I grew up in an area where marijuana could be found regularly—and people were constantly citing the health benefits of this plant. Of course, it was (and still is) illegal. At the time, no one really spent much effort learning more about the positive aspects of this plant and instead focused on the plant’s ability to get you “high.” But times have changed.
Today, scientists are putting effort toward researching cannabidiol benefits. In fact, it’s become so popular that you may have heard of it mentioned as “CBD” or CBD oil. You may have even seen it marketed at your local grocery store or gas station! But what, exactly, is CBD, and how does it differ from the traditional marijuana plant? In this article, I’ll answer these questions and more—including the top cannabidiol benefits and uses, potential side effects, and how to know you’re getting a quality product.
What is CBD?
CBD is an abbreviation for cannabidiol, the second most prevalent active ingredient in cannabis, aka marijuana. CBD products come from industrial hemp plants and take several different forms, from capsules to liquids to topicals. You can also add CBD oil to coffee, tea, and smoothies.
While it was originally believed to be an inactive compound, scientists discovered that CBD actually has positive impacts on the nervous system. In fact, a 2017 study revealed that due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities, CBD actually has the potential to produce beneficial effects in patients with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis. 
Studies suggest that CBD may have numerous other health benefits as well. Cannabidiol benefits range from reducing anxiety and depression to easing pain to potentially killing cancer cells.  In fact, when my mom was fighting her battle with cancer, CBD oil helped ease her muscle pains and anxiety.
One of the main concerns I hear from my patients who are interested in reaping cannabidiol benefits is the link with recreational and medical marijuana. The most common question I hear is, “Will I get high?” The answer: As long as you get the right pure product, no. The CBD oil on the market contains less than 0.3 THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, or the psychoactive substance in cannabis that makes you high). In fact, the World Health Organization says CBD shows no indication that it holds the possibility for abuse or dependence. So far, there has been no evidence of public health problems connected to CBD. Moreover, CBD has actually been found to reduce the effects of THC. 
It’s worth noting that CBD has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in two rare forms of epilepsy in children—Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS). The FDA approved a CBD preparation called Epidiolex after three clinical trials on 516 patients found it helped reduce seizures. For anything else, you must use CBD off-label.
How Does CBD Work?
In 1992, scientists discovered that the human body produces numerous cannabis-like molecules. This is now known as the endocannabinoid system and has been liked to several body functions, including pain, stress, mood, metabolism, memory, sleep, liver function, immune function, and more.  Your endocannabinoid system’s main role is to maintain homeostasis within your body—meaning that it keeps your body stable in response to changing environments.  And this is crucial for maintaining overall health.
CBD is believed to bind to your body’s cannabinoid receptors that exist inside your central nervous system and peripheral nervous system. And several studies have shown that CBD can actually block the FAAH (fatty acid amide hydrolase) enzyme. The FAAH enzyme actually breaks down a fatty acid neurotransmitter that produces a calming effect in your body, so by inhibiting this enzyme, CBD has actually shown promise in treating anxiety-related disorders. [6, 7]
Top 4 Cannabidiol Benefits
As I’ve noted above, CBD appears to help with several health issues. Here are some of the most powerful cannabidiol benefits:
1. Fights chronic pain
One of the most positive effects of CBD is its ability to help relieve chronic pain. This is achieved by CBD’s inflammation-fighting properties. A study published in the European Journal of Pain found that topical CBD could help ease arthritis pain and inflammation in animals. 
I have personally used CBD for pain—I used it orally and topically after surgery for soreness and bruising, and it worked well—eliminating any need for addictive pain medications. If you have an acute injury or back pain, for example, you can rub topical CBD on the area a few times a day, or take the oil for an anti-inflammatory impact. Some massage therapists have started to incorporate it into their massages as well.
2. May contain neuroprotective properties
As I mentioned above, CBD has displayed potential to help those with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities.  Additionally, another 2017 study revealed that CBD prevented and even reversed the development of cognitive deficits in animals with Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers believed this was due to CBD’s demonstrated ability to help reverse neuroinflammatory responses as well as promote the formation of new neurons in the brain. 
3. Helps relieve anxiety and fight depression
Your body has lots of receptors—chemical structures attached to your cells—that receive messages from different stimuli. As I noted above, CBD oil is known to interact with the receptors in your central and peripheral nervous systems. It may also change levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps control your mental health. Low serotonin levels put you at risk for both anxiety and depression. As such, some people use CBD oil for depressionor CBD drops for anxiety.
It’s even been shown to have promise in treating those with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), according to a 2012 animal study.  And further studies have shown that CBD is helpful in blocking receptors in the brain areas involved in fear and anxiety. 
4. Improves sleep
Another cannabidiol benefit is good quality sleep. CBD appears to interact with receptors that regulate the sleep-wake cycle. And CBD oil can counteract anxiety and depression, both of which can keep people awake at night.
Interestingly, a 2019 study on 72 adults reporting anxiety and insomnia revealed that using CBD daily positively influenced both concerns. Within the first month, 79.2 percent reported decreased anxiety and 66.7 percent reported improved sleep. 
CBD Oil: Quality and Side Effects
With all these cannabidiol benefits, it may sound too good to be true. The catch is that because CBD is largely unregulated, there’s no sure way to know if you’re getting a safe supplement at the right dose of CBD for the condition you’re trying to treat. In a study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania on CBD for pain, researchers found significant issues with CBD sold online. Nearly 70 percent of the online products did not contain the concentration of oil promised on the label. They also found that several online CBD products also contained THC, which can cause unwanted effects. 
Here in Arizona, you can walk into a gas station and buy CBD; you don’t know exactly what you are getting or what else is in it. And some illegal forms of CBD oil may be spiked with artificial THC, which can be very harmful to your health.
So, what is someone interested in cashing in on the cannabidiol benefits to do? First, make sure you use a pure CBD product. To ensure its high quality, only buy hemp-derived CBD products in states where CBD is grown. To find out more about the laws and regulations in your state, check out Americans for Safe Access.
Secondly, speak with your physician about your interest in cannabidiol benefits and where you can find the purest form of CBD oil. Speaking with a trusted medical professional is always a great step to take before making your purchase.
Finally, recognize that cannabidiol benefits also come with some side effects. Possible side effects of CBD include changes in appetite, weight loss, diarrhea, and fatigue. It can also interfere with other medications or supplements you are taking. So, once again, if you’re thinking of trying CBD, talk to your doctor about how to use CBD safely and effectively.
- Scientists are uncovering cannabidiol benefits; the ingredient in the cannabis plant appears to have numerous positive health effects.
- CBD may be a good option for you if you’re struggling with chronic pain, anxiety, depression, or insomnia, and you’d rather go a more natural route.
- The only FDA-approved CBD is used for two rare forms of epilepsy.
- Pure CBD does not contain enough THC to make you feel high.
- Illegal forms of CBD can contain artificial THC and other potentially harmful ingredients.
- To get pure hemp-derived CBD products, buy them in a state where CBD is grown.