True or false: The longer you take CBD, the more easily your body responds to it.
If you answered true (hint: You're right), do you know why? It turns out the answer has a lot to do with the close connection hemp's star cannabinoid has with our health and well-being.
Why and how CBD affects us
"The first thing to understand about CBD is that the reason it affects so many health concerns in the body is because there is an abundance of receptors in the brain," says Sara DeFrancesco, N.D., L.Ac., a health educator based in Portland, Oregon. She's talking about the human body's endocannabinoid system (ECS)—a large group of neurotransmitters that help regulate various important physiological functions, from pain perception to sleep quality to digestion. "We have CBD receptors in high concentrations in many places of the body," says DeFrancesco, and they're tied to a system that keeps our body in balance.
The short story is that our bodies naturally produce their own cannabinoids, but high stress can lower production, according to DeFrancesco. With help from phytocannabinoids like CBD (phyto meaning "from plants"), we can actually kick-start the process, stimulating our bodies to do its thing and bringing it back into balance again. In other words, by supplementing with CBD, "we're not trying to override our own endocannabinoid production," she says. "We're trying to balance it."
While some people may notice a difference in a day or a week with CBD, some may not notice anything until two or three months in—according to DeFrancesco, it all depends on why you're taking CBD. If you're new to taking CBD, or you're curious about what to expect when adding it into your daily rotation for your specific needs, read on.
What to look for in your CBD
- A safe product. Make sure the company has done its due diligence in testing to ensure the product is free of toxic pesticides, contaminants, and heavy metals and that you're getting the amount of CBD the label says it contains. The company should offer a certificate of analysis for confirmation.
- Full-spectrum vs. CBD isolate. Usually with full-spectrum products, DeFrancesco points out that a company is more likely to know where the plants came from. Charlotte's Web, for instance, makes its CBD oils, capsules, and gummies with full-spectrum hemp extract from their plants grown in fields across Colorado, Oregon, and Kentucky. On the other hand, CBD isolates aren't just trickier to trace, but they're also less likely to deliver CBD's "full" effect—aka the entourage effect. "All the different cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids in a hemp plant are in there for a reason and work together synergistically," DeFrancesco says. "It's part of the wisdom of herbal medicine."
How to decide on a product
- Capsules vs. oils and tinctures. CBD is available in various forms, tinctures and capsules being the most popular. Capsules offer precise servings and convenience, and tinctures provide flexibility to customize the amount that's right for you.
- Extraction type. Either high-quality alcohol- or CO2-extraction is optimal; toxic solvents—sometimes used in some CBD products—should be avoided.
- Foods and beverages with CBD. If you're taking CBD as a supplement, "you want to know how much CBD you're taking and what the quality is, which is harder to tell with food—and it's usually harder to digest and absorb," suggests DeFrancesco. So, snacks and drinks containing CBD are less desirable for this purpose.
- Keep in mind: No matter what delivery method you choose, check with your doctor if you're on any medication, as CBD may affect the metabolism of certain prescription drugs.
What to expect when you start taking CBD, based on your specific need
Click through the interactive guide below to see how CBD may help.
If you want to work on less stress...
What to expect: "Give this at least 30 days," says DeFrancesco. "You might feel like you have more energy, that brain fog is lifting, or that over time, it's buffering the effects of stress. One patient described it to me as feeling like her nervous system was wrapped in a warm blanket. Some people even start feeling more creative, want to dance and play music again, and have an overall sense of wellness. I think the No. 1 health problem we have in our society is stress, and because CBD works so well on stress, it helps people slow down and really enjoy their lives."
If you want to work on exercise recovery...
What to expect: "You can experience recovery from exercise-induced inflammation pretty quickly if it's related to a recent workout, but in other incidences, it may take at least 30 days to a couple of months," says DeFrancesco. "Either way, CBD works with certain pathways in the body and brain, so it's very helpful."
If you want to work on better sleep...
What to expect: "A high-quality product shouldn't make you feel exhausted or drowsy before bed," says DeFrancesco. "Instead, people say it feels like they slept deeper, or the quality of their sleep is better within the first week or two.
While CBD's effects are super individualized because everyone's ECS is unique, the ultimate goal—according to DeFrancesco—is to reduce your CBD serving over time as your body starts becoming sensitized to CBD, produces its own cannabinoids again, and rebalances. She does point out that hemp as a ritual is only one part of a health and wellness routine—other lifestyle factors matter, too.
"The truth is, hemp really can help with many things," she says, "but we also have to do the work to deal with imbalances in our lifestyle, nutrition, and well-being. Hemp is a very powerful tool, but it's just one piece to the puzzle."
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.