Due to its potential health benefits, there is a growing interest in CBD products. There are also many different forms and ways people can take CBD, such as oils, gummies, and topical creams.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, refers to one of the many substances, or cannabinoids, found in the cannabis plant. These substances interact with the endocannabinoid system in the body, which is a complex biological system that balances and regulates key bodily functions.

CBD is non-impairing, which means it lacks the psychoactive effects that people may associate with other cannabinoids, such as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. CBD in many products is typically in the form of hemp oil, which derives from the hemp plant. This is a species of the cannabis plant that is relatively low in THC and high in CBD.

In this article, we will discuss the different formulations of CBD products and how people can use them.

Is CBD legal?The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the legal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. This made some hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% THC federally legal. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3% THC still fall under the legal definition of marijuana, making them federally illegal but legal under some state laws. Be sure to check state laws, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the FDA has not approved nonprescription CBD products, and some products may be inaccurately labeled.

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CBD describes a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. Evidence highlights that the cannabis plant contains roughly 540 chemical substances, more than 100 of which are cannabinoids, including THC and CBD. People know some, such as THC, for their mind-altering effects. However, CBD is nonintoxicating, which means it does not cause a person to experience a high. Additionally, evidence notes that CBD could possess many potential health benefits.

Following the 2018 Farm Bill, the United States government considered all CBD products that contain no more than 0.3% THC to be legal. This means that CBD products should not show up on a drug test, as they typically do not screen for CBD. However, as some products may contain traces of THC, they could cause a person to fail a drug test.

If a person decides to use CBD products, there are a few things they should first consider:

Types of CBD

There are different extracts of CBD available on the market. Typically, manufacturers will use the following terminology to describe their products:

  • Full-spectrum: These products contain multiple cannabis plant extracts and can include other components of the cannabis plant, including oils, terpenes, and other cannabinoids, such as THC. However, these products cannot contain more than 0.3% THC, which is not strong enough to have significant psychoactive effects. Some evidence suggests that products containing multiple compounds from the cannabis plant may maximize its health benefits.
  • Broad-spectrum: Similar to full-spectrum products, a broad-spectrum CBD product will contain other compounds and cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant. However, the main difference between the two is that broad-spectrum products are typically entirely free of THC, but may contain trace amounts.
  • Isolate: As the name suggests, CBD isolate products only contain CBD with no trace of any other compounds, such as THC. These products may be useful for a person to gauge the effectiveness of the CBD itself without interference from other substances and compounds.

Lab testing and COAs

At present, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate CBD products. As such, a person should look for a certificate of analysis (COA) when purchasing a CBD product. A COA refers to a form of quality control that confirms that the product contains accurate quantities of CBD and other ingredients. It will also include details on potential contaminants, such as pesticides or heavy metals.

To ensure unbiased results, a COA should come from a third-party source, ideally, and not the manufacturer or source. Additionally, the COA should come from a trustworthy lab. If possible, a person can check if the COA is from an ISO 17025-compliant laboratory.

Reputable sellers

Similarly, it is important to purchase CBD products from reputable sellers. It is advisable to go through a dispensary if one is available in a person’s state. A dispensary is an establishment that can legally sell cannabis products. These products will feature labels that clearly state the amount of CBD and THC in them. Alternatively, a person may also consider purchasing CBD products in a pharmacy.


Bioavailability is a term that refers to how readily a person can absorb a drug or substance and how quickly it exerts its effect. Different forms and delivery methods of CBD can have different bioavailabilities. Typically, CBD has poor bioavailability as it is fat-soluble, which can make it a challenge for the body to absorb.

Evidence suggests that inhalation and sublingual delivery, methods that bypass the digestive process, typically absorb better than oral methods.

Strength and dosage

The potency of CBD products can vary and a person may require different strengths and dosages depending on various factors, such as why they are using CBD, the delivery method, and their metabolism. Although research highlights that CBD lacks psychoactive effects, has a good safety profile, and may provide a wide range of therapeutic effects, more research is necessary to understand suitable dosages.

As such, health experts advise that people should follow packaging instructions and start with lower doses that they slowly increase to find the minimum effective dose they need with minimal side effects.


While research suggests that CBD is typically safe, other evidence notes that it may be harmful to some individuals. For example, the FDA notes that CBD could interact with other medications. Taking CBD with other medications may result in side effects or alter the effects of other drugs. As such, a person should consult with a healthcare provider before using any CBD products.

Click here for a guide on how to shop for CBD.

Oral forms of CBD, such as edible options, refer to CBD products that a person ingests and digests. These options are often easy and convenient ways for a person to take CBD and are available in a variety of flavors that may mask the early flavor of the cannabinoid.

It is worth noting that taking CBD orally may be subject to the first pass effect. This is when the liver metabolizes a drug allowing only a small fraction to enter circulation. This may reduce the potency and take longer for a person to notice the effects of CBD. As such, people should use caution so they don’t ingest too much CBD too quickly.

Oral options for CBD can include:

The term sublingual refers to administering a substance by placing it under the tongue. The chemicals in CBD diffuse into the blood vessels beneath the tongue. As such, the sublingual route bypasses the first pass metabolism of the liver, and the body rapidly absorbs the drug into circulation.

Evidence suggests that using CBD sublingually produces superior bioavailability than oral forms of CBD. Sublingual options of CBD can include:

Topical options refer to CBD products that a person can apply directly to their skin. This option also bypasses the first pass effect and may be useful for treating localized symptoms, such as skin conditions or arthritis. However, some of these options may irritate the skin, as the permeability of the skin is relatively poor compared to mucous membranes, such as sublingual tissue.

Topical forms of CBD include:

This method refers to inhaling a form of CBD that a person quickly absorbs into their bloodstream via the mucous membranes in their lungs. Smoking dried hemp flower, vaporizing CBD oil, or inhaling CBD concentrates with a vape pen offers a rapid way to absorb high bioavailability CBD. However, using this method may expose a person to carcinogens, or other harmful chemicals that may irritate or damage the lungs.

Forms of CBD that people can inhale include:

  • CBD cigarettes
  • vaporizing CBD oil
  • CBD vape pens

Cannabidiol is a cannabinoid that may possess health benefits and is available in a variety of products. A person can use several different methods to administer CBD, depending on their needs and preferences. It is typically available in many forms, such as oils, gummies, sprays, creams, and cigarettes. When choosing CBD products, a person should consider different factors, such as ingredients, dosages, and safety certificates.