How Does CBD Actually Work?

a green sunrise over pittsburgh pa as hope for CBD products medical benefits dawns

Cannabidiol–aka CBD oil–is one of some 110 chemical cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. It is different from the typical effects associated with cannabis, in that it does not get you high and is an entirely separate compound from THC, the chemical which does produce said effect. Until 2018, very little research had been done on CBD to backup claims as to its effectiveness, but as states begin legalizing cannabis in general, and the federal government has legalized hemp–both hemp and cannabis contain CBD–more science is looking to CBD to see what its actual effects are on conditions related to cognition, anxiety, pain and movement disorders.

How Does CBD Affect the Human Body?

Cannabinoids, including CBD, are what is known as G-protein coupled receptors which primarily effect the nervous system and immune cells.[1] Mounting evidence leaning toward CBD’s use of serotonin–a compound in your blood that constricts blood vessels and acts as a neurotransmitter–is what allows CBD to “work.”

Basically, there are two varieties of these cannabinoid receptors in the body: CB1, which is those found in the brain and by which THC attaches to give one an “altered” feeling, and CB2, found in the immune system. When CBD comes across CB2 receptors, it doesn’t attach to them, but instead promotes the body’s natural creation of cannabinoids. Research shows this creates a positive effect on things like inflammation and pain.

One of the ways CBD’s effects take hold is via these cannabinoid receptors, as well as opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord and intestinal tract. It is unclear if CBD actually effects opioid receptors, or if it’s simply a matter of these and cannabinoid receptors tending to share the same neighborhoods of the body. Or in other words, CBD can provide pain relief while being vastly safer than consuming opioids.[2] Thus it has been shown, via exhaustive studies by the National Academies of Science and Medicine, to have real effects on chronic pain.[3]

Due to the way CBD interacts with these receptors, CBD not only lacks any type of psychotomimetic effects (aka, “getting high”) and may actually have the opposite effect, attributing to claims that it helps with anxiety, movement disorders, neuropathic pain, epilepsy and cancers. It should be noted here, however, that research on both cannabis as a whole and CBD in particular continue to warrant more exploration.

CBD Effects on Pain

As noted above, when CBD encounters CB2 receptors in the immune system, it has been shown to alleviate pain and inflammation. This lends CBD oil to provide benefits to those suffering from arthritis. A study on rats showed CBD to prevent osteoarthritis pain and joint neuropathy.[4] Another showed it relieved pain in individuals diagnosed with cancer and multiple sclerosis.[5] Yet another indicated relief for those suffering from fibromyalgia, from actual symptoms to broader quality of life.[6]

CBD Effects on Depression

While not dependent on diseases like arthritis or conditions like anxiety, patients of either are often diagnosed with depression as well. Science points to CBD having a positive antidepressant effect which can help those suffering from depression live a more balanced social life, including improving productivity and health.[7]

CBD Effects on Anxiety

“Current evidence indicates CBD has considerable potential as a treatment for multiple anxiety disorders,” a study published on the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health website states. The study encompasses 49 other studies involving anxiety, fear and stress, as well as specifically anxiety disorders ranging from generalized anxiety disorder to social anxiety disorder, to social phobia, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. The researchers concluded that current evidence does indicate CBD has “considerable potential as a treatment for multiple anxiety disorders,” though noted further study is warranted.[8]

Additional Uses for CBD Oil

Given the early nature of CBD’s legal status, and the ability for researchers to conduct studies on it, many additional aspects of how CBD can help us humans navigate life’s ailments are still being considered.

Preliminary findings indicate that using a CBD inhaler can reduce cravings for cigarettes by up to 40%, even after the inhaler has been used for only a single week.[9] Another piece of ongoing research potentiates CBD’s benefits with withdrawal from not only nicotine, but cocaine, alcohol and opiates as well.[10]

Cannabidoil is being used to treat epilepsy, and studies continue to attempt to determine exactly how CBD affects this condition.

There is also ongoing research regarding the benefits of CBD on acne and cancer. CBD has been shown to reduce pancreatic inflammation in type 1 diabetics.[11]

CBD Dosing

While specific dosing for any given patient is best determined by your doctor specifically (or come into Nutrifarmacy for an initial appointment or follow-up with Dr. Hoeper), there are a few things to know about how CBD is introduced to the body and how that will affect both how you administer it and how much of the CBD is absorbed into the body.

When taking capsules, such as our Lazarus Naturals CBD Capsules, what you’re doing is considered oral consumption. Since these capsules need to pass through, among other things, your digestive system, the amount of cannabidiol absorbed by the body is somewhere between 4% and 20%.

On the other hand, using a product like our Lazarus Naturals CBD Tincture moves you into what’s called sublingual consumption, where the tincture is applied to a gland beneath your tongue, increasing the amount absorbed closer to 12% to 35%.

It is also possible to administer CBD to a more specific region, such as with a CBD balm like our Maggie’s Balm CBD product.

We cover the top 3 CBD products that actually work here.

CBD in the Wild

A recent Harris Poll (March – April, 2019) shows that the primary reason people say they use CBD products is to relax, with 55% of respondents reporting that as a primary reason. Half of respondents state that they use CBD products for anxiety and stress relief, while approximately 45% say they partake of CBD to improve sleep and relieve muscle pain.

More than 30% of those surveyed also indicated that relieving chronic muscle pain and joint pain were primary reasons they used CBD, while between 10% and 20% of users reported taking CBD to treat migraines, offset nauseau or for skincare. Smaller percentages, around 8.5%, turn to CBD oils for menstrual relief or to treat seizures, with the latter being more significant perhaps given the smaller percentage of the population that experiences such a condition.

While cannabis has been used since ancient times as a medicinal tool, modern laws and their slow absolution has left us with many questions that will be answered more clearly over time. In the meanwhile, feel free to visit us at the Nutrifarmacy in Pittsburgh’s North Hills, or contact us here with any questions on the CBD products available for sale on our website.


Brief summaries of findings by various recognized scientific organizations have been included in this article. It is always advisable to read the full reports and consult with your doctor before making any health decisions.

[1] US National Library of Medicine. Clinical and Preclinical Evidence for Functional Interactions of Cannabidiol and Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol
[2] US National Library of Medicine. Emerging Evidence for Cannabis’ Role in Opioid Use Disorder
[3] National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine . The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: the current state of evidence and recommendations for research . National Academies Press : Washington, DC , 2017
[4] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Attenuation of early phase inflammation by cannabidiol prevents pain and nerve damage in rat osteoarthritis.
[4] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain
[6] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Cannabis Use in Patients with Fibromyalgia: Effect on Symptoms Relief and Health-Related Quality of Life
[7] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Antidepressant-like and anxiolytic-like effects of cannabidiol: a chemical compound of Cannabis sativa.
[8] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders
[9] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Cannabidiol reduces cigarette consumption in tobacco smokers: preliminary findings.
[10] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Early Phase in the Development of Cannabidiol as a Treatment for Addiction: Opioid Relapse Takes Initial Center Stage
[11] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Experimental cannabidiol treatment reduces early pancreatic inflammation in type 1 diabetes.

Up Next: Top 3 CBD Products that Actually Work

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *