What CBD Is And How it Works

Uses and Benefits of CBD

Everything you should know about CBD, from the manufacture processes to the medical properties and the most common ways of using it.

Nowadays, most of the main brands of CBD products are paying attention to the latest findings of medical cannabis. New forms of CBD products come to light, in order to reach all possible effects which can be obtained according to the different ways of taking CBD. The most famous method of taking CBD is orally. Though, there are plenty of other paths through which CBD is absorbed by our bodies, such as ingestion, inhalation or topically.

In this sense, if you are looking for a CBD product, you can find oils or “tinctures”, capsules or “pills”, e-liquids for vaping, topical creams or “balms” and foods, like chocolate bars. It is fundamental for the patient to understand that the quality and concentration of CBD in these products can vary considerably.


What is CBD?

Over the years, researchers have been rigorously finding the potential benefits that CBD may have for humans by using an extensive amount of resources. Most of the clinical studies have resulted in positive outcomes in terms of the benefits of CBD. For this reason, the FDA approved Epidiolex as a prescription drug, which was developed from the research made. This is the first pharmaceutical drug extracted directly from cannabis plants and is proposed for the treatment of rare epileptic disorders.
CBD, or Cannabidiol, is a part of the composition of the cannabis plant, which has began to play a key role in several therapeutic treatments. It is used to treat a wide range of medical conditions, such as headaches, epilepsy and arthritis (see if your condition is under the benefits of CBD).

Which plant does CBD come from?

CBD is one of more than 150 cannabinoids coming from the cannabis plant which contains a broad range of chemical profiles and responds to selective breeding. In cannabis plants, there is a variety of compounds known as cannabinoids, which generate different reactions to the body. For example, THC is the main cannabinoid that produces psychoactive effects, while CBD can somehow inhibit this adverse effect of THC. Nevertheless, they all come from the same plant.

The THC levels is the main difference between cannabis and hemp, however each one is a variation of the same species. For example, specific cannabis strains have been selected to produce a higher percentage of THC, mainly for recreational purposes. In contrast, industrial hemp has been preferred for the manufacture of medical cannabis products, thanks to its low THC concentration, no more than 0.3%, but high levels of CBD.

Manufacturers will also extract the CBD from industrial hemp, which ensures low levels of THC, according to the current legislation. Cannabis extracts can even be fully purified, isolating just the CBD, with absolutely no traces of THC, not even 0.3%. These products are called isolated CBD.

Difference between CBD and THC

Since CBD and THC come from the same plant, many people think that all the components inside the plant produce the same effect. However, while they are both beneficial medically, there are key differences between the two. CBD does not alter awareness and is a non-psychoactive component. Alternatively, THC produces psychoactive effects. Additionally, CBD can help improve concentration, reduce anxiety and nervousness, whereas THC can be the cause of these states.

Medical benefits of CBD

How CBD works on human body

The human body produces various endocannabinoids, developed from fatty acids that interact with cannabinoid receptors (CB), sited on the external layer of several cell types. Together, CB receptors and endocannabinoids make up the endocannabinoid system. Some cannabinoids from cannabis plants (known as phytocannabinoids) and many synthetic cannabinoids that are synthetized in laboratories, produce endocannabinoid-like effects.

The Endocannabinoid System

The ECS was first discovered in the US in 1992 and acted as a catalyst to researching cannabis, eventually discovering its medical properties. Firstly, the process of homeostasis is the body’s effort to keeping everything in the body in the right zone. However, when something is out of bounds, the ECS is activated to help correct the issue. Indeed, the ECS helps to regulate important functions in the body such as pain, motor control, mood, digestion and more. The ECS is able to affect these functions via cannabinoid receptors found in cells tissues.

Cannabinoid Receptors

The cannabinoid receptors are found throughout the entire body and at least two have been discovered. CB1 is mainly in the central nervous system in the brain and along the spinal cord, playing an important role in memory and motor control. CB2 is in the peripheral nervous system which is mostly found in cells in the immune system, in the bone marrow cells, and nerves in the digestive system.

There are different factors which affect the activation of CB receptors, such as the type of cell, the dosage, the body’s state and the specific cannabinoid involved. The different effects include euphoria, anxiety, dry mouth, muscle relaxation, hunger and pain reduction. Different forms of manipulation of the endocannabinoid system are also investigated for therapeutic purposes, such as blocking CB receptors (known as antagonism) and modulating the concentration of endocannabinoids through the inhibition of their degradation.

According to studies, it has been expressed that CBD affects a wide range of sites in the brain. For example, it affects serotonin receptors, a CB1 receptor, which is affected by anxiety medications and anti-depressants and acts as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI), helping decrease anxiety.

Other receptors activated by CBD are the vanilloid receptors. Vanilloid receptor type 1 (TRPV1) is associated with pain and inflammation processes and studies have shown a positive correlation with ailments producing chronic pain. The effects of CBD on this receptor would provide an analgesic response, relieving pain. Moreover, CBD also affects the type 2 receptor, involved in the cancer cells growth, so that it could help to reduce or even eradicate malignant tumour cells.
So far, cannabinoids have proven to palliate the symptoms of several pathologies and ailments. This can be shown in the results from many controlled clinical trials. As such, treatment with cannabinoids are not treatments to be taken on their own but otherwise used as additional treatments on top of the current medical treatments already taken. Normally, this is only to be done once current treatments have shown a negative response.

  • Chronic Pain
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
  • Anxiety and Stress
  • Sleeping Problems
  • Epilepsy
  • Spasticity
  • Tics and Spasms

Methods of CBD Intake

Main absorption methods of CBD

Bioavailability is the actual amount of a substance absorbed in the body as it moves its way through the body’s filtration systems. Given this, the consumption method of CBD can play a fundamental role in the absorption, distribution and elimination of the substance. Different administration methods will affect the bioavailability of CBD which will eventually vary its effectiveness.


Sublingual administration promotes absorption through the mucous membranes under the tongue. This occurs when the CBD oil is placed under the tongue and allowed to dissolve. Through sublingual administration the entrance of CBD into the bloodstream is quicker due to bypassing the digestive system where they have to be broken down and metabolised. With the growth and popularity of CBD products, the sublingual method of administration has become the most common and used way of taking CBD.

Key factors of ingesting CBD

  • Use: Sublingual
  • Bioavailability: Low (20-35% of CBD consumed)
  • Dose accuracy: Very high
  • Time to onset: 40-50 minutes
  • Duration of effect: 4-6 hours

The sublingual gland, found under the tongue, is able to absorb any substance that is administered. This allows it to go straight into the bloodstream, avoiding the liver where substances are normally metabolised. This is referred to as sublingual consumption or administration. Typical products which can be administered sublingually are CBD tinctures, lozenges and sprays. As sublingual consumption allows the substance to enter the bloodstream directly, its effects can be felt by the body much quicker than oral consumption, avoiding the digestive tract. Thus, there is less degradation as it is mainly degraded from the enzymes in the saliva.


As the most common way of taking CBD is orally, many producers have manufactured CBD in forms of Gel Capsules, Edibles or Teas. CBD ingested goes through our digestive system, making its first stop in the stomach. There the edible and the outer casing of the gel capsules start to breakdown, leaving the compounds to travel through the hepatic portal vein into the liver. The liver then metabolizes the CBD molecules in a reaction called the “first-pass effect.” The enzymes in the liver act upon the CBD compounds, reducing the concentration before what makes it through enters the bloodstream.

Key factors of ingesting CBD

  • Use: Ingestion
  • Bioavailability: Extremely low (6-15% of CBD consumed)
  • Dose accuracy: High
  • Time to onset: 50-90 minutes
  • Duration of effect: 6-8 hours

Oral administration of CBD can be found as the easiest method, however, at a disadvantage due to its low bioavailability as it takes an extensive trip to the stomach and the liver. Ingesting CBD can take up to an hour before it is distributed throughout the body. The main advantage to this is for people whose main symptoms are constant aches and pains throughout the day, as the duration of the effect can handle long periods of time due to its slow release. Thus, CBD can be taken twice daily, morning and nightly, in order to maintain its effectiveness throughout the day.


CBD through topical application is directly applied to the skin where the symptoms appear. To ensure that the CBD has been absorbed in the skin, rub the product gently into the skin.

CBD topicals are only able to affect the surface of the body unlike other methods where ingestion is required. The other methods, ingesting, inhaling and sublingual application, allows CBD to enter straight into the blood stream, affecting immediately the endocannabinoid system. However, through topical application, the effects are different.

Key factors of using topical CBD

  • Use: Topical
  • Bioavailability: Medium (depending on the concentration and the quantity)
  • Dose accuracy: Very low
  • Time to onset: 30 minutes
  • Duration of effect: 5-7 hours

Transdermal administration avoids the first-pass metabolism effect that is associated with the oral route and thus improves drug bioavailability. Topicals with CBD are potentially ideal for localised symptoms, such as those found in dermatological conditions and arthritis but also in peripheral neuropathic pain for which capsaicin patches have been proposed as a second line treatment after high quality of evidence was provided. However, there are some disadvantages to consider, such as the possibility of local irritation and the low skin penetration of drugs with a hydrophilic structure.


When CBD e-liquid is vaporized, it is heated by a vape pen’s electrical components to turn the oil into vapor. This vapor is then inhaled and the compounds are absorbed through the alveoli in the lungs, which offer a large absorptive surface area. Once through the alveoli, the CBD molecules are immediately transferred into the bloodstream. This instant access to the circulatory system allows some to feel the effects within a few seconds, while others report it taking anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes. Compared to ingestion, the inhalation method allows more CBD to be absorbed and offers a faster absorption rate.

Key factors of inhaling CBD

  • Use: Inhalation
  • Bioavailability: High (30-40% of CBD consumed)
  • Dose accuracy: Low
  • Time to onset: 5-10 minutes
  • Duration of effect: 1.5-2 hours

This method is most suitable for sudden bouts of ailments to achieve instant relief such as migraines, anxiety and panic attacks. It is also a very accessible method as vape pens can be carried on your person throughout the day while on the move without disturbing the people around you as it produces minimal smell and the vapour quickly disperses after exhaling.

Ready to find the perfect CBD product for you?

Consult our comparative table of the main CBD Oils in the European market and have a look at what we recommend as trustworthy and safe.