Wait, What Is CBD and Why Is Everyone Talking About It?

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You’ve heard about cannabis beauty products and THC-laced olive oil (and let’s not forget about this chilled Sauvignon Blanc), but there’s a new ingredient making waves in the wellness world and we have a lot of questions. Here, your guide to ultra-trendy CBD.

So, what is it? The marijuana plant contains dozens of chemical compounds called cannabinoids. You may already be familiar with THC, the cannabinoid that’s responsible for weed’s chilled out (and munchie-inducing) effects. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, meaning that it doesn’t have any intoxicating or euphoric effects (so no, you won’t start giggling uncontrollably or craving pizza if you try it). Instead, CBD enthusiasts report feeling slightly more relaxed and at ease.

Is CBD legal? “It’s a gray area,” says Heather Jackson, CEO of The Realm of Caring Foundation, a non-profit that provides support services for individuals using cannabinoid therapy. Hemp-derived CBD is legal in all 50 states, because hemp has less than 0.3 percent THC (whereas marijuana can contain up to 30 percent THC). Marijuana-derived CBD is legal in some states (shout-out to California, Maine and Massachusetts) but not others. Even more confusing? Some states that don’t allow marijuana-derived CBD will allow it with a prescription (like Connecticut and Illinois). Your best bet? Research before you buy.

And what are the benefits? Proponents say that CBD can help relieve pain, decrease stress and improve focus. Research says, well, not much. There haven’t been many relevant studies on the effects of CBD yet. “At really high doses (300 to 500 milligrams), CBD has been shown to be an anti-inflammatory in mouse studies,” says cannabis specialist Dr. Jordan Tishler. “At even higher doses (800 to 1200 milligrams), CBD has been shown to [reduce anxiety] in humans.” But the problem? No one is taking doses this high because it’s unaffordable, he tells us. And while there has been some research to suggest that CBD may help with other conditions (such as epilepsy and joint pain), a lot of the evidence appears to be anecdotal.

Let’s say I’m curious. How should I try it? CBD can be ingested orally (in tablets, liquid, food or vaporization) or applied topically. “We promote understanding exactly how many milligrams you’re getting, so most people that we serve take CBD as a tincture, usually in a carrier oil and right in their mouths,” says Jackson. If that’s not your thing, some companies are taking advantage of the recent surge of interest in CBD and coming out with some pretty cool creations like Not Pot chocolate, Sigur Rós-approved gumdrops and muscle-soothing body lotion. You can even sip on CBD-cocktails or give your four-legged friend a CBD treat. Just talk to your doctor (or um, vet) first, OK?

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Alexia Dellner

Executive Editor

Alexia Dellner is an executive editor at PureWow who has over ten years of experience covering a broad range of topics including health, wellness, travel, family, culture and...
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