For centuries, stalks from the hemp plant have been used around the world as a strong and sustainable fiber to create paper, rope, and clothing. The hemp seed oil has been consumed as food, as well as applied topically as skincare for at least as long.
But it’s only recently that CBD oil has been extracted from other parts of the hemp plant — mostly the flowers and leaves — for use as a wellness supplement.
So, what exactly is CBD oil? How is it different from the THC in marijuana? And is it safe to take as a supplement? Let’s find out.
In this article
- What is CBD Oil?
- Getting the Max Benefit from CBD Oil
- Can CBD Get You High?
- Is CBD Safe?
- Why I Use Charlotte’s Web
- The Bottom Line
What is CBD Oil?
You’ll often see CBD oil labeled as “derived from hemp”, which is meant to distinguish it from CBD oil that may be (but typically isn’t) derived from marijuana.
Hemp and marijuana plants both contain a family of beneficial compounds called cannabinoids. CBD is just one of the cannabinoids found in hemp (and marijuana) plants. CBD’s popular cousin, THC, is another. But while CBD and THC are the most well-known and well-studied, researchers have actually found more than 80 cannabinoids in cannabis plants.
As it turns out, they’re all good for us!
Getting the max benefit from CBD Oil
When only the CBD oil is extracted from the hemp plant, we reap its benefits. But we are leaving behind all those other valuable cannabinoids, including THC.
So when all the cannabinoids are extracted from the hemp plant, we benefit even more. And by the way, it’s not just the cannabinoids. There’s another amazing family of compounds in the hemp plant, called ‘terpenes’.
The entire family of cannabinoids (including the CBD and THC) plus these terpenes all work together synergistically to boost the beneficial effects on our body and mind.
It’s called the ‘entourage effect’ and it’s the reason you’re starting to see more CBD brands highlighting the fact that their CBD is actually a full-spectrum hemp extract (with CBD), rather than just “CBD oil” alone.
Charlotte's Web CO2 Extracted Hemp Oil with CBD
CBD Oil vs. Hemp Seed Oil and Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil
This is a good time to point out that full-spectrum hemp oil is not the same as hemp seed oil… though it’s certainly easy to confuse the two. You may have also seen some marketed as “broad-spectrum hemp oil”.
Here’s the difference.
- Hemp seed oil comes from (and only from) the seeds of the hemp plant. Hemp seed oil is a healthy and tasty superfood… but it does not contain any CBD.
- Full-spectrum hemp oil is extracted from the flowers and leaves** of the hemp plant, but not its seeds. That’s because the seeds contain only trace amounts of CBD, if any at all. As mentioned, full-spectrum hemp extract (as it’s also called) contains all the beneficial cannabinoids and terpenes, including CBD and THC.
- Broad-spectrum hemp oil starts off as a full-spectrum hemp extract, except the THC is removed before it’s packaged for sale.
** CBD and other cannabinoids are also found in the stems and stalks, however, the vast majority are found in the flowers and leaves.
Can CBD Get You High?
Ok, so earlier we said that CBD and THC are both found in hemp AND marijuana plants. Does this mean you can get high by smoking hemp or by taking CBD?
The short answer is no. But I would be remiss if I didn’t point out one little exception.
First, you should know that the only compound in either the hemp or marijuana plant that can get you high is THC. The other cannabinoids, including CBD, are not ‘psychotropic’ meaning they will not get you high.
And as I mentioned, earlier, hemp and pot plants are both a part of the cannabis family. In fact, there are only two main strains of the plant — cannabis sativa and cannabis indica. It’s the cross-breeding of these two strains that determine whether the plant ends up as hemp or marijuana.
If the plant is bred to contain more than 0.3% concentration of THC, then it is considered a marijuana plant. If it is bred to have less than 0.3% THC, then it is considered a hemp plant. In the end, both hemp and marijuana plants can (and often do) contain both CBD and THC… it’s just a matter of the ratio.
Also, CBD is known to counteract the psychotropic effects of THC. That means, if you smoke (or consume) marijuana that happens to have a high CBD content relative to the THC that’s also in the pot, then you’ll need to smoke (or consume) more of it in order to get what you might call… ‘really baked’.
If there isn’t much CBD in the pot, then it won’t take as much to get you high, because there won’t be enough CBD to fully counteract the effects of the THC.
CBD Won’t Get You High Unless…
But here’s the thing. While CBD oil alone will never get you high (and neither will a broad-spectrum extract, since the THC is removed), a full-spectrum hemp extract (with CBD) — under a particular circumstance — might.
Here’s how that can happen:
- You’re taking a full-spectrum hemp oil**… meaning that it also contains THC.
- AND it’s a low-dose CBD product… with a THC content that is at or near the legal 0.3% limit.
- AND you take more than the recommended serving. A lot more.
Most websites will tell you that CBD oil will never get you high. Again, if it’s just the CBD oil with no THC, that’s true. But under these circumstances, a full-spectrum hemp extract that contains both CBD and THC might.
How do I know this? Oh honey, let me tell you…
My personal experience
I read a (hilarious) review from a woman who tried to get high from a full-spectrum hemp extract and it worked. She was taking CBD gummies that were tested to have less than 0.3% THC… but were also very low in CBD. You’re only supposed to take 2 a day. She didn’t do that.
Of course, I couldn’t just take her word for it.
I don’t enjoy being stoned but I needed to know first-hand if it was true, so I tried it myself. As I said, the serving size is 2 gummies. And that’s what I had been diligently taking until that point. But one night I took six to see what would happen.
It takes a while for the gummies to be absorbed and assimilated through the digestive tract, so nothing happened for a while. Then out of absolutely nowhere — about two hours later (maybe less) — wham!! It hit me like a brick wall.
Now, I haven’t smoked pot in ages, so to be fair, my body and mind weren’t used to a little extra THC… at all. That in mind, I imagine the effect wouldn’t have been nearly as noticeable for someone who partakes regularly. As for me, I was so completely stoned that it took another 3 hours before I could crawl off the couch and into my bed.
Please don’t try this yourself — it was miserable. But at least my curiosity was satiated. Sort of.
What if there’s a lot of CBD relative to the THC?
About a week later, I took a triple serving of the higher-dose (60mg) CBD tinctures just to compare. Absolutely nothing happened, so I tried it another few times to be sure and, each time, all I felt was a solid night’s rest. No high whatsoever.
So while this was hardly a controlled scientific study, I can (anecdotally) confirm that it is unlikely for a hemp extract with a high amount of CBD to get you stoned, since the CBD will counteract the psychotropic effects of the THC.
But if there isn’t very much CBD in the extract and you really overdo it (like, REALLY overdo it)… you might get high.
Charlotte's Web Gummies (Full-Extract Hemp Oil with CBD)
Is CBD Safe?
High-quality CBD is safe**. But high-quality is the keyword here and testing it for purity is critical.
** THC is also safe. And it’s beneficial for both our body and mind… when you don’t overdo it, as I did.
High-quality means that the hemp is grown without pesticides or other farming chemicals that can make their way into the final product. The hemp oil is cleanly extracted (I prefer CO2 extraction) without any synthetic additives. The product also needs to be tested for purity and consistency.
A lot of CBD companies do test their hemp extracts to make sure that every batch has less than the 0.3% concentration of THC, which (again) legally defines it as a “hemp” plant. The tests also look for additives and contaminants, which is important.
However, while the tests are commonly done, it is not mandatory (as of this writing) for CBD companies to post the test results on their website for consumers to see. That’s unfortunate and I would urge you not to buy CBD from a company that isn’t confident enough to post their test results!
- Independent testing has revealed that many CBD products are contaminated with pesticides and heavy metals. (source)
- Some have been found to contain synthetic (fake) CBD, sending several folks to the emergency room. (source)
- Others have less CBD than the packaging promises, which means you’re not getting what you pay for. (source)
- And others still were shown to have much more than the legally permitted 0.3% THC. Again, that’s not a big deal if you enjoy getting stoned. But if you’re giving that CBD to your kids or your dog — or you don’t like being stoned — then yeah, it’s a big deal. (source)
They have to test every single batch
All that to say, it is incredibly important for CBD makers to test their products — and not just once in a while. They need to test every single batch and they need to post every test result online, so consumers can look up their batch to make sure they’re getting the safest and healthiest product possible.
I think of it this way: Under what circumstances would a CBD brand NOT make their test results available? Perhaps they’re not mindful of where they source their hemp. Or they’re using synthetic additives to lower their cost. Or they’re worried their extract doesn’t have the promised level of CBD.
Personally, I don’t care why they don’t post the results, because I won’t buy from them. I’ll only buy from brands that are careful in their sourcing and manufacturing, and confident enough in their final product to be fully transparent from seed to bottle.
There are likely several brands that fit all the criteria that I look for in a hemp extract — including posting their final test results. But so far, I’ve only found one that truly fits the bill.
Why I Use Charlotte’s Web
As you can see from the products I’ve scattered throughout this article, I’m a big fan of Charlotte’s Web and their hemp extracts. The reason is simple.
These guys are pioneers in CBD. They’ve been growing their own hemp to organic standards since before ‘CBD’ was a buzzword. To meet their growing demand, they also source additional hemp — all cultivated to their strict standards — from farms in Colorado, Oregon, and Kentucky.
And since the beginning, the team has been keenly focused on ensuring they bring only the safest and highest quality product to market. Charlotte’s Web and their farming partners all practice sustainable farming methods that improve the health of the soil and their plants. And they even fully remediated the soil on their own farms early on to make sure they were clear of heavy metals and other contaminants before they planted their hemp. I haven’t read of any other brand that’s done that. (Please let me know if you have!)
Also, Charlotte’s Web tests the hell outta their products at every single stage of production… for every single batch. And they post every result online, so you can type in your batch number (found on the package and the packing label) to see the results for your exact purchase.
This kind of quality + transparency is key to earning my trust.
Charlotte's Web CO2 Extracted Hemp Oil with CBD
The Bottom Line
Overall, I am thrilled that hemp and CBD have become legal in the US and in many countries around the world. However, today’s lack of regulation and oversight means that we, as consumers, have to be extra careful to ensure the hemp products we consume are free of contaminants, synthetic CBD, and harmful additives.
For the safest and highest quality CBD, be sure to buy from a reputable brand that grows (and/or sources) hemp that is free from pesticides and other harmful contaminants. Also, make sure you can see the test results for yourself, so you know exactly what’s in the bottle.
To learn more about CBD and how it works in our body, read this Ultimate Guide for Buying and Using CBD.