What is CBD oil, and how does it make you feel? Gather 'round, it's time to talk about CBD's effects on the body.
Any cannabis connoisseur worth their weed card knows that tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the king chemical in their drug of choice: It's the psychoactive stuff that actually gets you high, and growers are consistently seeking ways to elevate its concentration in their ultra-potent strains.
Yet even as the race to produce more and more powerful marijuana continues at its breakneck pace, another crucial chemical in pot is having a moment. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is increasingly available in oil/extract form as well as mellow strains bred to heighten its presence and diminish THC's effects.
Before you go out and buy a bushel of CBD products, though, it's worth finding out how consuming cannabidiol will — and won't — make you feel.
CBD effects: Relaxation and calm
While THC has been known to trigger panic attacks by modulating the neurotransmitters involved in a "fight-or-flight" response, CBD appears to do the opposite, easing anxiety and making us less likely to freak out.
In a study comparing the effects of THC and CBD, researchers found that THC increased anxiety by activating the frontal and parietal areas of the brain. CBD, though, reduced autonomic arousal — the kind of involuntary nervous system response associated with sudden increases in heart rate or respiration. In other words, CBD suppresses the "fight-or-flight" feeling THC sometimes causes. Good news for anyone who wants to wind down instead of up.
CBD effects: Less nausea
The National Cancer Institute has compiled an impressive list of all the ways cannabis can be used to combat symptoms of the disease or its treatment. One finding it's touted is that both THC and CBD help to curtail nausea and vomiting, a very common patient problem.
That's because, it reports, our "emetic circuitry" — which regulates nausea — appears to be influenced at least in part by our endocannabinoid system, a network of receptors throughout the brain and body that react to cannabinoids like THC and CBD. When we absorb these compounds by consuming weed, they evidently inhibit vomiting via their interaction with specific receptors.
CBD effects: Relief from pain and inflammation
Through other endocannabinoid receptors, CBD can mitigate both pain and swelling or inflammation associated with it. Science has long known about cannabidiol's analgesic properties, which is why we now have any number of CBD-infused topical creams and salves designed for direct application to skin.
There seems to be no end to the painful conditions for which CBD could mean a measure of localized relief: Enthusiasts commonly cite arthritis, menstrual cramps, headaches, even plain old muscle soreness or the itchiness from psoriasis and dermatitis as potential targets for the cannabis compound.
CBD effects: Improved mood
Because CBD is considered nonpsychoactive when compared to THC (that is, it lacks the intoxicating and euphoric aspects of a THC high) you might assume that it has little-to-no cerebral effects, at least at a noticeable threshold. But as we've seen, it can relax us — and there's some evidence it can improve mood.
Again, this isn't to say that CBD will transform you into a happy hippie who wants to give the world a hug. Instead, it may act as an antidepressant.
One study found that depressed rats (yes, really) benefited from injections of CBD, becoming more proactive about finding a safe place to rest in a tank of water instead of merely floating in place. The same researchers found that CBD had no discernible effect on the rats' motor functions, meaning the antidepressant effect was not secondary, but rather a direct result of CBD's influence.
CBD effects: Generally, you'll notice the absence of bad feelings
All these effects, of course, are still up for debate as we continue to study CBD, especially with regard to how it works in tandem with THC. By and large, however, you've probably noticed that the question of how CBD "feels" is really more about what you don't feel when you take it — whether that's pain, nausea, anxiety, inflammation or depression. This is the key difference between CBD and THC, which may confer similar therapeutic advantages but brings a host of other effects along with it, not all benign or predictable.
In sum, then, you might think of CBD as a "safer" alternative to regular marijuana, which is typically packed with THC. And as with the practice of microdosing, when it comes with CBD, the positive outcomes aren't necessarily things you even notice. If your CBD consumption goes according to plan, you'll likely know it by the subtle fading of whatever ails you.
More marijuana news and guides
Keep up to date with the ever-changing landscape of legal marijuana. From fluctuating weed prices to the health benefits of vaping, the science of drug tests to hot new trends like microdosing, you'll always know the key facts in a confusing culture where misinformation is all too common. Stay abreast of states looking to reform their laws, learn the terminology, discover groundbreaking advances in cannabis treatments and find out what America's favorite semi-illicit substance can do for you.