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The ABCs of CBD

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  • Written By: Boulder Community Health
The ABCs of CBD

The following is a guest blog by Dr. Ilene Naomi Rusk, Community Health Education Director-Grillo Health Information Center and Co-Director, Brain and Behavior Clinic, Healthy Brain Program.

Cannabis is composed of over 120 compounds, called cannabinoids, each with varying effects on our bodies and minds. Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the compounds in cannabis, but it has no psychoactive properties. That means that it doesn’t affect your emotions or cognitions, which is a health and safety concern for THC and some of the other psychoactive properties in cannabis. CBD, for example, won’t impair your ability to safely drive a car and it is not known to be addictive.

How does CBD affect your body & brain?

Humans are born with an endocannabinoid system (ECS), which consists of endocannabinoids and receptors located all over the body and throughout the nervous system and various organs, specifically those connected to the immune system. Your ECS helps you maintain balance in relation to your changing internal and external environment. If any bodily system/function moves “out of range,” for example, if your temperature gets too high, your ECS notifies your body to adjust, telling it that it’s time to sweat to cool you back down.

The ECS has been found to underlie various functions of everyday life including appetite, inflammation, pain, mood and sleep. Endocannabinoids have the same properties as the cannabinoids in cannabis and the ECS reacts and responds to both cannabinoids and endocannabinoids. So, when one consumes CBD (a cannabinoid), it interacts with the important endocannabinoid system.

What does CBD help?

CBD can potentially have an impact on health conditions, especially those with symptoms/causes related to the endocannabinoid system (as explained above). Studies have shown that CBD has the potential to improve a variety of medical/health conditions including:

  • Epilepsy
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Sleep disorders
  • Cancer (to treat tumors and nausea that comes with certain cancer treatments)
  • Inflammation
  • Alzheimer’s and other brain-related illnesses
  • Immune disorders

These studies are compelling and we need more studies with human participants to better understand the effectiveness of CBD as a treatment. The most compelling research confirms the usefulness of CBD in treating anxiety inflammation and sleep disorders.

Currently, the only FDA-approved CBD treatment is for epilepsy. CBD was shown to significantly reduce the incidence of seizures in children.

How Do You Take It?

CBD can be used in the following forms:

  • Oil: Placed under the tongue
  • Edibles: Eaten in a specific dosage; can come in the form of gummy bears, cakes or cookies (among other things)
  • Tinctures: Added to drinks
  • Vaping: Used in a vaporizing smoking device
  • Topical ointments/creams: Applied on the skin

Regardless of the form, the product will generally list the amount of CBD in milligrams on the packaging. The correct dosages and modes of ingestion vary from person-to-person. A doctor can help you to understand how CBD may interact with other medications, as well as to determine what dose and form will work best for you.

Risks of CBD

The primary concerns when purchasing and using CBD are ensuring you know what you are getting. Due to a current lack of regulation on many CBD products, it is important to do your homework to understand the quality and purity of the products you plan to use. Additionally, there is a possibility that CBD will either enhance or reduce the effects of other medications that you are using. This can be avoided by checking with a health care professional. A final challenge when considering the purchase and use of CBD are state and federal laws that determine whether using CBD is legal to use. In Colorado, it is legal to purchase and use CBD.

Considering the lack of precise dosing data, it may take time to figure out what works best for your needs. If you are interested in taking CBD, it is recommended that you consult a doctor, specifically one who understands medicinal cannabis. Data shows CBD to have very few if any, adverse effects, so it might be a good idea to start considering whether CBD could be added to your current health plan as a potential new healing modality. Ask your trusted health care provider for guidance, or if possible, find a practitioner who specializes in cannabis use.

About the Grillo Health Information Center

The Grillo Health Information Center is a non-profit helping community members find science-based and personalized information on their health conditions and concerns. Grillo’s goal is to enable individuals and their families to make informed health care decisions and to facilitate better communication and collaboration between individuals and their health care providers.

The Grillo Center, with promotional help from Boulder Community Health, also hosts Stahl Health Lectures organized by its Director of Community Health Education, Dr. Ilene Naomi Rusk. This ongoing lecture series features local experts providing education to the public on cutting-edge topics related to medicine and mental health. For more information, please visit