By now, you’ve probably heard someone mention CBD, especially if you live with a chronic condition like pain or anxiety.

As U.S. states begin to legalize both medical and recreational cannabis, the market has enjoyed an influx of readily available CBD. Despite all the publicity, though, many people are unsure of what CBD is, how it can help them, and if it’s even legal.

If you’re looking to try CBD but aren’t sure where to start, we put together this quick, handy guide to answer your questions and help clear up some of the common misconceptions surrounding CBD and its uses.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of many active compounds found in the Cannabis sativa plant. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is another active compound and the most well-known, thanks to its psychoactive properties — it’s the one that gets you “high.”

CBD is nonpsychoactive but has a number of the same medical benefits as THC. This allows you to take advantage of the therapeutic benefits without leaving you with the “stony” feeling that often goes hand in hand with THC.

That said, marijuana-derived CBD products, or CBD products that contain THC, may be more effective than fiber hemp. But if you live in a state that hasn’t yet legalized medical marijuana or these strains are unavailable to you, you can still benefit from products containing industrial hemp-derived CBD.

The current legality over CBD is... hazy. Though there are claims it’s currently legal in all 50 states if it’s derived from hemp — meaning it’s extracted from a cannabis plant with less than 0.3 percent THC — others sources, like this report from Leafly, are quick to point out that legislation is far less straightforward. We suggest checking your state’s laws regarding CBD oil.

What does CBD treat?

There’s not a ton of research on CBD, but the results of what has been studied are promising. Some studies have found CBD may be effective in providing relief from various mental health conditions, including:

It may be effective for physical conditions as well. One study on rats found that CBD oil may treat pain associated with arthritis, while another study done on cells found that CBD cream was an effective anti-inflammatory.

Likewise, CBD has also been linked to treating childhood epilepsy and other seizure disorders. Some evidence points to CBD’s anticancer properties and benefits in managing the side effects of cancer treatment.

If you’re looking to CBD to provide relief, here are a few common conditions and how you can treat them with CBD:

  • Anxiety. If anxiety relief is needed quickly, consider vaping. Otherwise, keep in mind that other forms of CBD may take one to two hours to go into effect.
  • Digestive problems. Opt for an oral form, like gummies or capsules.
  • Arthritis, headaches, and back pain. Consider using CBD topical cream for acute pain. If you have chronic pain, reach for sublingual oils instead.

How do I take CBD?

CBD is available in several different forms. This allows people to tailor their method of use to their specific need. Here are the most common forms of CBD:

  • Oils and tinctures. These liquids, usually oils, are infused with CBD and placed under the tongue with a dropper. The oral mucosa is full of tiny capillaries which absorb the compounds quickly and provide consumers rapid relief. Oils and tinctures are a good choice for anyone who can’t take pills or capsules.
  • Creams and lotions. CBD-infused topicals are used to treat muscle and joint pain. They can also treat some skin conditions, like eczema and psoriasis.
  • Capsules and pills. CBD capsules and pills are used for systemic treatment of seizure disorders and digestive issues. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved the first high-potency CBD drug to treat seizure disorders. There’s one drawback with capsule forms, though. The time from ingestion to onset of effect can take a while.
  • Edibles. Gummies are one of the most popular ways to take CBD. They’re affordable, portable, discrete, and tasty. There’s also no guesswork involved: You know exactly what dose you’re taking.
  • Vaping. Inhaling vaporized CBD oil, like e-cigs for CBD, is the fastest way to experience effects. Compounds are inhaled and absorbed directly from the lungs into the bloodstream. The jury is still out, though, on whether vaping does damage to delicate lung tissue. Proceed with caution if you choose to vape CBD.

How much should I take?

According to Philip Gregory, PharmD, MS, FACN, you should generally start low and go slow with increasing your dose.

“Most research has used doses from 40 milligrams daily to 1,500 milligrams. Some people advocate starting with 20 to 40 milligrams daily and increasing to the desired effect. But before treating a medical condition, talk with your doctor about the best approach for your specific condition,” Gregory says.

When dosing, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • If you’re using CBD for seizure treatment, talk with your doctor about the best product and dose.
  • Many oils come in 1 milligram per drop concentrations, so increasing dosage is straightforward. But be sure to read product labels closely to ensure you know what amount each drop provides.
  • Gummies can also come in standard doses, often 5 milligrams per gummy. But be sure to clarify this before changing your dose.
  • Vape oil dosing can also be tricky. It depends on exactly how much you inhale and the concentration of the vaping liquid.
  • Use creams and lotions sparingly at first.

Even if marijuana is legal in your state, it continues to be illegal under federal law.


Kristi is a freelance writer and mother who spends most of her time caring for people other than herself. She’s frequently exhausted and compensates with an intense caffeine addiction. Find her on Twitter.