Is CBD Legal? Hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. Check your state’s laws and those of anywhere you travel. Keep in mind that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA-approved, and may be inaccurately labeled.

In recent years, cannabidiol (CBD) has grown in popularity due to increased research and interest in its potential health benefits. However, the sheer quantity of products on the market may overwhelm many of those wishing to try it.

Before purchasing CBD, there are several factors to consider, including the type of CBD product, its potency, and the provider or manufacturer.

People wishing to try CBD products must also be aware that it may interact with some medications. Anyone uncertain about CBD and its effects should speak with a doctor or healthcare provider.

Keep reading to find out what to consider when shopping for CBD.

CBD on display in a shopShare on Pinterest
An increasingly wide range of CBD products is available online and in health stores.
Image credit: Kevin McGovern / Shutterstock.com

CBD is one of over 120 compounds, or cannabinoids, unique to the cannabis plant. CBD is typically the second most abundant cannabinoid after tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Cannabinoids act in various ways on the body’s endocannabinoid system, which may cause one of several different effects.

As noted in Cancers, CBD may have the following properties:

  • anti-inflammatory
  • anticonvulsive
  • analgesic (pain)
  • anxiolytic (anti-anxiety)
  • sedative
  • antipsychotic

The scientific research behind these supposed medical benefits of CBD is at various stages. However, anecdotal evidence shows that people who have used CBD have found relief from a variety of conditions.

A study of CBD users in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research noted that about 62% of people used CBD for medical symptoms. The most common of these conditions were depression, anxiety, and pain.

Because CBD might contain so many beneficial properties, it has the potential to be an important medical compound.

There appear to be very few adverse side effects, and most people tolerate it well. CBD does not lead to abuse or dependence, provided people do not mix it with other potentially addictive substances.

As well as cannabinoids, the cannabis plant contains many other compounds, such as terpenes.

Many plants contain terpenes, and they are generally responsible for a plant’s specific scent. Cannabis products may contain terpenes in varying strengths.

Although scientists do not fully understand the role that some compounds in cannabis play, they think that terpenes might also offer some therapeutic benefits. However, this depends on the type of terpene present and its strength.

A study in Chemico-Biological Interactions notes that limonene, one of the more abundant terpenes in nature, which is responsible for the fresh scent of lemon, has shown anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, and other health benefits.

The ‘entourage effect’

The ‘entourage effect’ hypothesizes that the presence of multiple compounds from the cannabis plant and its extracts maximizes its health benefits.

A study in Frontiers in Plant Science notes that there is some current evidence for the ‘entourage effect.’

So, when purchasing CBD oil, for example, some people might prefer to select a product that contains some of these other compounds as well.

A certificate of analysis, or COA, is one of the most important factors to consider when purchasing a CBD product. Essentially, it is a form of quality control that confirms whether the product contains the quantities of CBD that the manufacturer claims or advertises.

A COA should come from a third-party source and not the manufacturer or brand to ensure accurate and unbiased results. A third-party COA will generally have a few different sections.

One section will typically detail how much CBD, THC, as well as other, less abundant cannabinoids, such as CBN or CBC, the product contains. These readings indicate the potency of a product.

Another section will focus on possible contaminants in the form of pesticides or microbes in the product.

A further section will list any possible contamination from heavy metals or chemicals, such as residual solvents.

CBD company websites should also have a COA available so potential buyers can check out a product before making their purchase.

It is also important that the COA comes from a trustworthy lab. If possible, check for accredited labs that followed the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) guidelines.

The potency of the CBD product is another important factor to consider, as it varies greatly depending on the individual’s needs.

CBD products usually display dosages in milligrams (mg). However, it is important to remember that there is little human research to guide suitable dosing for various conditions.

It is best to start with lower doses and slowly increase them to find the minimum effective dose with minimal side effects. Once a person has found the right dosage for their needs, they should continue to use it.

The dose a person requires may vary according to their metabolism, tolerance levels, and the method of intake.

There is a confusing variety of CBD extracts on the market. The following are the most widely used terms.

Please note that CBD and some of the terminology around it is not heavily regulated, and some manufacturers use the following terms interchangeably:

CBD isolate

CBD isolate products only contain CBD from the cannabis plant. There are no other compounds, such as THC, present.

Some people want the certainty that the CBD product they use is devoid of THC. CBD-only products can help a person to gauge the effectiveness of the CBD itself without interference from other substances and compounds.

However, as previously mentioned, some research indicates that CBD that contains other compounds may actually increase its effects.

Broad-spectrum CBD

Broad-spectrum CBD products contain other compounds and cannabinoids found in the plant, such as CBC, CBN, or terpenes, such as myrcene, limonene, or pinene.

Broad-spectrum CBD typically contains no THC. However, some products will contain trace quantities.

Full-spectrum CBD

Full-spectrum products contain the same compounds as broad-spectrum products. However, they usually also contain low quantities of THC, usually under 0.3% as mandated by federal law. This amount of THC is not enough to create the ‘high’ effect that many people associate with cannabis.

Because full-spectrum CBD contains other compounds, including THC, the previously mentioned ‘entourage effect’ may increase its effects.

Another aspect to consider is the type of product. Although the effects tend to be the same, some people may prefer one type of CBD over another, depending on how or when they plan to use it.

Oils and tinctures

CBD oil and tinctures typically have a glycerin, oil, or alcohol base. People can take these extracts on their own, usually through a dropper or add them to food and drinks themselves.

Various strengths and flavors of CBD oils and tinctures are available.

Learn more about some of the top CBD oils available here.

Edibles

CBD edibles contain the above extracts but in a food form. CBD edibles are available as drinks and food items, such as teas and chocolate.

Gummies are a common form of CBC edible. They come in various strengths and flavors.

Learn more about some of the top CBD gummies here.

Vaporizers

For quick action, vaporizers can deliver CBD extracts through inhalation. However, vaping comes with added risk, including lung damage. Sublingual extracts placed under the tongue may offer some of the quick action provided by vaporizers without the risk of vaping-associated lung injury.

Learn more about vaping CBD here.

Creams and lotions

CBD also comes in the form of topical oils, creams, and lotions. Some people may feel the effects immediately, where others may not notice any effects for several hours.

It might be best to try out a few different types to identify what provides the appropriate relief.

Some companies may add other ingredients to their products to work alongside the CBD.

Always check the product for other ingredients before buying. Added chemicals, flavoring additives, or other compounds may not be right for everyone.

Some ingredients may also cause reactions in some people. Keep an eye out for other allergens in food products, and search for any unknown ingredient names before buying any CBD product.

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not regulate CBD products, so it is up to the buyer to choose quality products. To ensure the best quality extracts, check that the product has a COA, and a reliable laboratory has carried out third-party testing.

Many online retailers will provide third-party lab results and COAs to their customers.

Many larger health food stores also carry a range of CBD products. Reputable companies such as these should also provide third-party lab results.

Avoid products from manufacturers who are not willing to provide the information or use vague labeling on their packaging.

CBD is a natural compound. There is little risk to people who take CBD alone provided they are not taking any other medication.

CBD may interact with a range of other drugs and lead to increased side effects. Anyone regularly taking prescription or over-the-counter medications should check with their doctor before using CBD.

Some people may also experience mild side effects while taking CBD, including fatigue and an upset stomach.

Scientists do not yet know if CBD is safe for use during pregnancy, so pregnant women should abstain from CBD.

CBD is one of over 120 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. Research into CBD is still in the early stages, so scientists know relatively little about its benefits and risks.

However, from the available scientific and anecdotal evidence, it appears that CBD may have numerous health benefits.

People should always exercise caution when using CBD, and should never use it in place of their usual medication unless a doctor or healthcare professional advises them to do so.

When shopping for CBD, always choose a product with a COA, which outlines the compounds the product contains.