Everyone from over-stressed execs and sleep-deprived parents to professional athletes and health gurus swears by CBD these days. However, there’s still a lot of confusion out there about what CBD is, how it works, and how to give it a try for yourself. Here, cannabis experts and healthcare providers share their top tips for first-time users.
What Is CBD?
Short for cannabidiol, CBD is one of over 100 compounds called cannabinoids found in hemp or marijuana plants. However, unlike the cannabinoid THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, which is only found in marijuana), CBD is non-psychoactive. Translation: It can’t get you high.
CBD can, however, support your health in a number of ways. Research—which continues to develop—suggests CBD can support a sense of balance and well-being.
How Does CBD Work, Exactly?
“CBD works with our endocannabinoid system, the body’s major communication and harm-reduction center,” explains naturopathic doctor Jake F. Felice, N.D., L.M.P., hemp and CBD educator for Manitoba Harvest. Made up of a system of receptors and signaling pathways throughout the body, the endocannabinoid system helps regulate many of our bodily functions.
Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, this body-balancing system doesn’t always work correctly. According to Jacqueline Montoya, M.D., board-certified physician and Chief Medical Officer for CBDfit, everything from excess stress to poor sleep to nutritional deficiencies can interfere with the endocannabinoid system’s ability to return the body to homeostasis.
That’s where CBD comes in. “The theory is that CBD supports the endocannabinoid system by binding to its receptors, which prevents too many of our hormones from binding to them,” Montoya explains.
How To Shop For—And Try—CBD
To reap CBD’s potential benefits, you need to find a high-quality product—and use it correctly! Follow these five steps to get started.
1. Figure Out What Form You Want To Take
“What form you choose is really a matter of personal preference,” says Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of Ancient Nutrition and member of The Vitamin Shoppe Wellness Council. The biggest differences among them: how quickly they take effect and how long their effects last.
Since capsules are a familiar way to supplement, many people like to take CBD in this form, says Montoya. The drawback: You have to digest the capsule, so the CBD takes up to two hours to be absorbed.
Related: Chill With These 3 Tasty CBD Recipes
Edible products, like gummies and CBD protein powders, also take about this long.
Oils, sprays, and tinctures (typically carrier oils infused with CBD), meanwhile are convenient to take and absorb more quickly.
2. Consider Full-Spectrum CBD
As you browse store shelves or the web for CBD, you’ll notice most products are labeled either ‘full-spectrum’ or ‘isolate.’
CBD isolate products are made by extracting just the CBD cannabinoid from the plant while full-spectrum—sometimes called ‘broad-spectrum’—products contain CBD plus other cannabinoids found in hemp and cannabis, such as cannabinol (CBN), cannabichromene (CBC), cannabigerol (CBG), and other plant compounds called terpenes.
Important note: While full-spectrum CBD products sold in states where marijuana is legal can contain notable amounts of THC, products sold elsewhere must legally contain less than 0.3 percent THC.)
Why go full-spectrum? Cannabinoids work best as part of a team, says Montoya. (This is known as the entourage effect.) Basically, CBD is most effective when it can work in conjunction with these other natural compounds. So while CBD isolate products may hit an effectiveness plateau, “full-spectrum formulas become more and more effective the higher the dose is,” Montoya explains.
While CBD isolates can be effective, taking more doesn’t always yield more benefit, Montoya says.
3. Look For Products That Show Off Stats And Certifications
Want to identify a truly quality CBD product? Check out the label and website.
“The brand should provide a certificate of analysis, which confirms that a third-party lab tested the product,” says Montoya. You should be able to find it easily on the company’s website, so consider it a red flag if you have to dig or reach out to the company to get a hold of it.
If you want a CBD product extracted from an organic hemp plant that’s free from synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, growth hormones, or genetically modified organisms, look for a supplement that sports the USDA Certified Organic seal (like this one from Ancient Nutrient), says Axe.
“Hemp is a bioaccumulator, meaning it can absorb both good and bad substances from air, water, and soil, so it’s best to pick CBD products sourced from organically-grown hemp,” he explains.
4. Consider The Product’s Other Ingredients
Some products combine CBD with other herbs to support different aspects of health.
While research has yet to explore how CBD works when taken with other herbs, “many herbs such as turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and ashwagandha have been shown to be beneficial, so adding these to a CBD-containing products may offer users the benefit of both,” Axe explains.
Some supplements, like Garden of Life Dr. Formulated CBD + Relax Whole Hemp Extract, combine CBD with sleep-supporting saffron and l-theanine. Others, like Ancient Nutrition Organic Cinnamon CBD Hemp Extract, include immune health rockstar turmeric in the formulation.
5. Find Out The Right Amount For You
Of course, “you should always consult with your healthcare professional prior to making any dietary change, including taking supplements like CBD,” says Axe. Once you have doctor-approval, start low and go slow.
Montoya recommends starting with just five to 10 milligrams of CBD and gauging how you feel. From there, you can increase the amount by five milligrams until you find the amount that feels best for you.
If you notice any changes in your energy levels and appetite, or experience any stomach upset, decrease your dose, Montoya says.
Interested in trying CBD? Visit The Vitamin Shoppe’s CBD Central online or in-store for a huge assortment of CBD hemp extract products from brands you can trust.