If you have gone online at any point in the last 18 months, or if you simply happen to possess a set of functioning eyeballs, you may have noticed that “CBD is in everything these days.” Such an observation has been made by nearly every person who’s vaguely familiar with CBD, whether they’re a professional journalist or just a bemused shopper at the local supermarket.
And yes, it’s true—the list of edible, drinkable, and rub-on-you-skin-able products that haven’t gotten an infusion of CBD might be shorter than a list of the ones that have. Sometimes those products make intuitive sense. CBD is widely used as a supplement, for example, and supplements often come in the form of capsules, so CBD capsules seem like a reasonable thing for people to use.
But sometimes the CBD-something sounds more like a bad joke than a thing a real company would make on purpose. However, these are deeply weird times in which we live, and no matter how bizarre a product sounds, chances are someone is making it. Take CBD workout clothes: at some point in the recent past, some very savvy entrepreneurs got together and said, “What if we took CBD and put it in bras and yoga pants?” Using some kind of Star Trekkian fabric-science, they would dunk the fabric in CBD (which wouldn’t get washed out the first time you ran it through laundry, of course not). Then, when the person wearing these infused clothes went on a run or did a session in the weight room, the CBD would seep out of the fabric onto the person’s sweaty skin, where it would… deliver benefits of some kind, maybe?
As you can see, while there are a nearly endless number of ways to use CBD, some of them are better than others. And depending on your needs and circumstances, there’s yet another hierarchy of options to consider: for instance, both CBD capsules and CBD muscle rub are “sensical” products for someone to use, but if your back is sore and you want quick relief, the choice is an obvious one (in case it isn’t for some reason, you should probably go with the muscle rub).
We’re going to run through the list of options for using CBD in just a second, but before we do, here’s a little background information that might help you understand this whole trend a bit better:
Tell Me, What Is CBD? (But Keep It Quick)
We’re going to assume that you’re already aware of the connection between CBD and cannabis. At least half the products out there, and possibly more, use some form of the cannabis leaf in their branding. And, if we’re being honest, a big part of the buzz about CBD itself comes from its association with that famously taboo plant.
But while that name recognition factor has spurred a lot of interest in CBD, it’s also led to a lot of confusion. So without further ado, let’s break down the most important things to know about CBD.
CBD is a molecule found in the cannabis plant. You can think of it like an ingredient in a cocktail. A single ingredient, just to be clear. There’s a semi-common misconception that CBD and cannabis are different names for the same thing. But that’s not the case, just as “bitters” and “an Old Fashioned” are not the same thing. One is just a single component of the other—and CBD is just a single component in cannabis.
CBD doesn’t get you high. If cannabis is a cocktail, then what’s the “alcohol”? I.e., the part that makes you intoxicated? It’s not CBD, but rather a different molecule with a three-letter name that you may have heard of: THC. This is actually the most common compound in cannabis, with CBD being the second-most common. THC gets you high by activating a receptor in your brain called CB1. That receptor doesn’t respond to CBD, which is why CBD won’t give you that trademark cannabis buzz, even if you drink a whole bottle.
CBD is (mostly) legal. In most of Europe and North America, CBD can legally be sold over the counter so long as it contains a very low level of THC—far below the threshold needed to have any noticeable effect. In the U.K. the Home Office states that CBD products that contain less than 0.2 percent THC are perfectly legal to buy and sell, as reported by the BBC. It’s technically possible to find CBD oil with higher levels of THC if you have a prescription from a doctor, but the stuff you’ll get off the shelves at supermarkets or health food stores can only be there if it has less than 0.2 percent THC (which, as mentioned before, is nowhere close to enough to get you high).
And finally, before we continue, here are three more things that are worth knowing – CBD is extracted from cannabis, usually in oil form. That oil can then be consumed “straight,” usually in the form of a tincture. It can also be added to other products, just like a flavoring or scent.
People use CBD for a lot of reasons. While it’s tough to pin down an exact number of CBD users (just as it’s hard to pin down the exact number of people who eat cheese or enjoy the Beatles), a recent poll found that millions of people have already given it a try.
Scientists still aren’t sure exactly what CBD can (and can’t) do. Since global research into cannabis has been tightly restricted for most of the past century, researchers have only a fuzzy picture of the real benefits and potential drawbacks of using CBD. Having said that, it does appear to be mostly safe: the World Health Organization (WHO) published a report in 2018 stating that CBD didn’t show any potential for abuse or addiction.
Now that you’re reasonably well versed in the background info on CBD, let’s examine the different ways to use it.
Read also: Hemp Oil vs. CBD Oil: What’s the Difference?
6 Popular Ways to Use CBD
As mentioned before, CBD has become as ubiquitous as “Gangnam Style” was back in 2012 (remember those days, back when the weirdest thing about being alive was seeing an obscure Korean pop star hit #1 on charts around the world?). With that in mind, we’re going to limit this list to CBD delivery methods that actually make sense. You won’t be seeing any CBD textiles or CBD digital energy frequencies (that’s a real thing, we swear) in the entries below.
Instead, we’re sticking with relatively tried-and-true ways to use CBD—i.e. the ways that ordinary people might decide to try it. Let’s get started.
When people talk about “CBD oil” in general, there’s a good chance they’re talking about tinctures. The word sounds old-fashioned for a reason: people have been using tinctures for literally thousands of years, ever since the ancient Egyptians first distilled alcohol into little vials and mixed it with herbs that were believed to hold various medicinal properties.
Tinctures might be throwback products, but they’re kept their popularity for a reason. Well, several reasons, actually. Not only are they easy to use (just squeeze a few drops under your tongue), but they make it easy to calculate your dose. CBD tinctures come in different potencies and, in many cases, different flavors. This versatility means that you have a lot of options when searching for a tincture that meets your needs.
CBD capsules are exactly what they sound like: capsules that are filled with CBD, instead of fish oil or other supplements. Typically these come in softgels that you swallow whole, though you can now find many other similar products like chewable CBD tablets. Aside from CBD, some of these capsules also contain other ingredients like inulin, which helps aid digestion.
One reason CBD capsules are so popular is because they’re easy to take. If you’ve ever swallowed a vitamin or an ibuprofen, you’re well prepared to tackle this challenge as well. Another benefit of capsules is that, like tinctures, they make it easy to tell exactly how much CBD you’re taking at a given time. Most capsules contain somewhere between 5-10 mg of CBD, so if you want to take 20 mg of CBD… well, you can see where we’re going with this.
There are two main types of CBD topicals: those that are designed to nourish your skin or enhance your complexion (like a face cream), and those that are intended to help support an active lifestyle (like a CBD joint gel). They work by interacting with your endocannabinoid system, a network of receptors found throughout the body—including on the skin, which is your body’s largest organ.
While calculating your dose is a bit tricky with CBD topicals (how much is in a dollop? what even is a dollop?), these products do have one big advantage: they can be applied directly to the problem area. They also tend to contain other soothing ingredients like menthol, so you start feeling the effects quite quickly.
CBD edibles have certainly captured the world’s imagination—in 2018, “CBD gummies” was Google’s 3rd-most popular search term. Gummies are just one of the many foods that have gotten a CBD upgrade in the last few years. Infused burgers, pizza, tacos, cookies, honey, and chocolate are just a few of the more common varieties, though there’s a good chance that any food you can imagine is available with a side of CBD.
Since the field of CBD edibles is so broad, it’s a bit of a challenge to make blanket statements. When it comes to dosing, gummies make it easy (while honey is a head-scratcher). However, one thing that’s true for most CBD edibles is that they take a while to kick in, since they have to be processed through your digestive system first. Many people find them to be worth the wait, though, especially when the food itself is tasty.
CBD beverages are almost as diverse a collection as their edible brethren. On one end of the spectrum you’ve got a startling variety of CBD booze. We’re talking about infused gins, whiskeys, vodkas, beers, and more. On the other end, you’ll find a vast assortment of health-focused offerings, like infused sports drinks or CBD effervescent multivitamin tablets that dissolve in water. Somewhere in the middle, there are sodas, juices, and Red Bullian energy drinks.
While CBD beverages are relatively new to the market, they’ve proven popular both for their novelty factor (everyone loves a new twist on sparkling water) and their ease of use. It’s also easy to determine just how much CBD you’re taking—those aforementioned effervescent tablets tend to contain 5 mg, for example.
How Can I Make Sure I’m Using CBD Right?
OK, so you’ve narrowed down your list of potential CBD delivery mechanisms to just the ones that make a reasonable amount of sense (with all apologies to CBD bedsheets which, again, are a totally real thing). And you know that CBD is legal, and it won’t get you high. Congratulations—you’re well ahead of the curve!
But you still probably have some questions when it comes to actually using CBD. Which is understandable, since these products—at least the good ones—aren’t known for being cheap.
You’ll want to talk to your doctor before you start taking any type of CBD, because there are a number of factors to consider, like your health history and whether you’re also taking other medications. A blog post certainly is no substitute for the kind of personalized advice you’ll get from your GP.
Still, we can answer some of the more commonly-asked questions about using CBD here, which will hopefully give you a head start on doing your own research:
Which type of CBD is right for me? This is going to depend on the symptom you’re seeking to address. If your lower back is acting up every time you go to the gym, you might find that a CBD topical suits your needs best. If your job is stressing you out and you want to take the edge off while still keeping your head clear, a CBD tincture would probably be better. Your personal preferences are another important consideration: lots of people love capsules for their convenience, but if you have a problem swallowing pills for some reason, adding one of those effervescent tablets to your water bottle is an easy way to take CBD, too. Like many things in life, it all depends on context.
What’s the sign of a good CBD product? You might have heard that many CBD products are, how can we put this delicately, of “dubious” quality. And unless you’re a chemist, you’re probably not able to run your own tests to separate the duds from the studs. Luckily, you don’t have to. A reputable CBD product will come with the lab results from a third-party testing agency. These results should let you know the levels of CBD and THC (among other things) in the product. They should also certify that the product is free of contaminants like pesticides or heavy metals.
How much CBD should I use? Once again, this depends on the condition you’re trying to treat and a whole bunch of other factors. In fact, scientists haven’t determined any set guidelines for recommended dosages when it comes to CBD. That means answering the question, “What’s the right CBD dose for me?” requires a bit of trial and error. Most experts recommend you “start low and go slow.” In other words, start with the dosing recommendation on the bottle, and pay careful attention to how you feel. The next time you take your CBD, adjust the dose a little (ex. instead of one capsule, take two.) Again, pay attention to how you feel afterwards—you might find it helpful to keep a record on a Post-It note or in your phone.
When should I take CBD to help me sleep? This is one of the single biggest mistakes people make when taking CBD, so it’s worth addressing here. With most sleep aids, you take them at night to knock you out before bed. However, you’ll want to do the opposite with CBD. That’s because studies show CBD helps you sleep by modulating the sleep-wake cycle. In other words, it makes you more alert during the day, which naturally causes you to feel more tired at night. This means that if you’re feeling groggy all day, and then you get a weird jolt of energy at midnight, taking a capsule of CBD isn’t going to help much. You’re better off taking it at breakfast and enjoying the full restorative powers of CBD.
Are there any tricks to make CBD work better? Once again, this is going to sound strange, but researchers have found that high-fat foods make CBD more effective. It’s not as crazy as it sounds—CBD molecules are quite large, relatively speaking, which makes them a bit tough for the body to absorb. However, those molecules dissolve when they come into contact with fat, which allows your body to process more CBD more quickly. This doesn’t mean you have to scarf down a whole stick of butter every time you take CBD. But taking it with a rich source of unsaturated fat, like avocados for example, can help you get the most out of your CBD. Plus, the taste isn’t bad either.
So there you have it. We may not have answered every single question you have about using CBD, but we’ve (hopefully) come close. It’s worth keeping in mind that although scientists are studying CBD in greater detail than ever before, what we know about this wildly popular compound is still far outweighed by what we don’t. Anecdotal reports are great—and there are a lot of those floating around the internet—but as a great thinker once said, the plural of “anecdote” is not “data.” We’ve got a long way to go before we can say what CBD can and can’t do with a reasonable degree of certainty.
Still, if you’re interested in seeing how CBD might fit into your lifestyle, this should be a solid start. Millions of people, from pro athletes to sleepless parents, have already given CBD a try, and their experiences can help you get an idea of what could work for you. Be smart, be skeptical, and (we’ve got to say this again) be sure to talk to your doctor before you start taking CBD*. And let us know what you think of it—we’d love to hear from you.
*P.S. One last piece of advice: if anyone ever asks if you’d be interested in buying some CBD pet food—we swear, that’s real too—we recommend you run screaming in the other direction. Trust us, your dog or cat would be much happier with a nice piece of fish.