Image for CBD 101: A Topical Review

Recently, an abundance of herbal CBD products has hit the marketplace, in many forms, application types and dosages. As with other newly (re)emerging markets and trends, misinformation has been circulating, leading to some confusion about what exactly these products contain and what ailments they aim to ease. So, what exactly is CBD, and which CBD products are right for you?

CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a naturally occurring, non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis. The term “cannabis” is often associated with marijuana but is actually a broader genus of flowering plants that includes hemp. Marijuana and hemp come from the same variety of Cannabis sativa and share certain similarities and differences. The main biological difference is that marijuana has historically been bred for higher tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels, the psychoactive compound associated with getting “high,” while hemp has been bred for higher levels of CBD. From a legal standpoint, if a cannabis plant contains more than 0.3 percent THC content, it is federally classified in the U.S. as an illegal Schedule I drug. If a cannabis plant contains less than 0.3 percent THC, it is classified as agricultural hemp. Marijuana and hemp also contain distinct anatomies, most clearly defined by differences in the size and shape of their leaves, flower buds, and heights.

Because of its higher concentration of CBD, agricultural hemp has been found to hold a range of beneficial properties. Since 2016, peer-reviewed research on CBD has emerged as scientists dig deeper into its potential health benefits. Clinical research has focused on the use of CBD to aid anxiety, insomnia, cognition, movement disorders, chronic pain and numerous neurological disorders. Anecdotal evidence points to CBD having positive effects in many of these areas, but more research is needed to substantiate these claims. For the most up-to-date clinical research on CBD, PubMed.gov is a great resource.