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What Is CBD? Here’s the Ultimate Guide

If you follow the news, chances are you've heard about CBD. And if you are one of the millions of people living with a chronic condition such as anxiety or pain, you've probably done a bit of research on your own.

As states across the country start to legalize both medical and recreational cannabis, the market has seen an increase in readily available CBD products. Despite all the publicity, though, many people aren't sure what CBD is, how it can help them, or if it's even legal in their state.

The CBD industry is booming, with sales expected to reach around 1.8 billion US dollars by 2022. This is a significant increase from around half a billion dollars in 2018. The CBD market is following the trend of the total legal cannabis market, which is projected to be $23 billion by 2025. 

If you're interested in trying CBD but aren't sure where to start, this guide will help answer your questions and clear up some of the common misconceptions about CBD and its uses. However, it's a good idea to check your state laws regarding CBD before investing in products.

What Is CBD?

CBD is cannabidiol. It is one of many of the active compounds found in the Cannabis sativa plant, better known as marijuana. It does not have psychoactive effects but offers many of the same benefits as THC. Using CBD products, whether CBD oil or CBD edibles, allows you to take advantage of the therapeutic benefits without feeling “stoned.” 

CBD oil is made by extracting CBD from the cannabis plant and then diluting it with a carrier oil such as hemp-seed oil or coconut oil. All types of CBD oil are derived by applying pressure to the plant. The highest-quality CBD oil companies use either pressurized carbon dioxide or food-grade ethanol to apply the pressure.

As the plant comes into contact with the ethanol or pressurized carbon dioxide, the pressure causes the hairs on the plant to burst open. The hairs, known as trichomes, hold the cannabinoids, including CBD.

Once the cannabinoids are released, the molecules bind to either ethanol or the pressurized carbon dioxide. At that point, the particles are distilled to remove solid plant materials from the formula.

The final step is refining the CBD oil. Refining it removes solvents and leaves the cannabinoids, terpenes, and phytochemicals intact.

Penguin CBD products are made with 100% organic industrial hemp grown in Colorado. We use pressurized carbon dioxide to extract the CBD from the hemp and then use it in our products for consumption.

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that CBD shows no abuse or dependence potential. There is no evidence of any public health-related problems associated with using pure CBD.

The Cannabis Plant

Cannabis is one of a genus of plants known as Cannabaceae. The two main species of cannabis that are cultivated for human consumption are Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa.

Sativa plants are taller and produce more fiber. They are the species from which hemp cultivation arose. Indica plants are shorter and bushier. They are less suitable for farming, but are well suited for producing medical marijuana. 

Marijuana vs. Hemp

Marijuana is cultivated for medicinal and recreational purposes. Both the indica and sativa strains, as well as hybrids of the two, are used to produce cannabis. The United States federal government considers marijuana to be a Class 1 controlled substance.

Many states have instituted legislation to regulate its cultivation and allow for its use as medicine. Some states have also legalized marijuana for recreational use.

Hemp is not marijuana. It does contain cannabinoids that have negligible amounts of THC. To be legally cultivated, hemp must contain less than 0.3% THC.

Hemp is grown as an industrial crop for use in building materials and textiles. Most industrial hemp is grown for its fiber and thereby contains small concentrations of terpenes and cannabinoids, so it is not the best source for CBD oil. 

The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) 

Everyone has an endocannabinoid system with receptors for CBD. However, everyone responds slightly differently to CBD, which is why dosing is a bit tricky (more on that later).

The ECS is involved in regulating several functions in the body, including immune-system response, appetite, sleep, and pain response, as shown in a 2009 study published in Neuroendocrinology Letters. The body produces endocannabinoids or neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors in the nervous system. 

Endocannabinoids produced naturally by our bodies are signaling molecules known as neurotransmitters (hormones would be a more familiar type of neurotransmitter). The body produces a wide array of neurotransmitters in response to various environmental factors and states of health.

They interact with receptors found on cell surfaces throughout our bodies. These neurotransmitters instruct cells, including changing how cells react to other neurotransmitters.

The brain doesn't connect with every cell in your body, just like traffic officers can't connect with every car on the road to tell individual drivers how to behave in all traffic situations. To manage traffic, we use traffic signals, including street signs, traffic lights, and the lines on the road. Traffic signals alert drivers as to where they can and cannot travel, when they should stop or go, and how fast they should move.

Some signals can sense what's going on in the environment, such as when a car pulls up to a traffic light. The system triggers the controller, which causes the light to change the behavior of drivers that approach that intersection.

In the same way, your body's nervous system connects to a wide variety of sensors to keep track of all the systems in your body. The brain and the nervous system decode these signals from the cells. If it is determined that a system has gone out of balance, the nervous system produces neurotransmitters that travel through the bloodstream and interact with the receptors on the cells, instructing them to adjust their behavior. 

Let's take a look at how cannabinoids support homeostasis, or a state of balance within the body.

The ECS has two components: The endocannabinoid receptors found on cell surfaces throughout the body, and the endocannabinoids that interact with the receptors.

A well-known cannabinoid is anandamide, which is responsible for the production and uptake of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, often called the “bliss molecule” because levels of serotonin in the body are directly associated with mood. Serotonin is responsible for the “runner's high.”

Cannabinoids

Cannabinoids are active compounds produced by all cannabis plants. They provide most of the benefits of cannabis. Cannabinoids found in plants are known as phytocannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids mimic the compounds called endocannabinoids that are naturally produced by all mammals.

Though CBD and THC are the two most popular cannabinoids, other cannabinoids are present in hemp. These include cannabichromene (CBC) and cannabigerol (CBG). CBC is the third most common cannabinoid found in cannabis. It is also non-psychoactive. CBG is produced early in the growth cycle. Both CBC and CBG are believed to have properties similar to those of CBD.

Here’s a list of the most common cannabinoids: 

  • Cannabidiol (CBD) — The second most common cannabinoid produced by the cannabis plant that is non-psychotropic (it doesn’t get you high).
  • Delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — The primary psychoactive compound in marijuana that gives users a feeling of euphoria.
  • Cannabichromene (CBC) — The third most common cannabinoid, also non-psychoactive. It is thought to support mood, and joint and muscle function.
  • Cannabinol (CBN) — Believed to support joint and muscle function and aid a good night’s rest.
  • Cannabigerol (CBG) — Non-psychoactive and used to support mood, and joint and muscle function.
  • Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCv) — Less psychoactive than THC.
  • Cannabidivarin (CBDv) — Similar to CBD in its effects.
  • Delta(8) THC — Similar to delta(9)-THC, though less psychoactive and may support a relaxed mood.
  • THCa and CBDa — Compounds found in raw cannabis that are non-psychotropic. 

Terpenes

Terpenes are a class of volatile hydrocarbon compounds produced by the majority of plants. Cannabis is currently the most terpene-dense plant known to humans. Terpenes evaporate at room temperature, and our noses are highly sensitive to them. 

The FDA recognizes terpenes as safe for human consumption. They are used in a variety of food and cosmetic products.

In nature, terpenes act as a pest repellent while simultaneously attracting pollinators and seed spreaders. 

Terpenes are all very similar, but each has a unique flavor and scent. Various combinations of terpenes are responsible for the distinctive aromas of cannabis strains.

Humans have used terpenes for thousands of years in aromatherapy because they can have such powerful effects on our bodies. The citrus scent is produced primarily by a combination of pinene and limonene. Both of these are thought to elevate mood. 

Common terpenes include: 

  • Linalool
  • Limonene
  • Myrcene
  • Caryophyllene
  • Citronellol
  • Camphene

Traditional uses of these terpenes vary, but they often support mood and wellness, and muscle and joint function.

In cannabis, terpenes are produced in the highest concentration in the plant's female flowers. Terpenes also act on cannabinoid receptors and may modify the effects of cannabinoids.

Though not as potent as cannabinoids when it comes to their overall effects, terpenes are still a valuable component of cannabis. The overall impact of the rich combination of terpenes and cannabinoids is known as the entourage effect. When it comes to marijuana, the cannabinoids and terpenes work together to produce a range of effects, which is thought to be greater than the sum of its components.

We need additional research to determine precisely how terpenes contribute to the overall effects of CBD oil. Still, it seems clear that terpenes work together with cannabinoids to produce a richer effect than from CBD alone. 

For this reason, we recommend avoiding CBD oil products that are actually oil infused with pure CBD. These products don't have the added benefit of terpenes along with other cannabinoids, and do not produce the entourage effect.

CBD vs. THC

THC is tetrahydrocannabinol. Most people are familiar with the THC compound because of its psychoactive properties. It's what gets you high when you use marijuana. CBD and THC are similar, so it’s easy to see why people have a hard time understanding the difference between them.

There are CBD products on the market that are marijuana-derived and contain THC. Those products may be more effective than fiber hemp. However, if you live in a state that has not yet legalized medical marijuana or doesn’t have those strains available, you can still benefit from products that contain CBD derived from industrial hemp. 

Hemp CBD vs. Marijuana CBD

CBD can come from both hemp plants and marijuana plants. The major difference between the plants is the amount of CBD and THC in each. Though the difference between CBD and THC is multifaceted, the majority of people want to know whether hemp-based CBD oil can cause psychoactive effects that are commonly associated with marijuana.

There’s good news for people who don’t want to get “high.” The CBD oil that comes from industrial hemp contains 0.3% or less THC, which is not enough to give you the high feeling. Marijuana-based CBD oil does not have that restriction and can contain more, which may cause unwanted symptoms. This is why the majority of CBD products, including all products sold by us here at PenguinCBD, are hemp-based. 

Raw CBD Oil vs. CBD Concentrate

When the essential oils of the hemp plant are first extracted, it is considered raw hemp extract. This fresh extract can be put through a series of distillation and filtration processes to remove any unwanted compounds such as chlorophyll and wax to produce various classes of oils of differing purity and CBD content. The refined oils are referred to as CBD concentrate or CBD distillate.

Full-Spectrum CBD Hemp Oil vs. Broad-Spectrum CBD Oil vs. CBD Isolate

CBD and THC are the two best-known cannabinoids. They are, however, far from being the only ones in the cannabis plant. 

Full-spectrum CBD oil keeps all the cannabinoids, vitamins, nutrients, and terpenes together to create a balanced option.

Broad-spectrum CBD oil is similar to a full-spectrum oil; however, it has all trace amounts of THC removed. This is an ideal choice for people who want no THC whatsoever in their CBD products.

CBD isolate focuses on the purest form of CBD available, presented as either a crystal or a powder, which can then be made into a tincture or added to food. 

Because of the beneficial properties present in the additional cannabinoids, terpenes, and other components found in full-spectrum CBD, many people prefer this option. When all of the elements are working together, this is believed to be more potent than using isolated components.

CBD-Rich Oil 

CBD-rich oil is a term used to describe a CBD oil that has gone through some filtration and distillation to remove unwanted compounds. The final product has a higher concentration of CBD than the raw extract.

CBD-Infused Oil 

“CBD-infused” can be used to describe a product that has been infused with CBD isolate or a product that has been infused with CBD-rich, full-spectrum, or broad-spectrum concentrate. Correctly labeled products will specify the ingredients that were used to create the product. If the ingredients include CBD, then the product is not full spectrum. 

If the ingredients include CBD-rich hemp oil or extract, or full- or broad-spectrum CBD oil, then you're getting a full- or broad-spectrum product. It's important to know what is in your product because they each produce different effects.

What Can CBD Be Used to Treat? 

While there is not a lot of research available on CBD, the results of what has been studied are promising. Recent studies have found that CBD could be useful in providing relief from a variety of mental health conditions, such as:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Addiction
  • Insomnia
  • Chronic pain/arthritis
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)

Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and depression are among the most common mental health disorders. When left untreated, they can have devastating impacts on health and well-being. The WHO says that depression is the single most significant contributor to disability worldwide. Anxiety disorders rank sixth.

Anxiety and depression are generally treated with pharmaceutical drugs. These cause many side effects, which include sexual dysfunction, insomnia, drowsiness, agitation, and headaches. Certain classes of medications, such as benzodiazepines, can be addictive and lead to substance abuse.

CBD oil has shown promise as a treatment for both depression and anxiety. In a small-scale Brazilian study, participants either received oral CBD or a placebo 90 minutes before they underwent a simulated public speaking test. The researchers found a 300-milligram dose of CBD was the most effective at reducing anxiety during the trial. The placebo, a 150-milligram dose, and a 600-milligram dose had little to no effect on anxiety, suggesting that more isn’t always better.

Multiple animal studies have shown CBD has antidepressant-like effects, suggesting that CBD can act on the brain’s serotonin receptors.

A new study is underway in the United States. It is an 8-week double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial that started in July 2019. Preclinical evidence conclusively demonstrates efficacy in reducing anxiety behaviors relevant to multiple disorders. The study is expected to be completed in October 2020.

PTSD

In a 2016 study published in The Permanente Journal, CBD was studied to treat pediatric anxiety and insomnia as part of PTSD. A review of the literature suggests some benefits of using CBD because of its anxiolytic and sleep-inducing effects. Animal studies suggest that CBD may block anxiety-induced rapid-eye-movement sleep. Study participants say that though the anxiety is not gone, it is not as intense with CBD treatment.

A 2019 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine examined 11 patients with PTSD. Ten of the 11, or 91%, experienced a decrease in their PTSD symptom severity, with an average reduction of 28% after eight weeks of treatment. The CBD was generally well-tolerated, and no patient discontinued treatment as a result of side effects. The CBD also offered relief for a subset of patients who reported frequent nightmares as a symptom of their PTSD. 

A study conducted by New York University’s Langone Medical Center showed that people who have PTSD have much lower levels of the anandamide neurotransmitter. Anandamides operate as a natural antidepressant and can impair memory as well. CB1 cannabinoid receptors in the body help turn off the traumatic memories so people can stop paying attention to them. Lack of endocannabinoids like anandamide can induce symptoms of PTSD, including anxiety and fear.

Schizophrenia

A recent study referred to CBD as a new class of treatment for schizophrenia. Other research has reported that CBD is an effective therapy for psychosis. Patients dealing with psychosis and schizophrenia need to work closely with their medical team, but CBD may be a promising plant-based option to treat some mood disorders.

Additional research is needed to determine optimal dosages for using CBD as a treatment in any health condition. As the industry continues to grow, we can expect to see more intensive studies.

Addiction

CBD has been shown to modify circuits in the brain that are related to drug addiction. In a study with rats, published in Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment, CBD has been shown to reduce morphine dependence and heroin-seeking behavior. Though more studies need to be repeated using human subjects, the results are promising. 

An article published in 2010 took a close look at alcoholism and the endocannabinoid system. Alcohol dependence has been linked to the downregulation of the 2-AG and CB1 brain receptors. Long-term alcohol abuse depletes endocannabinoid tone, and this hurts several psychological processes that are modulated by the endocannabinoid system. 

The endocannabinoid system interacts with other neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, which are involved in the regulation of mood, impulsive behavior, and fear. 

Prolonged alcohol exposure causes deficits in the brain’s endocannabinoid signaling. This can contribute to maladaptive stress coping and an increased desire for alcohol consumption, in an attempt to boost CB1 receptor activity, creating a vicious cycle of addiction that feeds on itself. 

Arthritis and Chronic Pain

Using cannabis for pain can be traced back to 2900 B.C. in ancient Chinese texts. The Shennong Ben Cao Jing, a Chinese encyclopedia that covers medicine and agriculture, has the oldest written record of cannabis as medicine. It recommends using cannabis for constipation, malaria, rheumatic pain, and female reproductive disorders. The plant was used with wine to sedate patients during surgery. 

An animal study published in the European Journal of Pain showed that a topical CBD gel applied to rats with arthritis for four days significantly reduced inflammation and signs of pain, without causing side effects. Humans with arthritis may also find pain relief, though more studies need to be done to confirm the benefits. 

Another study with humans found that CBD cream was useful as an anti-inflammatory agent.

According to a meta-analysis of various reports and studies, there is substantial evidence that cannabis is an effective treatment for chronic pain in adults. A completely separate study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine supports these results, suggesting that CBD use reduces pain and inflammation.

Researchers found that test subjects were not likely to build a tolerance to the CBD effects, so they would not have to increase their dose regularly to achieve pain relief. They noted that CBD and other cannabinoids could provide helpful new treatments for people living with chronic pain.

Though not approved in the United States, an oral spray called Sativex, featuring a combination of THC and CBD, is approved in several other countries to treat pain related to multiple sclerosis.

A study with 47 subjects examined the effects of taking this spray for one month. The participants, all of whom had multiple sclerosis, experienced improvements with their walking, muscle spasms, and pain levels.

Another study found that Sativex significantly improved sleep quality and pain during movement in 58 people with rheumatoid arthritis.

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that affects the whole body. People with MS often experience muscle spasms. For some, these spasms are so intense they cause constant pain. 

A report found that short-term use of CBD oil could reduce the levels of spasticity in MS patients. Though the results are modest, many reported a reduction in their symptoms. This research may also prove helpful for people with cerebral palsy, a condition typically marked by spasticity. 

Sativex is a safe and effective way to reduce muscle spasticity in those with multiple sclerosis. One study found that it reduces spasms in 75% of the 276 people with MS who were experiencing muscle spasticity that was resistant to medication. 

Other CBD Oil Health Benefits

Neuroprotective Properties

CBD has also been shown to help treat childhood epilepsy, along with other seizure disorders.

Another study from early research suggests that CBD had properties similar to Valium, but without the sedation effect.

One study gave 214 people with severe epilepsy 0.9 to 2.3 grams of CBD oil per pound of body weight. It reduced their seizures a median of 36.5%. Another study found that CBD oil significantly reduced seizure activity in children with Dravet syndrome, a complex childhood epilepsy disorder.

CBD’s neuroprotective properties go beyond multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Numerous studies have shown that treatment with CBD improves quality of life and sleep quality for people with Parkinson's disease. 

Animal and test-tube studies have also shown that CBD may decrease inflammation and help prevent the neurodegeneration that comes with Alzheimer's disease. In a long-term study, researchers gave CBD to mice that were genetically predisposed to Alzheimer's disease. They found that it helped prevent cognitive decline.

Heart Health

Research has linked CBD with many benefits for the heart and circulatory system, including the ability to lower blood pressure. High blood pressure is related to an increased risk of several health conditions, including heart attack, metabolic syndrome, and stroke. Studies indicate that CBD may be an effective treatment for high blood pressure. 

A recent small-scale study treated nine healthy men with a single dose of 600 milligrams of CBD oil and found that it reduced resting blood pressure compared to a placebo. The same study gave the men a stress test to increase blood pressure. The single dose of CBD led the men to experience a smaller blood pressure increase.

Researchers believe that the anxiety- and stress-reducing properties of CBD are the reason it helps lower blood pressure.

Several animal studies have shown that CBD may help reduce inflammation and cell death associated with heart disease because of its stress-reducing and anti-inflammatory properties.

A study found that treatment with CBD reduced oxidative stress and prevented heart damage in diabetic rats that had heart disease. 

Acne and Other Skin Conditions

Acne is a common skin condition that affects more than 9% of the population. Thought to be caused by many factors, including underlying inflammation, genetics, bacteria, and the overproduction of sebum -- an oily secretion made by the skin’s sebaceous glands -- it ranges in severity from mild hormone-related breakouts to extreme scarring.

Recent studies show CBD is an anti-inflammatory, which is why it may be an effective treatment for acne. CBD may also reduce sebum production, so the skin is less oily. 

A test tube study found that CBD oil prevented sebaceous gland cells from secreting excessive sebum while also exerting anti-inflammatory action and preventing the activation of inflammatory cytokines that are known to promote acne.

Another study showed similar findings, suggesting that CBD may be a safe and efficient way to treat acne, thanks in part to its anti-inflammatory qualities. The results are promising, but additional human studies are needed to explore the effects of CBD on acne.

Cancer-Related Symptoms

There is evidence that CBD has anti-cancer properties and is beneficial in managing the side effects of cancer treatment. CBD may help address the pain, nausea, and vomiting associated with chemotherapy. 

One study looked at the effects of both CBD and THC in 177 people with cancer-related pain who did not get relief with traditional pain medication. Those treated with an extract that contains both CBD and THC saw a significant reduction in pain compared to those who only received THC. Using CBD may also help reduce chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, which are the most common chemotherapy-related side effects.

Though there are medications to help with the side effects associated with chemotherapy, they are sometimes not sufficient, which leads people to look for alternatives. 

A study of 16 people undergoing chemotherapy found that a one-to-one ratio of CBD and THC administered via an oral spray reduced chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting better than standard treatment alone.

Anti-Tumor Effects

CBD has demonstrated anti-tumor effects in both test tube and animal studies. In animals, it has been shown to prevent the spread of lung, breast, prostate, brain, and colon cancer.

Test tube and animal studies have shown promise. For instance, a test tube study found that concentrated CBD caused cell death in human breast-cancer cells.

An animal study showed that CBD prevented the spread of aggressive breast cancer in mice. However, additional studies with human subjects are needed before conclusions can be made. 

Diabetes Prevention

Treating diabetic mice with CBD reduced the incidence of diabetes by 56% while significantly reducing inflammation.

As of now, there are no clinical studies in humans on the direct effect of CBD oil on blood sugar. The body's endocannabinoid system plays a significant role in regulating energy metabolism, which helps determine how the body responds to insulin by increasing or decreasing insulin sensitivity.

It's worth noting that, while CBD offers a variety of benefits to humans, you can also administer it to your pets. High-quality CBD oil products are safe for your pets, but the size and activity level of your pet will determine the optimal serving size. As such, it is imperative to speak with a veterinarian who is familiar with CBD oil usage before you give it to your pet. CBD is available as dog treats and oil tinctures for pets. 

CBD can be used to address anxiety, to treat pain, and reduce the intensity and frequency of seizures. The ingredients for both human- and animal-based CBD products are the same. The difference between the two is that animal-based products are flavored and delivered in ways that make your pet want to eat them.

CBD Product Options

  • Oils and tinctures
  • Lotions, creams, and salves, also known as CBD topicals
  • CBD pills
  • CBD edibles

Guidelines for Starting CBD

Put a bit of thought into which product you're going to use. Once you’ve made your decision, stick with it for a while. This allows you to gauge the effects of that particular product. If you're switching back and forth between different products, determining a serving amount will be more difficult.

One option is to begin with 1 milligram of CBD for every 20 pounds of weight. Using this rule, someone weighing 100 pounds should start with 5 milligrams, while someone weighing 200 pounds should start with 10 milligrams, and so on. 

When you first start using CBD oil, it's a good idea to take the dose at night, roughly an hour before bedtime. This way, if CBD tends to make you tired, you will not feel groggy during the day. If you don't have any issues, then you can take another serving in the morning. If the CBD oil does make you sleepy, then you should only take it at night.

CBD oil is often used to support nighttime sleep and daytime focus, so it could be taken as needed throughout the day. If everything is going well, but you have not achieved your desired results, try doubling your serving. However, each time you increase the serving size, you need to take a few days to take note of how your body feels and responds. 

If increasing your dose produces any unwanted side effects, such as making you tired, reduce your dosage to a lower serving.

CBD is nontoxic, so you would have to consume massive amounts of it before it would cause any seriously adverse health effects. However, taking more CBD than you need may cause you to feel some unwanted side effects, such as making you too relaxed for certain activities.

After you have determined your particular serving based on the product you're using, it's a good idea to stick with that product, because you'll have to start over again if you change products.

Another thing to consider is how accurate you want to be with your servings. It's easier to gauge a serving when you're taking capsules but much harder to measure with vaping since it depends on how much you inhale and how deeply you inhale it.

How Do I Take CBD?

How you take CBD depends on how quickly you want to experience the effects, the price you want to pay, and your personal taste preferences. It's a good idea to try different methods to see what works best for you.

Before we delve into the various methods of using CBD oil, let’s first discuss bioavailability. Not all methods of using CBD are equal. The effectiveness depends not only on the consumption method and the ingredients in the product, but also on the bioavailability of the CBD in each method. 

Bioavailability refers to the percentage of a given serving that ends up being available for your body to use.

In terms of CBD oil, active ingredients include both cannabinoids and terpenes, but for the sake of this discussion, we'll only be talking about the bioavailability of CBD itself.

If CBD had a bioavailability of 100%, that would mean that 100% of the CBD in the product is available to your body. However, the only way to achieve 100% bioavailability is through intravenous administration, meaning injecting it directly into the bloodstream.

Every other method of CBD oil consumption results in some percentage of the CBD becoming unavailable to the body for various reasons, such as becoming trapped in fatty tissues or metabolized before it has a chance to enter the bloodstream.

Pure CBD Oil

CBD oil is extracted directly from hemp plants, which carries a more significant price tag because it tends to have the highest level of CBD. It can be added to food or drinks, or consumed orally.

CBD oil is taken sublingually, which means that it is held under the tongue for a minute or so before swallowing. This allows it to be absorbed into the bloodstream relatively quickly.

Because of its potency, you don't need a lot to achieve your desired effect. It's worth noting, however, that some CBD oils are engineered explicitly for vaping, so they should not be taken orally. Along the same lines, you should not inhale anything that is not expressly labeled for vaping.

Vaping CBD Oil 

Vaping CBD oil is a common choice because it allows you to inhale the CBD. Aside from intravenous injection, this method has the highest bioavailability. By vaporizing or atomizing it and inhaling, the lungs absorb the vapor the same way they absorb oxygen. The effects of inhalation are almost immediate because the CBD directly enters your bloodstream through the lungs, bypassing the digestive system.

Inhaled CBD has an estimated range of 25% to 60% bioavailability. The number depends on the ingredients used and other factors, such as how much is inhaled with each puff, how deeply it is drawn into the lungs, and how quickly it is exhaled.

Nebulizers are a less common way of taking CBD. The benefit of the nebulizer is that it provides a measured serving, whereas delivering an exact serving size with a vaporizer is harder. 

CBD Oil Tinctures

CBD oil tinctures are taken the same way as pure CBD oil. The difference is that tinctures are specialized oil that has been mixed with carrying agents such as flavored oils or alcohols. They are generally dispensed with a dropper, but you can also find sprays and pump bottles.

CBD tinctures are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream when they are taken sublingually. The products are often flavored, which can make them taste better for those who do not like the taste of pure oils. Tinctures are an affordable option for people who are getting started with CBD use.

Generally speaking, CBD in tinctures has twice the bioavailability than edible products -- anywhere from 10% to 40%.

The downside of oils and tinctures is that they do not travel well. They can be messy if you're trying to use them on the go. Generally, they're packaged in a breakable bottle with a breakable dropper. If you're looking for a product to take with you on a hiking trip, for instance, tinctures are not the ideal choice. 

Here at Penguin CBD, we offer tinctures in a natural flavor, as well as a citrus flavor and a mint flavor. 

CBD Topicals

CBD topicals can be found in a variety of beauty products, from lip balm to lotion. CBD topical refers to anything you apply directly to the skin. These are sold in wax, gel, or cream form and offer localized results because they interact with your skin rather than absorbing into your bloodstream.

CBD topicals may be infused with pure CBD, or they may be infused with full- or broad-spectrum oils that contain other beneficial cannabinoids and terpenes. They often include a variety of additional beneficial ingredients meant to enhance the overall effects. Skin creams may contain vitamin D, collagen, and moisturizers. Pain creams may contain ingredients that are intended to help the product penetrate deeper into the tissues and provide additional pain relief. Salves may contain other healing and soothing ingredients, such as aloe.

Because CBD topicals have a lighter density of CBD, they tend to be more affordable. Since they are applied directly to the skin, the topicals are easy to use. The effects can last for hours; they are easy to include in your daily routine. Plus, because nearly everyone uses some topical agent on their skin regularly, you can use them discreetly. 

Our extra-strength CBD cream features peppermint and lavender for a cooling sensation upon application. It is a highly moisturizing lotion suitable for men and women alike because the scent is neutral. 

CBD Pills 

CBD pills are a capsulized form of CBD with powder inside. You swallow the pill, and the body absorbs it through digestion. They have no taste and generally last longer than other methods. While this is a plus for many, the one drawback is that the time between taking the pill and feeling the effects is longer than with other forms. 

CBD pills are incredibly easy to use because they are no different from swallowing any other kind of medication, supplement, or vitamin. They have a predetermined amount of CBD in them, so there is no need to measure it yourself, and you can find them in a variety of dosages. Going through the digestive system means the CBD will have longer-lasting effects than if taken in tincture or applied as a topical. 

It is possible to puncture a CBD oil capsule to use it on the skin, but for the most part, you should plan on oral administration. The capsules are made with gelatin, which melts in minutes in the stomach to deliver the entire serving of CBD oil. None of it will be absorbed into your mouth or throat tissues, and very little is likely to make its way through the rest of your digestive system.

CBD pills are convenient and easy to use without a mess, and allow for exact servings. A drawback, however, is that it will take longer to feel the effects. Always take the capsule with food to ensure maximum bioavailability.

CBD Edibles

Edibles are most commonly associated with THC, but they offer an excellent way to consume CBD as well. CBD edibles refer to any food item with CBD added to it, from candies to baked goods. CBD gummies are a popular product. Like the pills, edibles are absorbed through the stomach through digestion.

CBD edibles taste good, and no matter what you're craving, you can likely find a flavor to match it. The effects from CBD edibles tend to last a long time, and they are perhaps the easiest way to consume CBD.

When it comes to choosing the format you want to use, it is essential to consider your primary use along with lifestyle considerations, time considerations, and bioavailability. Some products are more convenient than others because some will travel better than others, and some are more enjoyable to use. Capsules are best for traveling since there's nothing to drop, break, or spill.

However, specific methods are better for certain uses. For instance, if you're using CBD to support skin health, topical products are often the best choice. But if you're using a CBD product to support your sleep, capsules with unique formulations may be more effective than regular CBD products.

Various methods of use require different amounts of time to take effect. Edibles can take an hour or more to take effect, whereas inhalation methods are virtually instantaneous.

If time is not a consideration, you should consider the value. CBD isn't as affordable as vitamins and minerals, so you should undoubtedly try to maximize the value you're getting for your money. If the product only has 10% bioavailability, you're paying five times more for your CBD than if you used a product that has 50% bioavailability.

What Dose Should I Take?

When it comes to the right CBD dose, there’s no clear-cut answer. It depends on what you’re treating, the type of CBD product you’re using, and several other factors.  

A lot of this is because CBD does not have an officially stated dosage -- its usage as medicine is new in the West. CBD does not impact the body in the same way prescription medication does. 

There is a significant difference between eating CBD, vaporizing it, and delivering it under your tongue. The effects of one dropper per day can vary significantly depending on the type of product you're using, whether it's an isolate or a distillate, the concentration of the product, and the individual reaction to CBD. 

Several factors come into play when determining how long it takes for CBD oil to take effect. Some variables relate to CBD itself, and others relate to how the human body reacts to CBD. 

Thanks to genetics, no two people react to CBD oil in the same way. Factors such as health, weight, circulation, metabolism, and age also affect the timing and the effects of CBD oil.

A common factor that is influenced by all of the above is the number of cannabinoid receptors in your body, how they are expressed, and the body's ability to produce endocannabinoids. Someone with more receptors or who produces fewer endocannabinoids may be more sensitive to CBD than someone with an abundance of endocannabinoids or a lack of receptors. 

Several other factors are involved, including the type of product you're using, how it's being used, and how much is being used. It typically takes edibles longer to work than tinctures, for example. It also depends on what condition you’re using the CBD to treat. Certain conditions may require higher doses to achieve the desired effect.

If the product contains a full-spectrum or broad-spectrum CBD oil with terpenes, the entourage effect allows these types of products to reportedly work more effectively than just CBD alone, thereby reducing the amount needed to achieve the desired result. 

Given all of the factors, determining the ideal serving size takes a bit of work. Using too little of the product will not produce the desired effect and could be a waste of both time and money. Taking more than you need won't necessarily provide additional benefits. It may require some experimentation to determine the ideal serving for a particular person.

Because of the lack of clarity on a standardized dose, it is best to start with a low dose and slowly increase it as necessary. Starting with a low dose allows you to gauge your body's reaction to the CBD.

It's also important to note that there may be variations in actual CBD content between products, so you should proceed with caution when starting a new package or switching your dosage.

When considering your dosage, keep the following in mind: 

  • If you're using CBD to treat seizures, talk with your doctor about the best product and dose.
  • Vape oil dosing can be tricky because it depends on exactly how much you inhale and the concentration of the vaping liquid.
  • Many oils come in concentrations of 1 milligram per drop, so increasing your dose is straightforward. However, be sure to read product labels carefully, so you know the amount each drop provides.
  • Gummies are often available in standard doses, generally around 5 milligrams per gummy. Be sure to clarify this before changing your dose.
  • Use any lotions or creams sparingly at first.
  • Use the product-recommended dosage unless your doctor permits you to take larger doses. People with certain health conditions such as liver disease may require lower doses to avoid serious side effects. 

Side Effects of CBD to Watch For

CBD is generally well tolerated and considered safe. However, it may cause adverse reactions in some people. 

Studies have noted the following side effects:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Withdrawal symptoms, such as insomnia and irritability

Though side effects are often mild and generally don’t present much of an issue for people, CBD is known to interact with several medications. Before you start using CBD oil to address any medical condition or concern, speak with your doctor to avoid potentially harmful interactions.

This is important if you take any medications or supplements that come with a grapefruit warning, as both grapefruit and CBD interfere with cytochromes P450 (CYPs), a group of enzymes that are important to drug metabolism. 

These cytochromes are responsible for breaking down medications, reducing blood levels of many of them. This is because of the chemicals known as furanocoumarins, which are also present in some of the grapefruit's close relatives, such as Seville oranges and tangelos. 

Research shows these chemicals interfere with the way CYPs typically break down drugs, increasing levels of the medications in your body, which could increase side effects associated with these drugs.

The grapefruit warning applies to more than 85 medications, including certain cholesterol-lowering drugs, blood pressure medications, heart-rhythm medications, blood thinners, antimicrobial medications, mood drugs (both antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications), pain medications, and erectile dysfunction and prostate medications. Some of the most common ones include:

  • Atorvastatin (Lipitor)
  • Nifedipine (Procardia)
  • Dronedarone (Multaq)
  • Erythromycin
  • Buspirone (Buspar)
  • Lurasidone (Latuda)
  • Apixaban (Eliquis)
  • Oxycodone
  • Tadalafil (Cialis)
  • Sildenafil (Viagra) 

This is not an exhaustive list. If you are concerned about your medications, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Think a small glass of grapefruit juice won’t hurt? A single glass is enough to alter how the medication behaves in your body for one to three days. Waiting a few hours between taking your medicine and drinking the juice isn’t enough. And for a small number of drugs, the effects of grapefruit juice can be severe. 

It’s worth mentioning that the only cannabis-based (not CBD, but marijuana) FDA-approved drug, Epidiolex, approved for the use of certain seizure disorders, states that there is a risk of lethargy, liver damage, and possibly depression with thoughts of suicide. However, these side effects are true of other epilepsy treatments as well.

CBD may put some users at risk for lung problems. A study found that the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD may reduce inflammation too much. A considerable reduction in inflammation may cause the lungs to lose the heart of their defense system, thereby increasing the risk of infection.

CBD is not recommended for children as there is little research on the effects of CBD oil on the developing brain. Using CBD oil is also not recommended for women who are pregnant or nursing. 

Legal Issues Surrounding CBD 

Any marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal at the federal level but legal at the state level in states where marijuana has been approved for medical or recreational use. 

Hemp-derived CBD products or those containing 0.3% or less THC are legal at the federal level but are still illegal at the state level in some states. However, individual states such as North and South Carolina, where marijuana is not yet legal for medical or recreational purposes, have legalized the use of CBD products. In Virginia, it’s only legal to purchase and possess with a prescription.

Wrapping Things Up 

Before you start using any CBD product, it's essential to consider your goals. For instance, if you are aiming to treat pain, determine the effects you want to get out of the CBD oil so that you can decide whether the product you selected is working for you. Understanding your goals will also help in determining the best form of CBD to use. 

As you determine your serving, consider that if you are using CBD oil for health maintenance, you don't require as much as you would if you’re using it for other reasons. Anything over 50 mg a day may be more than you need. 

This is why it's best to start small and gradually increase your dose every few days, taking time to note the effects. Though you are not likely to build a tolerance or reach toxic dosage levels, you should always seek the minimum amount required to achieve the desired result.