What You Should Know About CBD

Sanford Center for Aging

What is CBD?

CBD is short for cannabidiol, which is found only in cannabis plants. Hemp comes from the Cannabis sativa plant, and marijuana comes from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plants. Hemp is the term for cannabis that contains less than 0.3% THC, and marijuana is the term for cannabis that contains 0.3% or more THC. THC is the chemical that makes a person feel "high."

CBD is the same chemical regardless of whether it's found in a low-THC or high THC cannabis plant.

How does it work?

CBD works by copying endocannabinoids, a chemical naturally produced by humans and found throughout the body. Endocannabinoids play a role in regulating mood, memory, appetite, stress, sleep, metabolism, etc.

Is it legal?

  • CBD is readily obtainable in most parts of the United States, though its exact legal status is in flux. All 50 states have laws legalizing CBD with varying degrees of restriction.
  • According to the federal law, CBD can only be included in "cosmetic" products such as lotions. It cannot be legally included in foods or dietary supplements.
  • Many states, like Nevada, have passed state laws making marijuana and CBD legal for recreational and medical purposes. According to the Washoe County Health District (WCHD), in Nevada, it is legal to purchase recreational marijuana, and CBD products manufactured and/or sold only in Nevada licensed dispensaries.

Is CBD oil the same thing as hemp oil?

  • No. CBD and hemp oil are made from opposite parts of the hemp plant, also known as the cannabis sativa plant.
  • Hemp oil is extracted from the seeds of the plant and contains no CBD, while CBD oil is extracted from the flowers, stocks, and leaves of the plant. These parts of the plant are rich in CBD.
  • CBD is used for the treatment of anxiety; sleep disorders, pain, etc. while hemp oil, being rich in omega fatty acids, is used more as a nutritional supplement, and provides hydration for dry skin.
  • Hemp oil can be purchased from many different retailers, but use caution if trying to buy CBD products. They may be advertised as CBD, but frequently only contain hemp - especially those listed with online retailers such as Amazon.

Does it actually work?

In Europe and the United States, most of the information about CBD's effects in humans is hearsay or taken from animal studies; few human trials have been conducted.

CBD research is at such an early stage that scientists have not determined the correct doses to test.

So far, the FDA has approved only one drug containing CBD, Epidiolex, after clinical trials found it reduced seizures in children with two rare, severe forms of epilepsy.

The FDA still considers CBD a drug, and has issued several warnings to companies that make unproven claims that their CBD products will treat or prevent disease.

What do people use it for?

  • Inflammation
  • Pain
  • Nausea
  • Migraines
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep

Is it safe?


CBD seems to be well-tolerated in patients.

The most common side effects of CBD are sleepiness and diarrhea.

Patients in the Epidiolex trials also had more infections and rashes, as well as depressed appetite, sleep problems and elevated liver enzymes.

A recent study by the American Medicine Association tested over 80 CBD containing products from 31 companies, and found that nearly 70 percent of those products were not labeled accurately, and had either higher or lower concentrations of CBD than what was stated on the label.


Many drugs are metabolized in the body using the Cytochrome P450 system. Cytochrome P450 is a group of enzymes in the liver that break down drugs and toxins in the body. CBD inhibits many of these enzymes, which means they can't work to remove drugs and toxins from the body.

Many drugs are metabolized through the Cytochrome P450 system including:

  • Anti-seizure medications
  • PPIs such as omeprazole (Prilosec)
  • Warfarin (Coumadin)
  • NSAIDs like aspirin and ibuprofen
  • Losartan (Cozaar)
  • Ondansetron (Zofran)
  • Venalfaxine (Effexor)
  • Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Many more
  • Be aware that other drugs can increase or decrease CBD concentrations



Updated April 14, 2021