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CBD (Cannabidiol): The Complete Guide

Thanks to the molecule tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and its mind-bending effects, the cannabis plant has been famous (or infamous) for thousands of years. Now, though, another molecule found only in the cannabis plant—cannabidiol or CBD—is rapidly growing in popularity thanks to its myriad medical benefits. In fact, CBD is quickly becoming the reason that a whole new generation, both old and young alike, are trying cannabis for the first time.

But what exactly is CBD (cannabidiol)? How does it affect your brain and body? And can CBD get you high? The experts at Honest Marijuana have created this ultimate guide to CBD to answer those important questions. We’ll also reveal information about other often-asked questions, such as:

  • When was CBD discovered?
  • What are the effects of CBD?
  • What medical conditions can CBD treat?
  • What are the side effects of CBD?
  • What’s the best way to consume CBD?
  • How much CBD should you take?

So, let’s dive right in and learn all we can about what’s shaping up to be the newest medical marvel—CBD.

What Is CBD?

CBD chemical formula

CBD (cannabidiol) is one of a group of unique chemical compounds that are found only in the cannabis plant. These chemical compounds are known collectively as cannabinoids. So far, scientists have isolated 113 of these special molecules, but a large number still remain.

In fact, the cannabis plant contains over 500 natural compounds (not all of them necessarily cannabinoids), so there’s great potential for further discovery. The more-commonly known cannabinoids include:

  • THC
  • THCA
  • CBD
  • CBDA
  • CBG
  • CBC
  • CBCA
  • CBN
  • CBL

Cannabinoids can be further subdivided into groups based on where they are found. The three distinct classes of cannabinoids are:

  • Phytocannabinoids (found in plants)
  • Endocannabinoids (found naturally in the body)
  • Synthetic cannabinoids (produced in a lab)

CBD, THC, and the other three-and-four-letter abbreviations in the list at the beginning of this section are phytocannabinoids.

When Was CBD Discovered?

CBD was first isolated back in the 1940s as part of the same project that isolated THC. But it wasn’t until the mid-1960s that the chemical structure of CBD (cannabidiol) was finally described. There is some debate as to who we have to thank for the “discovery” of CBD and THC, Roger Adams or Raphael Mechoulum. Either way, we’re glad they took the time to look.

How Does CBD Affect Your Brain And Body?

Your brain is composed of approximately 100 billion cells called neurons. Each neuron communicates with other neurons through structures called synapses. Synapses are made up of a transmitter and a receptor.

When a synapse is off, or inactive, no communication occurs between the transmitter side and the receptor side. When a synapse is on, or active, the transmitter side releases molecules that travel across the synaptic space to be absorbed by the receptor. This action causes an effect somewhere else in your body or brain.

Neuron synapse

CBD—and indeed, all cannabinoids—interact with your brain in a similar way to the action described above. When introduced into your bloodstream, CBD (cannabidiol) molecules activate (or turn on) specific groups of receptors, including:

  • CB1 and CB2
  • Adenosine
  • Serotonin
  • Vanilloid

These receptors influence such body functions as appetite, pain sensation, mood, memory, and anxiety and have a great deal to do with the effects that CBD offers. We’ll discuss those effects in more detail in an upcoming section. But first, we need to address the question on everyone’s mind: does CBD get you high?

Does CBD Get You High?

No, CBD does not get you high. In fact, when taken with THC, CBD actually reduces just how high you can get. Here’s the science behind why CBD (cannabidiol) won’t get you high and how it takes the edge off the high produced by THC.

Think of THC and CBD as batteries. THC is a AA, and CBD is a AAA. The cannabinoid receptor CB1 in your brain only turns on when the right size battery is inserted—in this case, the AA (THC). The AA fits nicely into the receptor, turns it on, and produces the psychoactive high we all know and love.

But the AAA (CBD) also fits into the receptor. It’s not an exact match like the AA, so the AAA doesn’t activate the receptor. That’s why CBD doesn’t get you high: it’s not built to activate the receptors that cause your world to go psychedelic.

So now you’ve got a AAA battery occupying a space made for a AA battery. If a AA battery comes along, it’s going to “bounce off” that receptor because the AAA battery is already there. That’s how CBD can take the edge off the high caused by THC: the CBD molecule reduces the chances that THC will activate the CB1 receptors. In essence, it’s a clash between cannabinoids.

The interesting thing about CBD is that while it’s inhibiting THC activity on the CB1 receptor, it is also activating the adenosine receptors, the serotonin receptors, and the vanilloid receptors. That means you can get a host of benefits without experiencing the loopiness usually associated with high-THC cannabis strains. Let’s examine those benefits in detail.

What Are The Effects Of CBD?

We’ve already discussed how CBD (cannabidiol) keeps you from getting too high. But while it’s doing that, it’s also counteracting many of the intoxicating effects of THC, like drowsiness, paranoia, and memory loss.

In addition to those two important effects, CBD also acts as an:

  • Antiemetic (reduces nausea and vomiting)
  • Anticonvulsant (suppresses seizures)
  • Anti-inflammatory (mitigates inflammatory disorders)
  • Antitumoral (fights tumor and cancer cells)
  • Anxiolytic (Combats anxiety and depression)
  • Antioxidant (tempers neurodegenerative disorders)
  • Antipsychotic (mediates psychotic disorders)

Because of that long and broad list of effects, CBD can be used to treat a variety of medical conditions.

What Medical Conditions Can CBD Treat?

Medical CBD

CBD is currently being used to fight diseases that were previously thought untreatable. Chief amongst those diseases are:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Psychosis
  • Epileptic disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Cancer
  • Osteoporosis
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Lupus
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Chronic and acute pain
  • Diabetes
  • Neurodegenerative disorders (e.g., Alzheimer’s)

Science has yet to “go all-in” on studying the use of marijuana (CBD specifically) for the treatment of these disorders because of the stigma that surrounds the cannabis plant (and its illegality). As laws change, though, we have no doubt that more and more studies will show what the cannabis world already knows: CBD (cannabidiol) is a valuable medical molecule.

What Are The Side Effects Of CBD?

One of the biggest benefits that CBD has to offer is that it doesn’t produce any side effects. Let’s say that again: CBD doesn’t have any side effects. The scientific community has yet to state that cannabidiol is 100-percent safe, but numerous studies are leading popular opinion in that direction.

Side effects are considered to be just that if they impact your food intake, your heart rate, your body temperature, or your blood pressure. CBD does none of that. Some may say, “Wait! CBD can be used to combat loss of appetite.” That’s true, but CBD doesn’t stimulate appetite like THC does. Rather, the increase in appetite (or perhaps normalization of the appetite) comes as a result of reducing nausea. CBD doesn’t directly affect food intake.

CBD can, however, affect the salivary gland and result in dry mouth. Whether or not dry mouth could be considered a side effect depends on the person who experiences it. Remember, side effects are usually negative and unwanted in some way. But dry mouth may be a small price to pay for a reduction in pain or psychosis. Especially if side effects from other medications are almost as bad as the disease itself.

The only other potential side effect is the fact that CBD inhibits liver enzymes from metabolizing most of the drugs humans take. So, for example, if you’re taking a heart medication, introducing CBD into your system can prevent your body from using the heart medication properly. That can lead to other serious problems, so be sure to discuss any potential conflicts with your doctor before taking CBD or discontinuing any medication in favor of CBD.

What’s The Best Way To Consume CBD?

As the popularity (and legality) of cannabis continues to grow, so too do the methods available for consuming it. The method that is right for you depends on your specific circumstances. Here’s a list for you to choose from.


Smoking a high-CBD strain in your jointblunt, or bong is a tried-and-true method for getting CBD into your system. Depending on the strain you choose, you may get a bit of THC along with your CBD, but the psychedelic effects should be minimal, if not completely absent.

The downside of smoking, dabbing, or hitting a bong is that you’re taking smoke into your lungs. Those who choose CBD (cannabidiol) over THC do so because they are already ill. That makes polluting their lungs with a potentially-harmful substance (smoke) a non-option (even if they’re getting CBD at the same time). That’s why other options on this list are better for consuming CBD.


Vaporizing CBD oil with a vape pen is a healthier alternative to smoking. It’s healthier because the oil is already mostly free of impurities, so you’re not introducing extra chemicals into your system. You are still breathing in a foreign substance (vapor is not air), so it still may not be the best choice.


Cannabis edibles

Edibles are an excellent alternative to smoking or vaping because you’re using the digestive system the way it was intended—to break down nutrients and circulate them around your body. Another nice thing about edibles is that they can take just about any form. You can get your daily dose by eating CBD-infused:

Pretty much anything you eat or drink can be turned into a weed edible. That makes getting the CBD you need super easy and discreet.


Pills are another simple and inconspicuous way to use cannabidiol as a medication. Just pop one in your mouth, take a swig of water, and you’re good to go.


CBD oil can be added to just about any food or drink, or it can be consumed directly like you would any other oil (e.g., olive, coconut, hemp). You can even make cannabis oil at home!


Cannabis tincture

Cannabis tinctures are similar to oils, except that the tincture is held under your tongue, where it enters your bloodstream through the sublingual artery. Tinctures are highly concentrated, so only a few drops are necessary to feel the effects.

Dissolvable Strips

Dissolvable strips have been used for years to prevent bad breath. But we bet you didn’t know they came in the cannabis variety too. You can purchase both THC strips and CBD strips depending on your needs for an easy daily dose. Talk to a budtender at your local dispensary to see if dissolvable strips are available.


Lotions are another option for getting the CBD (cannabidiol) you need. They may not be as fast-acting or as potent as some of the other options on this list (because they are absorbed through your skin), but they are a safe and non-toxic alternative. In addition, lotions travel well, are easy to apply, and don’t draw a lot of attention in the process.

How Much CBD Should You Take?

How much CBD you take depends, in large part, on the potency of the strain. Whether you’re consuming cannabis for the first time or you’ve been doing it for years, we always recommend that starting small and progressing slowly. This will give your body a chance to adapt to the CBD without any negative reactions. For an in-depth guide to getting the right amount, check out our article CBD Dosage Calculator.

Is CBD Right For You?

The best way to find out is to try it for yourself. The benefits are myriad, and the side effects are negligible. Really, what have you got to lose? It’s like asking, “Should I eat this apple?” There’s really no downside to it. All you get is good stuff. Talk to a knowledgeable doctor or consult a local budtender to find the cannabidiol strain that’s just right for you.

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