Cannabidiol is the No. 1 new treatment people are asking about,” says Susana Galle, PhD , a psychologist, clinical nutritionist, and certified naturopath in Washington, DC. “But although there’s tons of talk about it and lots of products out there, there’s still not much evidence.”

And yet the buzz is so strong that to say CBD-infused products are selling like hotcakes would be an understatement. In 2018 alone, the Hemp Business Journal estimates, more than $500 million worth of CBD-infused oils, creams, patches, beer, coffee — even tampons and pet food — were sold in the United States, a number forecast to hit nearly $2 billion by 2022. ( 1 )

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Common Questions & Answers

What Exactly Is CBD Oil?

CBD is one of more than 80 active compounds called cannabinoids found naturally in the cannabis sativa plant, according to a study published in January 2019 in The Permanente Journal. ( 2 ) Extracting it results in a thick oily paste, which is then typically mixed with a carrier oil, such as hemp oil or coconut oil , to produce a product with a specific concentration of CBD. That product is CBD oil.

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How Do You Use CBD Oil?

CBD-infused products fall into four basic categories, according to the book CBD: A Patient's Guide to Medicinal Cannabis — Healing Without the High : ( 3 )

  1. Ingested CBD Swallowing CBD oil allows it to pass through the digestive system and be metabolized by the liver, sending its active compounds throughout the body over several hours. CBD oil is usually ingested in drops, tinctures, and capsules, or added to foods and beverages, such as gummy candies and coffee. CBD can also be ingested as a powder made by removing all plant matter to reveal a crystalline powder that has no taste or odor.
  2. Sublingual CBD Another popular way to take CBD is to place a few drops of the oil or tincture, or a small bit of the powder, under the tongue and hold it there for several seconds. This allows the active ingredients to be rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream through mucus membranes in the mouth.
  3. Topical CBD CBD-infused products are applied to the skin to relieve pain and reduce inflammation directly where needed. Topical products include creams, salves, patches, shampoos, suppositories, lip balms, bath salts, and personal lubricants.
  4. Inhaled CBD CBD can be inhaled by vaporizing the oil or by adding the oil or powder to e-cigarettes or tobacco and smoking them. Inhaled CBD enters the bloodstream rapidly through the lungs, avoiding the digestive system. For this reason, "vaping" has been a popular way of using CBD. But a mysterious spate of lung injuries linked to inhaling products has led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to urge people to refrain from vaping while they investigate. Most of the people in the more than 800 cases reported by the end of September 2019 were in patients who used products containing THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), according to the CDC. Like CBD, THC is a cannabinoid, and the two are often found together in vaping products.

What Are Medical Marijuana and CBD? Everything You Need to Know

Can You Get Stoned (or High) on CBD?

No, you can’t get blissed out on CBD alone. ( 3 ) Its chemical cousin, THC, is the only cannabinoid that causes the high associated with marijuana use. For this reason, it’s important to know exactly what type of CBD you’re buying:

Marijuana-derived CBD oil is extracted from high-THC cannabis plants, which can contain varying amounts of THC. (The ratio of CBD to THC is typically listed on the product label.) Any product with more than 0.3 percent THC is considered a controlled substance and can only be bought in a state where medical or recreational marijuana is legal. ( 4 )

Although the science is scant, the British Journal of Pharmacology reported that some experts believe combining CBD with THC enhances CBD’s pharmacological benefits, a theory known as the “entourage effect.” ( 5 )

Hemp-derived CBD oil is extracted from low-THC cannabis plants. This is the type of CBD sold over the counter in nutrition stores and supermarkets, added to lattes in cool coffee shops, and infused into luxe beauty products.

Because it’s not intoxicating, hemp-derived CBD is what’s fueling the CBD craze. What once was called “hippie’s disappointment” is now being embraced precisely because it can induce the relaxing effects of marijuana without any worry that it will impact your consciousness, explains psychologist Lara Fielding, PsyD, author of Mastering Adulthood: Go Beyond Adulting to Become an Emotional Grown-Up .

“I’ll confess, I tried CBD, and my whole life I’ve been an adamant anti-drug person because people I’ve known and loved have ruined their lives with drugs,” Dr. Fielding says. “And I’ve been converted. It triggered a wonderful feeling of going from tension and pain and distress to feeling fine without altering me in any other way.”

What is CBD Oil (and How Do I Use It?)

CBD (cannabidiol) oil has recently exploded into the mainstream. According to the Cannabis Trades Association UK, the number of consumers has drastically increased, shooting up from 125,000 users in 2017 to 250,000 in 2018. Gaining the attention of numerous industries from medicine to cosmetic, why has there been a sudden rise in CBD oil and products?

One of the primary reasons for the rise of CBD oil is thought to be thanks to recent studies and research highlighting its benefits, including stress and anxiety relief, as well as promoting better sleep. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), CBD may have beneficial effects on treating symptoms relating to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, MS, cancer and diabetic complications, as well as pain, anxiety, and depression. It has become increasingly popular amongst people looking for products to help with inflammation and joint pain, amongst other conditions and symptoms.

What is CBD?

CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of 104 chemical compounds known as cannabinoids that are found within cannabis and hemp plants. A naturally occurring substance, it can be extracted and mixed with a carrier oil such as coconut or hemp seed to create CBD oil.

Having no narcotic effect (none of the euphoric highs associated with Cannabis and THC – also known as tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD is believed to have a range of health benefits. Legal to purchase and use in the UK as long as it doesn’t contain any THC, CBD has begun to be more readily available as an oil, within beauty products, chocolate, and as a topical ointment.

Used as a form of alternative or complementary therapy for thousands of years, medical studies have only recently begun identifying the potential benefits and side-effects using CBD oil can have. Although it is thought to have significant therapeutic properties, researchers are still looking to prove or disprove many of the claims surrounding the use of CBD oil.

What can CBD oil help with?

Skin problems

Early studies have suggested skincare products containing CBD oil may be able to help combat some skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis. Facial moisturisers containing CBD have also had success combatting oily skin and acne. Experts do warn that the concentration of CBD oil may affect how much of an impact these products can have, with many emphasising that further studies are needed to fully understand the extent to which CBD may affect skin related ailments.

Stress, anxiety, PTSD and insomnia

According to one YouGov study, 74% of UK adults feel overwhelmed or unable to cope due to stress. With symptoms ranging from general feelings of anxiety to trouble sleeping and muscle tension, some experts attribute recent spikes in the sales of CBD products to our increasing desire to find alternative or complementary methods of relaxing and unwinding. With long hours of staring at screens, around 30% of us are thought to experience insomnia.

CBD oil is thought to help users achieve a more restful night sleep, increasing the overall amount of sleep and reducing insomnia. Research has indicated that CBD may interact with our serotonin (which plays an important role in our mood and anxiety) and GABA (calming excess activity and promoting relaxation) receptors, though further studies are still needed. Thought to be due to its anti-anxiety properties, CBD promotes relaxation, allowing for a more restful nights sleep.

So far, most evidence around CBD’s effects on anxiety has come from animal studies. While more human trials are still needed overall, some early trials have suggested CBD may have positive effects on helping to alleviate social anxiety. Further studies have examined the antidepressant-like effects CBD can have on individuals, with trials showing an improvement in symptoms of those experiencing PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

Pain management

Many individuals report the positive impact CBD oil has on combatting chronic pain, as well as workout related aches and discomfort. As a whole, the scientific community have expressed that there needs to be further, comprehensive research to fully understand the safety around this. Before using CBD oil to help with pain management, it is recommended that you seek advice from a medical professional.

Studies have suggested CBD may be able to have a positive impact for those affected by arthritis to help effectively manage their pain. According to research, participants showed a significant drop in both inflammation and signs of pain without any additional side effects. A limited number of studies have also suggested that there is evidence that CBD may be beneficial in reducing pain and inflammation.

Further research has suggested CBD may have anti-inflammatory benefits. Numerous studies have shown that CBD engages with the endocannabinoid system in many organs throughout the body, helping to systemically reduce inflammation.

Stop smoking

According to one 2013 study, CBD may be an effective aid in reducing or stopping smoking. Research revealed that when CBD was used as part of an inhaler, participants reduced the number of cigarettes they smoked each day by 40%.

How do I use CBD?

CBD can be used in a number of different ways. Available in a wide variety of products, some of the most common ways people use CBD products include:

Cosmetics and beauty products – A whole range of beauty and body products centred around the benefits of CBD are now available. From online to on the high street in stores such as Holland & Barrett, these products include refreshing body washes that claim to help energise and hydrate; body oils to both relax and stimulate; intensive moisturisers to help with dry skin; as well as muscle balms for relaxation.

Oils – Available to purchase over the counter as well as online, CBD oils ranging from as low as 3% cannabidiol oil concentration up to 11% are readily available on the high street. Typically taken orally by holding the CBD beneath your tongue for a few seconds before swallowing, topical oils and ointments are also available. It can also be added to water, purchased as capsules, sprayed directly beneath your tongue, or purchased in liquid form for vape devices.

While many forms of CBD are available to purchase from health stores, it is worth noting that the majority of clinical trials hailing the benefits of CBD focused on using CBD oil rather than as part of a beauty product.

Does CBD have any side effects?

Potentially. Some research has indicated CBD oil use may cause changes in appetite and mood. Other potential side-effects can include dizziness, feeling drowsy, nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting, and low blood pressure. While not all users report experiencing negative side-effects, experts have highlighted that there is a need for the long-term effects of CBD to be studied as some areas (such as effects on hormones) have yet to be looked into.

While the media has widely publicised the use of CBD oil for children experiencing seizures as well as a number of other conditions, experts do not currently recommend CBD oil for use in children. This is widely due to limited existing research on CBD oil, with the majority of studies focusing on the effects it can have on adults rather than the developing brains of children. For similar reasons, it is generally not recommended to combine with breastfeeding or to use whilst pregnant.

While CBD appears to be helpful and show benefits for users across many areas, more research is still needed to fully understand the effects it can have both short and long-term. If you are experiencing any medical issues or concerns, it is always recommended that you consult a medical expert or doctor prior to starting alternative therapies. Complementary therapies should be used in addition to (rather than instead of) other forms of treatment recommended by professionals.

For more information on complementary and holistic therapeutic options for anxiety, stress, insomnia and more, visit Therapy Directory.