Cannabis Basics

What Are the Top Health Benefits of CBD (cannabidiol)?

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What are the actual health benefits of CBD? Can CBD help with anxiety, stress, depression, pain, or sleep? Here is everything you need to know about the benefits of CBD & how to use it to help improve your health.

The Top Health Benefits of CBD: What Conditions Can CBD Help?

Your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) has been hard at work since before you were born to maintain balance at a cellular level, helping you heal from illness and injury. Present in all the tissues and organs of the body, the ECS regulates the function of the immune, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, and nervous systems, and thus has a profound influence on every aspect of our health.

The health benefits of CBD may include improvements in:

  • Inflammation
  • Mood and anxiety
  • Improve sleep
  • Resilience to stress
  • Cognition
  • Neurologic healing

CBD for Anxiety

CBD may benefit some people with anxiety disorders, and it may be useful in helping people reduce anxiety associated with episodic, stressful situations.

In addition to CBD’s influence on the ECS, which likely accounts for some of its anti-anxiety effects, CBD also hits non-ECS targets. For example, CBD is a serotonin receptor agonist. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that’s related to happiness and feeling of contentment, and also plays a major role in anxiety as well as nausea. CBD activates that receptor similarly to the neurotransmitter serotonin — another reason why CBD can be so helpful with anxiety, focus, and other aspects of mental health.

CBD is widely recognized as safer than benzodiazepine drugs like Ativan or Valium, and if it works, it will likely start working much faster than SSRI antidepressants. Patients who don’t respond fully to CBD-dominant products may find more relief with combination CBD + THC.


  • Pain signaling
  • Gut function
  • Tissue recovery after exercise or injury
  • Current and future animal and human studies promise to reveal even more…

CBD for Sleep

Many people successfully use CBD before bed and in the middle of the night, while others report that their use during the day helps them to relax and sleep more at night.

However, CBD may disturb sleep in a small number of people when taken directly before bed, therefore, Dr. Sulak recommends first trying CBD during the morning and middle of the day for 3-5 days before trying it right before bedtime, as regular, restorative sleep is essential in healing and maintaining good health.

Based on patient and customer feedback, CBDA may be even more helpful for promoting restorative sleep than CBD.


CBD for Pain

CBD is an analgesic, so it can reduce pain, via several mechanisms. As mentioned above, CBD stimulates the “capsaicin receptor” (TRPV1 channel), a target known for its impact on pain and inflammation. Unlike capsaicin, which is commonly used in topical preparations for arthritic pain, CBD does not cause a burning sensation, making the use much more pleasant.


CBD for Seizures

Cannabinoids are inherently neuroprotective substances – in fact, our brain produces cannabinoids when injured for the purpose of reducing damage and promoting healing. Compared to most antiepileptic drugs, many of which have been shown to impair brain function and development, cannabinoids have a far superior safety profile. If the use of cannabinoids can reduce the frequency, duration, or intensity of seizures, it is clearly going to allow and promote brain development, not impair it.

Amidst growing scientific investigation into the non-THC and non-impairing cannabinoids, the public’s focus on CBD exploded in 2013 after the airing of CNN’s first cannabis documentary, “Weed.” The show followed the story of a four-year-old girl whose treatment-resistant seizures were relieved by a non-impairing, CBD-dominant variety of cannabis. The chemovar was later named “Charlotte’s Web” after her.

Patients with forms of epilepsy or seizure disorders who take pharmaceutical medications should discuss CBD with their medical provider prior to taking. CBD may interact with other medications, including the seizure medications valproic acid and clobazam, and other drugs metabolized by the liver enzymes CYP3A4 and CYP2C19.

CBD and Cancer

Cannabinoids have been shown to target and affect cancer cells differently than normal, healthy cells. In various types of cancer, cannabinoids have been shown to prevent tumor growth, trigger cell death, prevent the formation of blood vessels that feed the tumor, and inhibit the metastasis of cancer from one part of the body to another. While we are still very early in our understanding of how to best use cannabis to fight different types of cancer, it is well-established that cannabis can help with the symptoms of cancer and the side effects of cancer treatment, and can likely be used to enhance the anticancer effects of conventional treatments.

A large body of evidence from animal studies and cell experiments demonstrates the numerous direct anti-cancer effects of cannabinoids, including CBD as Dr. Sulak commented for a Leafly article. Specifically, CBD rarely causes adverse effects, can provide substantial relief on its own, and is especially useful as an adjunct to THC.

Researchers have now started digging deeper into how CBD might work synergistically with common chemotherapy drugs, and how this potent cannabinoid can be transitioned out of the laboratory and into the clinic.

CBD and Arthritis

Because CBD stimulates the “capsaicin receptor” (TRPV1 channel) known for its impact on pain and inflammation, and other activities that dampen pain signaling, CBD can be helpful to those suffering from arthritis pain. Unlike capsaicin, which is commonly used in conventional topical preparations, CBD does not cause a burning sensation in the mouth or on the skin. CBD can also promote bone healing and prevent scarring, additional benefits for those suffering from arthritis.

How to Get The Most Benefit from Different CBD Products

The key to achieving successful results with CBD is using an appropriate dosage that’s tailored to your individual needs. This means in order to get maximum benefit from CBD, you must find your personal optimal dosage amount and the frequency with which you need to take it.

How to use CBD Oil

Dr. Sulak recommends starting with CBD drops placed under the tongue. Some of the CBD and beneficial plant compounds will be absorbed directly into your bloodstream through the network of capillaries in your mouth, leading to faster relief, while the rest is swallowed for a delayed effect. Also, taking CBD this way allows the fine-tuning necessary to discover your personalized optimal usage amount.

Taking CBD drops (or capsules/edibles) with a meal or snack that contains some fat can increase absorption up to 5-fold, making it more powerful and less expensive.

How to use CBD Edibles

When taking drops sublingually (under the tongue) isn’t possible, adding them to food —or taking CBD in capsule form— is also effective. Results may take longer and you may need to take a larger amount, as the CBD passes through the digestive system first, which affects onset and potency. If capsules or other edibles take too long to start working, or not working well even in moderate to high doses, or for people with poor gut motility, try switching to drops.

How to use CBD Topicals and Lotions

Most people don’t know that CBD drops can be applied directly to the skin as a topical. These, or other lotions, salves, balms, or gel preparations, can be applied to help alleviate pain, muscle spasms, inflammation, and various skin conditions, including eczema. Healer Hemp CBD Topical Gel is water-based, to feel less oily and dry more quickly.

How to use CBD Vapes

For episodic symptoms, CBD Vape pens can provide fast relief. The potential long-term, harmful effects from many products currently on the market, which are frequently contaminated with heavy metals and dangerous solvents, outweigh the benefits. The safest, most effective forms of CBD include Drops, Capsules, and Topicals from reputable companies. If you benefit from CBD vapor, be sure to inquire about third-party testing that proves the product is free from contaminants and additives.

How To Find the Right Dose of CBD for Maximum Benefit

After following thousands of patients using cannabis for more than a decade, Dr. Dustin Sulak has seen firsthand the relief that CBD can provide for a wide variety of symptoms. Though it sometimes sounds too good to be true, CBD is an incredibly versatile and safe solution.

While the scientific investigation continues to discover more about the effects and mechanisms of action of CBD, Dr. Sulak’s clinical experience and emerging data demonstrate that CBD is a safe, non-impairing, and non-habit-forming substance that supports wellness in the following ways and more:

  • Promotes alertness and clear thinking*
  • Can help with pain and inflammation after physical activity*
  • Can improve mood, promote resilience to stress and relieve irritability*
  • May enhance performance and recovery from exercise*

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabinoid compound with a similar molecular structure to Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), but with very different and distinct pharmacological properties. CBD was first isolated in 1940 by Roger Adams and chemically identified in 1963 by Mechoulam and Shvo. Many people are surprised to learn that the hemp plant does not directly produce CBD. The plant actually produces cannabidiol acid (CBDA) which converts to CBD slowly at room temperature, or rapidly when exposed to high temperatures.

While CBD shares many of the same therapeutic effects of its close relative THC, including the relief of anxiety, pain, seizures, inflammation, and nausea, the two compounds work very differently in the body. Furthermore, and unlike THC, CBD does not impair mental or physical function in most consumers, even at very high doses.

Today, CBD is an exciting focus of medical research, popular media, and legislation related to cannabis. Its presence is becoming ubiquitous on the shelves of health food stores and search engine results for numerous medical conditions, but don’t believe everything you hear. While CBD is an incredibly safe and therapeutic component of cannabis, there are many myths and misconceptions associated with it.

It is also important to note that human research on these cannabinoids is still emerging. At this time, we know even less about CBDA than CBD. However, early findings show that even small amounts of CBDA can have significant physiologic effects.

How CBD and CBDA Work with Your Brain & Body

It’s hard to believe the stories of CBD helping with such a wide variety of issues, but many of CBD’s versatile benefits correlate with the critical role that the endogenous cannabinoid system (endocannabinoid system or ECS) plays in our health. In addition to its ability to modulate the ECS, CBD acts on serotonin receptors, likely contributing to its beneficial effects on mood, anxiety, and nausea, and capsaicin (the active component of hot chili peppers) receptors, likely contributing to its effects on pain and inflammation. This complex activity, combined with its established safety, is the reason hemp can provide benefits to so many different people with different health goals.

In many ways, CBDA works similarly to CBD, with activity at serotonin and capsaicin receptors. Unlike CBD, CBDA has not been shown to influence cannabinoid receptors, and it has been shown to target the COX enzymes associated with inflammation, a similar mechanism as popular over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs.

CBDA has a higher bioavailability, which means it gets absorbed significantly better – 5-11 times better than CBD when taken orally [1].  There’s also some evidence-based on animal models that CBDA is stronger and more potent than CBD, not just because it’s getting absorbed better but because it’s actually acting more powerfully. For example, animal studies have found CBDA to be 10 times more potent than CBD in a model of seizures [2], 100x more potent in a model of inflammatory pain [3], 10,000x more potent in a model of nausea [4], and 50,000x more potent in a model of anxiety [5].

About the Endocannabinoid System

The ECS is a biological system found in most animals that is instrumental in our ability to respond to illness and injury and maintain good health. Endocannabinoids and their receptors are found throughout the human body. CBD works by modulating the activity of the ECS in addition to several other systems in the body.

CBD influences the ECS by decreasing the uptake and breakdown of anandamide, one of the compounds we produce that stimulates the cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) in our cells. You can think of anandamide as our body’s inner pharmacy’s version of THC; by decreasing its uptake and breakdown, CBD makes higher levels of anandamide available. CBD has also been shown to modulate the action of CB1 receptors, which could help in situations of excessive CB1 activity. CBDA does not have activity at the CB1 receptor as CBD does.

Beyond its influence on the ECS, CBD works at several other sites in the body correlating with health benefits:

  • CBD stimulates the “capsaicin receptor” (TRPV1 channel) known for its impact on pain and inflammation. Unlike capsaicin, which is commonly used in topical preparations, CBD does not cause a burning sensation in the mouth or on the skin.
  • CBD stimulates the serotonin 5HT1A receptor, which is involved in cognition, mood, anxiety, sociability, impulsivity, sex drive, nausea, blood flow, and arousal.
  • CBD likely stimulates the adenosine A2 receptor, which is involved in anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective activity.

Important Differences between CBD, CBDA, and THC

CBD and CBDA share many physiologic properties, but also have some important differences. Here are the key points to remember:

  • CBDA is more easily absorbed and utilized by the body when taken by mouth, compared to CBD.
    CBDA and CBD both have anti-inflammatory properties but may act via different mechanisms in the body. For example, unlike CBD, CBDA has been shown to inhibit the COX-2 enzyme, a common target of conventional anti-inflammatory medications.
  • CBDA may be more potent than CBD for some applications based on studies of rodent models of nausea, stress-induced anxiety and seizures. We don’t know if similar results translate to humans yet, but it is possible that CBDA may be more effective than CBD at lower doses.
  • CBDA is unlikely to mitigate the adverse effects of THC, common usage for CBD. While many people appreciate the combined effects of CBD and THC, some find that CBD weakens the therapeutic effects of THC.
  • For more on the differences between CBD and CBDA, read Dr. Sulak’s article published by Greenflower.

While both CBD and THC act upon the ECS, CBD is a much more gentle and forgiving. Many THC users experience a narrow therapeutic window, meaning too low or too high of a dose can either fail to provide a benefit or cause adverse effects, respectively. Conversely, most CBD users are able to use liberal doses without side effects. While CBD can, in many ways, mimic the therapeutic effects of THC, it cannot replace the therapeutic role of THC.

The Benefits of Combining CBD, CBDA, and THC

Some THC users appreciate the medical benefits but don’t like the psychoactive effects, which can include euphoria, increased anxiety, and impairment. Combining CBD with THC typically prevents undesirable psychoactive effects and allows THC users to consume a higher dose with greater overall benefits.

Other THC users appreciate its psychoactive effects, which can augment social, creative, and spiritual activities. CBD will not likely provide these benefits, but can certainly help a person feel centered, focused, and high-performing. For those that appreciate the effects of CBD but don’t want to diminish the power of THC, CBDA is an excellent choice.

Finding your optimal ratio of THC to CBD can be very effective, well-tolerated and non-impairing. Try low and moderate amounts in the ratio of 1:4 THC:CBD (1 mg THC to 4mg CBD or higher ratio of CBD).

Dr. Sulak recommends exploring THC and CBD usage under the guidance of a medical professional.

Which cannabinoid is best for me: CBD or CBDA?

It’s best to start with a trusted, broad-spectrum or full-spectrum hemp CBD that includes naturally occurring terpenes, flavonoids, and other important plant compounds, including CBDA if possible. However, you should start with a CBDA product if:

  • You know you respond better to CBDA than CBD
  • You’ve tried CBD in the past in moderate to high amounts (25-50 mg) and have been unsatisfied with the results
  • You’re using THC and don’t want your hemp product to alter its effects

Is CBD Legal?

The 2018 Farm Bill made huge progress in the legalization of CBD products since it removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act. Individual state laws vary, but hemp can now be legally cultivated on US soil.

CBD derived from hemp that contains less than 0.3% THC is legal in most states and US territories, however, state and local laws vary on the production, sale, and consumption of CBD products. Please be sure to check the legality of CBD products where you live.

Article Citations:

[1] Pellesi, Lanfranco, et al. ” European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 74.11 (2018): 1427-1436.

[2] Anderson, Lyndsey L., et al. Journal of natural products 82.11 (2019): 3047-3055.

[3] Rock, Erin M., et al. Psychopharmacology 235.11 (2018): 3259-3271.

[4] Rock, E. M., et al. British Journal of Pharmacology 169.3 (2013): 685-692.

[5] Rock, Erin M., et al. Psychopharmacology 234.14 (2017): 2207-2217

Watch Dr. Sulak’s Webinar on CBD and CBDA


*These statements have not been approved by the FDA. The medical information in this article is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.




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