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What Is CBD? A Beginner’s Guide

Even if you’re new to cannabis, chances are you’ve read about or heard of CBD. One of the major cannabinoids—or “active ingredients”—found in cannabis, it’s hard to miss, appearing in everything from coffee to cocktails to pet treats to granola. But still, ubiquity doesn’t tell you anything about CBD’s potential benefits, or even its effects.

At Green Goods we strive to provide cannabis patients and consumers with the knowledge and tools they need to use our products effectively, so they can get the most out of their purchases and the benefits these plants have to offer.

If you’ve heard about CBD, or perhaps even tried it, but want to uncover more about just what this compound is and what it can do to support your health and wellness, today’s post is for you. We’ll provide an accessible overview of the scientific evidence along with actionable tips for adding CBD to your daily routine.

What Is CBD?

CBD—short for cannabidiol—is a cannabinoid, one of a group of roughly 150 compounds found in the cannabis and hemp plants. Cannabinoids are responsible for imparting many of these plant’s most profound effects on our bodies.

You have likely heard of THC, the most abundant cannabinoid in the cannabis plant family and the one most directly responsible for the plant’s characteristic euphoric “high.” The second most prevalent cannabinoid is CBD, and while it doesn’t provide the same euphoric and intoxicating effects THC, that’s not to say it is not psychoactive. Some people describe a gentle cerebral “buzz” sensation that’s not too different from caffeine. And indeed, studies have shown that CBD can induce a feeling of alertness.

CBD is often derived from the hemp plant, cannabis’s non-intoxicating cousin. Because hemp contains very little if any THC, the CBD you see in many grocery and supplement stores comes from hemp plants. Some people feel that CBD containing the full-spectrum of hemp or cannabis’ active compounds—often marketed as “full-spectrum CBD” or “broad-spectrum CBD”—is more beneficial because it contains a greater number of other plant compounds such as terpenes and flavonoids.

Current research efforts are trying to better understand the synergistic benefits that cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and other active compounds may provide—in other words, they may work better together than they do on their own. This theory is called the entourage or ensemble effect, and we at Green Goods are looking forward to what further research on this theory will uncover.

With that said, let’s return to the topic of CBD effects. CBD, like all the cannabinoids, interacts with a bodily network called the endocannabinoid system. It’s one of our most important regulatory systems, and—as you might guess—it’s uniquely suited to work with the cannabinoids in cannabis. That’s a major reason cannabis can impart such powerful medicinal effects; when used carefully and in proper doses, it’s also a uniquely sustainable approach to self-care and wellness.

That tells us a little about where CBD comes from. But what can it do for our bodies? Let’s dive into that question now.

What Does CBD Do?

In recent years there has been a significant uptick in medical research on CBD, and researchers have identified a number of potential CBD benefits. This cannabinoid is often suggested as a treatment for anxiety and for certain types of pain, but that’s only the start. Let’s begin with anxiety, a notably difficult-to-treat symptom.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorder in the United States, affecting nearly 20% of Americans each year. And a number of studies support the hypothesis that CBD helps address certain types of anxiety. In one study, a CBD oil successfully treated some of the symptoms of PTSD, including anxiety.

Another experiment leveraged the common fear of public speaking to find that moderate doses of CBD reduced anxiety in test subjects. And still another study found that CBD can act like an antidepressant, counteracting this common condition which is often related to anxiety. Many people access CBD for these stress-relieving benefits, which initial research supports may have additional benefits for sleep, too.

Then there’s chronic pain. Like anxiety, it’s a condition that affects a startling number of Americans. As of 2023, some estimates put the number of people in this country who suffer from chronic pain at 51 million—that’s more than 20% of adults. And just as with anxiety, clinical studies demonstrate that CBD effects can address pain in a number of ways.

Research has determined that CBD is a powerful anti-inflammatory, reducing pain at injury sites by modulating the actions of local signaling and repair cells. CBD may also partner with signaling mechanisms in the brain, enhancing the actions of receptor cells and dampening pain signals as they arrive.

Believe it or not, CBD may even be a player in the next generation of skin treatments! Our endocannabinoid system is busy at work within this largest of organs. Because CBD has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation while offering antioxidant benefits, the cannabinoid shows potential for treating inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and acne—among other potential cosmetic and dermatological uses!

And this is just a short, high-level summary. The medical research on CBD spans many other areas, and it has even been approved by the FDA for the specific forms of epilepsy.

How Can CBD Be Taken?

Because CBD is a chemical compound, it can be mixed with many other substances and delivered in several formats. Let’s run down a list of some of the most popular:

  • Flower: Aside from the rich sources of CBD we find in hemp flower, more and more strains of cannabis are bred to contain varying proportions of CBD, too. Pro tip: Ask your budtender about the CBD content of cannabis flower next time you visit one of our dispensaries!
  • Tincture: Because tinctures deliver a precise and consistent dose of cannabinoids, they’re among the most popular way to access CBD’s benefits. Pro tip: If you’re looking for a fast onset time, place the tincture under your tongue and hold it there for a minute or so. The highly absorptive blood vessels there allow the cannabinoids to begin acting far more quickly than if the tincture were swallowed.
  • Edibles: Another popular way to access the benefit of CBD, edibles package this powerful cannabinoid in a wide range of formats, from tempting chocolates to thirst-quenching beverages to zingy mints and beyond. Because CBD is so versatile, there’s nearly no end to the list of ways it can be infused into your own cooking or ready-made edibles. Pro tip: Add a few drops of CBD tincture or oil to your favorite food or beverage, and voilá: You’ve just created your own CBD edible!
  • Topicals: CBD’s benefits for the skin have made topicals a popular CBD product option. From balms to salves to infused bath salts, the many CBD topicals available are being used for everything from post-workout recovery to general self-care and relaxation. Pro tip: Transdermal products have been formulated to penetrate all layers of your skin to reach the bloodstream, and may be helpful for the targeted treatment of specific areas of discomfort.

Using CBD: Common Questions and Best Practices

Because CBD has exploded into the marketplace relatively recently, you may be tempted to dismiss it as a fad. However, the research doesn’t lie: The clinical studies we referenced demonstrate a number of potential CBD benefits, including the ability to support everyday health and wellness.

Here are some common questions and tips that can improve your experience and results:

Can you take CBD on its own?

Absolutely! While many researchers believe CBD, THC and the other active compounds in hemp and cannabis plants work best in tandem, studies show that CBD is still effective on its own.

How much CBD should you take?

Because everyone’s bodies are a little bit different, there’s no “recommended dose.” That’s why experts in cannabis medicine recommend you take the minimum amount needed to address your specific needs. While it will take a little longer to dial in your “ideal dosage,” once you do, your treatment will be more sustainable (and effective) in the long run. Start with a low dosage, perhaps even half of the product’s recommended dose, and slowly increase it from there.

Are there negative side effects to CBD?

While it’s usually well-tolerated, CBD’s side effects can include dry mouth, fatigue, or diarrhea. In addition, CBD may interact with specific prescription medications. Always be sure to speak with your doctor and pharmacist before adding CBD to your regimen.

Explore the Benefits of CBD with Green Goods Today!

As one of the only physician-led medical cannabis companies in the United States, Green Goods has grown to become a family of dispensaries spanning Maryland and Minnesota. We take pride in serving these states and the communities within them with expert care and guidance for making the very most of their cannabis experience.

Do you have other questions about the benefits of CBD or any other cannabis-derived product? You can get started by perusing the menu of your local Green Goods dispensary online or visiting us in person. Or, reach out anytime; we’re here to help!

Please note that qualifying conditions vary by state, and the information relating to qualifying conditions may not apply to cannabis patients in all states. Product availability also varies based on state program restrictions and rules, so the products discussed may not be available in all states. Be sure to check with your local Green Goods location about the products available in your state.