Complete Guide to CBD Supplements

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Marijuana use and cultivation are rapidly growing in the United States, as a number of states have relaxed penalties on those using the drug or outright legalized the psychedelic plant. Whether you use marijuana for fun or as a medicine, it’s a controversial topic nonetheless, and even though marijuana has been used for hundreds of years as an all-natural herbal medicine, government’s fear of addiction and abuse has banned it since 1930.

However, as state governments adopt a less harsh stance against marijuana, it’s once again in the spotlight, especially CBD, one of the most potent bioactive compounds in the plant.

If you’re not familiar with CBD, don’t worry, we’ve got everything you need to know about this emerging “supplement” and what benefits it stands to offer you.

What is CBD?

CBD Cannabidiol

Here’s a close up of the CBD molecule

CBD stands for cannabidiol.

CBD is one of the 85+ various cannabinoids naturally occurring in the marijuana (cannabis) plant and is the second most plentiful cannabinoid in cannabis, right behind THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana that makes you feel “high.[1] However, unlike THC, CBD IS NOT PSYCHOACTIVE!

While THC tends to get most of the press coverage when talking about marijuana usage, CBD has slowly built up a rabid cult following as more and more research is published expounding on the benefits of the intriguing compound. As you may have seen, a surge in CBD-based products has flooded the natural foods and supplement market keen to capitalize on the ingredient’s surging popularity.

What does CBD do?

Basically, CBD affects the endogenous cannabinoid system (ECS), or endocannabinoid system, in the body.

To get a little bit deeper into the actions of CBD requires getting down and dirty with your biology…

First discovered in the late 1980s, the endocannabinoid system regulates homeostasis in the body, affecting various functions including appetite, mood, hormone regulation, sleep, immune response, and pain.

Cannabinoid Receptor

Model of the human cannabinoid receptor type 2

All cannabinoids, including CBD, function as ligands — molecules that attach to the binding site of a protein, and thereby have the ability to affect the receptor’s behavior. The endocannabinoid system consists of millions of cannabinoid receptors throughout the brain, central nervous system, and immune system.

CB1 receptors reside primarily in the brain and CNS, while CB2 receptors are located in the immune system. CB1 receptors affect movement, coordination, memory, cognition, pain, and sensory perception, while CB2 receptors help reduce inflammation and assorted types of pain.[2]

Although CBD only mildly agonizes the CB receptors in the body compared to other cannabinoids, it does exert a wide range of beneficial effects in the body through its antagonism of the CB receptors as well as through independent mechanisms including adenosine receptors, vanilloid receptors, and serotonin receptors.[3,4,5].

Now, let’s get what those specific benefits are!

Benefits of CBD Oil

Exerts Anti-Psychotic Effects

CBD Anxiety

Changes in Visual Analogue Mood Scale (VAMS) factors induced by simulated public speaking test (SPST), measured in 12 social anxiety patients who received cannabidiol

As we stated up top, CBD is not psychoactive. Quite the opposite in fact as research shows CBD is anti-psychotic. Studies demonstrate that CBD functions similarly to other common antipsychotic drugs and prevents human experimental psychosis.

You might also be interested to learn that CBD has shown to be effective for treating schizophrenia is human patients, too![6]

Combats Inflammation and Relieves Pain

Marijuana is often prescribed to help people deal with chronic pain. One of the greatest potential perks of CBD is that is offers pain relief, without the psychedelic “high” feeling experienced with marijuana usage.

Studies note that CBD effectively reduces neuropathic pain without causing tolerance and suppresses inflammation.[7] Researchers believe that CBD and other non-psychoactive compounds naturally occurring in marijuana may offer a non-addictive means to pain management for individuals currently using more habit-forming, tolerance-building prescription medications (i.e. opioids).

Reduces Anxiety

CBD also helps reduce anxiety in individuals with social anxiety disorder[8], and some researchers believe it may help for treating obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), PTSD, and panic disorders.

If you’re one of those people who gets nervous speaking in front of large crowds, CBD might also benefit you, as it helps alleviate anxiety, discomfort, and cognitive impairment, all of which can happen when nerves get the best of you during public speaking engagements.[9]


CBD Neuroprotection

Effect of THC, cannabidiol, and cannabinoid receptor antagonist on glutamate induced neurotoxicity

As we age, neurological function often declines leading many to have those “senior moments” where you can’t remember simple things as easily as you used to. CBD may be worth checking into, as it exerts some neuroprotective benefits.

Specifically, CBD defends against the neurotoxic effects of glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter, as well as radical oxygen species (ROS) in the brain, both of which can result in brain cell death.[12,13] Plus, research in animals notes that CBD can reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s.[14]

Combats Diabetes

Animal studies conducted with non-obese diabetic mice have noted that CBD drastically reduced the incidence of diabetes in the mice from 86% to 30%.[10] On top of that, CBD also significantly decreased insulitis (a disease of the pancreas) and inflammatory cytokines.[10]

While the effects of CBD haven’t been exclusively studied in humans, a massive study involving over 4,600 people examining the effects of marijuana use on glucose, insulin, and insulin resistance.[11] The results, to say the least, were astounding.

Marijuana use was associated with 16% lower fasting glucose levels as well as reduced waist circumference, two prime characteristic in monitoring the development and progression of diabetes.[11]

Supports Heart Health

CBD Heart Health

Believe it or not, CBD may actually be good for your heart?!

The benefits of CBD extend beyond blood sugars levels, stress, or brain function. It’s also been shown to support heart health, too!

Research published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology documented that CBD defends against vascular damage induced by inflammation, a high glucose environment, or type 2 diabetes. CBD also decreased vascular hyperpermeability, one of the telltale signs of “leaky gut.”[15]

Potential Cancer Cell Killer

Perhaps the most intriguing benefit of CBD supplementation and the primary reason it’s being so heavily investigated again has to do with its potential for treating various forms of cancer. CBD has been documented to inhibit energy production in cancer cells, which brings about cancer cell death (apoptosis).[16]

On top of that, CBD also has been shown to completely stop cancer cell growth altogether in various forms of cervical cancer![17]

Is CBD Oil Legal?


CBD definitely falls in a very, very “gray” area.

According to the DEA, CBD is a Schedule I drug, meaning you can’t just walk into any store in any state and find it on the shelf. However, numerous hemp and CBD oil manufacturers have challenged the classification of CBD as to where CBD oil falls in the scope of “legal” for use and purchase.

This has led to much legal confusion about the legitimacy of CBD inclusion in supplements, but 44 states do allow it in some form or other to be sold. The six states that outright outlaw CBD are:

  • Kansas
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Nebraska
  • South Dakota
  • West Virginia

Caution when Purchasing CBD Products


Exercise caution when purchasing CBD oil and CBD supplements, as they are a plethora of imitators on the market.

There’s a huge swell in CBD-inclusive products these days, but that doesn’t mean all are of the same quality, or that they’re even good quality. Due to the lack of strict guidelines and regulations for CBD manufacturers, many low-grade CBD products are sold by unscrupulous brands which may contain harmful toxins or contaminants.

CBD products frequently can be incorrectly labeled or outright bogus. Purchasing these products isn’t only a waste of your hard-earned money, but also exposes you to the possibility of dangerous, life-threatening substances. Cheap CBD are manufactured using poor refining methods that involve extracting CBD with hazardous solvents, such as propane butane. Moreover, these bargain bin CBD products can contain a plethora of toxic pesticides, metals and other assorted unnatural by-products.

Additionally, many products claiming to be CBD oil are nothing more than hempseed oil since CBD does exist in hemp, but in relatively minor quantities compared to marijana. A recent batch of testing conducted by the FDA found that most CBD products on the market contained hardly any CBD at all.[18]

The only way to really feel solid about your CBD purchase is to source it the states where marijuana use is regulated and legal. Those states are:

  • Alaska
  • Colorado
  • Oregon
  • Washington

CBD products sold in these states are required to pass state-mandated lab tests to verify their quality, purity, and potency.

Is CBD Toxic?

There seems to be little risk of toxicity from CBD use as extensive research has been done on CBD and concluded that it possesses a very low threat of toxicity.[1]


CBD offers a bevy of benefits for your mental and physical health, but finding a quality CBD product isn’t always easy due to the litany of poor products on the market. If you’re interested in trying CBD for yourself, do your research on reputable suppliers and if possible get 3rd-party lab tests to verify what you’re spending your money on is actually delivering what you expect.


  1. Niesink RJM, van Laar MW. Does Cannabidiol Protect Against Adverse Psychological Effects of THC? Frontiers in Psychiatry. 2013;4:130. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2013.00130.
  2. Pertwee RG. The diverse CB1 and CB2 receptor pharmacology of three plant cannabinoids: Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol and Δ9-tetrahydrocannabivarin. British Journal of Pharmacology. 2008;153(2):199-215. doi:10.1038/sj.bjp.0707442.
  3. Costa B, Giagnoni G, Franke C, Trovato AE, Colleoni M. Vanilloid TRPV1 receptor mediates the antihyperalgesic effect of the nonpsychoactive cannabinoid, cannabidiol, in a rat model of acute inflammation. British Journal of Pharmacology. 2004;143(2):247-250. doi:10.1038/sj.bjp.0705920.
  4. Ibeas Bih C, Chen T, Nunn AVW, Bazelot M, Dallas M, Whalley BJ. Molecular Targets of Cannabidiol in Neurological Disorders. Neurotherapeutics. 2015;12(4):699-730. doi:10.1007/s13311-015-0377-3.
  5. Resstel LB, Tavares RF, Lisboa SF, Joca SR, Corrêa FM, Guimarães FS. 5-HT1A receptors are involved in the cannabidiol-induced attenuation of behavioural and cardiovascular responses to acute restraint stress in rats. British Journal of Pharmacology. 2009;156(1):181-188. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2008.00046.x.
  6. Zuardi AW, Crippa JAS, Hallak JEC, et al. A critical review of the antipsychotic effects of cannabidiol: 30 years of a translational investigation. Curr Pharm Des. 2012;18(32):5131-5140.
  7. Xiong W, Cui T, Cheng K, et al. Cannabinoids suppress inflammatory and neuropathic pain by targeting α3 glycine receptors. The Journal of Experimental Medicine. 2012;209(6):1121-1134. doi:10.1084/jem.20120242.
  8. Schier AR de M, Ribeiro NP de O, Silva AC de O e, et al. Cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent, as an anxiolytic drug. Rev Bras Psiquiatr. 2012;34 Suppl 1:S104-10.
  9. Bergamaschi MM, Queiroz RHC, Chagas MHN, et al. Cannabidiol Reduces the Anxiety Induced by Simulated Public Speaking in Treatment-Naïve Social Phobia Patients. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011;36(6):1219-1226. doi:10.1038/npp.2011.6.
  10. Weiss L, Zeira M, Reich S, et al. Cannabidiol lowers incidence of diabetes in non-obese diabetic mice. Autoimmunity. 2006;39(2):143-151. doi:10.1080/08916930500356674.
  11. Penner EA, Buettner H, Mittleman MA. The Impact of Marijuana Use on Glucose, Insulin, and Insulin Resistance among US Adults. Am J Med. 2017;126(7):583-589. doi:10.1016/j.amjmed.2013.03.002.
  12. El-Remessy AB, Khalil IE, Matragoon S, et al. Neuroprotective Effect of(−)Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol and Cannabidiol in N-Methyl-d-Aspartate-Induced Retinal Neurotoxicity : Involvement of Peroxynitrite. The American Journal of Pathology. 2003;163(5):1997-2008.
  13. Hampson AJ, Grimaldi M, Axelrod J, Wink D. Cannabidiol and (−)Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol are neuroprotective antioxidants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 1998;95(14):8268-8273.
  14. Cheng D, Spiro AS, Jenner AM, Garner B, Karl T. Long-term cannabidiol treatment prevents the development of social recognition memory deficits in Alzheimer’s disease transgenic mice. J Alzheimers Dis. 2014;42(4):1383-1396. doi:10.3233/JAD-140921.
  15. Stanley CP, Hind WH, O’Sullivan SE. Is the cardiovascular system a therapeutic target for cannabidiol? British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 2013;75(2):313-322. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2125.2012.04351.x.
  16. Lukhele ST, Motadi LR. Cannabidiol rather than Cannabis sativa extracts inhibit cell growth and induce apoptosis in cervical cancer cells. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2016;16(1):335. doi:10.1186/s12906-016-1280-0.
  17. Lukhele ST, Motadi LR. Cannabidiol rather than Cannabis sativa extracts inhibit cell growth and induce apoptosis in cervical cancer cells. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2016;16(1):335. doi:10.1186/s12906-016-1280-0.

About Author


"My road to the fitness and supplement industry was long and winding. Following in my father and grandfather's footsteps, I pursued a degree in engineering. After graduating with a Mechanical Engineering degree in 2008, I made my living as an oil & gas engineering consultant designing everything from refinery pumping and piping equipment to full-blown offshore oil rigs. Although I had always been active in martial arts since childhood, I never caught the "lifting bug" until my grandfather's death in January 2010. From that day, there was a significant shift in my mindset towards health, fitness, and nutrition. Like many people, my entry into the lifting world was through some home workout DVDs which sparked my interest in nutrition and supplementation, and how that impacted workout performance and recovery. This led to endless hours devoted to reading, researching, and studying anything and everything I could get my hands on in regards to training, nutrition, and sports supplements -- all while still working 9-10 hours a day as a full-time engineer. This dual-sided life continued for 6 years until I decided to forego the stability and success I had experienced as an engineer and dive headfirst into a career as a full-time writer, researcher, and unabashed supplement geek. I do not regret my time spent engineering or the years of schooling it took to get there. If anything it prepared me for my current career and makes it that much easier to understand the rather "thick" material that comes with supplement research and distill it for the average person to understand. Since leaving the engineering world in March 2015, I don't feel like I've worked a day in my life. Funny how your view of "working" changes when you're pursuing your passion."

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