Beginners Guide to CBD

Beginners Guide to Cannabidiol (CBD)

The CBD market may be new, but we already know a lot about this cannabinoid. Here's everything you need to know if you're a beginner in this industry.

Gleb Oleinik Updated on July 12, 2022

You’ve probably heard of CBD oil. This non-intoxicating cannabis product is quickly becoming the leading trend in natural health and wellness.

CBD is changing the conversation surrounding cannabis and its health benefits and applications.

It’s used by millions of people around the world to treat a wide range of common ailments, including anxiety, pain, and insomnia. It can also be taken for certain serious conditions that don’t respond well to standard treatments and other medications.

There’s much to learn about CBD oil benefits, including its effects, legality, and safety. In this beginner’s guide, we’ll answer common CBD questions, such as “how does CBD work”?


CBD stands for cannabidiol, which is a compound found in cannabis. It belongs to a class of natural chemicals called cannabinoids, which are largely responsible for the health effects of the cannabis plant.

Most of us are familiar with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the cannabinoid largely responsible for the intoxicating effects of cannabis. But unlike THC, CBD is non-psychotropic, meaning it can’t get you high.

But CBD and THC are not alone. So far, researchers have identified over 120 cannabinoids in cannabis. Most of them are considered “minor” because they’re present in small concentrations, such as cannabinol (CBN), cannabigerol (CBG), and cannabidivarin (CBV).

These minor cannabinoids also have effects of their own, some of which are similar to CBD, whereas others are unique.

Most people take CBD in the form of CBD oil. This liquid supplement can contain either pure CBD or a CBD-rich hemp extract derived from whole plants dissolved in a plant-based oil such as MCT oil.

However, you can also take CBD in many other product forms, including capsules, soft gels, gummies, vaping products, drinks, and topicals.

What is CBD

How Does CBD Work?

CBD is one of the most active ingredients found in hemp. But, it is not like THC (psychoactive) and does not make you high. Our body consists of an endocannabinoid system that has receptors spread throughout, even your brain.  CBD does not activate these receptors like THC meaning that does not cause psychotic effects on the brain.

CBD primarily works by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which controls a range of physiological, cognitive, and immune processes.

Discovered fairly recently, this essential system has three parts:

  • Endocannabinoids which are naturally made by your body
  • Enzymes that make and break down endocannabinoids
  • Cannabinoid receptors found throughout the body, but especially abundant in the brain (CB1 receptor) and immune system tissues (CB2 receptor)


You can think of these receptors as locks and cannabinoids as the keys that open them, producing different health effects in the process.

What are CB1 and CB2 Receptors?

Cannabinoid receptors are responsible for many different processes in the body such as our appetite, memory, regulation of mood, and even the physical sensations that we feel.

What are CB1 and CB2 receptors

These receptors are most often activated by natural endocannabinoids that are produced in the body and also by the cannabinoids that are found in cannabis and hemp.


The two main types of Cannabinoid receptors are CB1 and CB2.


CB1 is mostly found in our central nervous system, but little traces can also be found in the lungs, liver, and kidneys. CB1 produces and releases neurotransmitters when they are activated by cannabis leading to psychotic effects. CB1 receptors also help maintain the homeostasis of the body and also support the lipogenesis process in the liver.

CB2, on the other hand, is an essential part of our immune system. CB2 is involved in many different functions of the body such as apoptosis and also in immune suppression. It also modulates the pain that we suffer and plays an essential part in many neurodegenerative diseases.

Beginner's Guide to CBD: What is CBD? How does CBD work?
Infographic: Beginner's Guide to CBD - What is CBD? Is CBD Legal? Is CBD Safe?

What are the effects of CBD and how it works?

CBD does not activate the CB1 and CB2 receptors at all (THC does). It activates the adenosine, vanilloid, and, serotonin receptors in the body. CBD activates the TRPV-1 receptor in the body that is responsible for regulating body temperature, the pain perception of a person, and also inflammation in the body (CBD mitigates your inflammation). CBD helps suppress the FAAH enzyme that is responsible for regulating the CB1 receptor in the body that helps in eliminating the psychoactive effects.

When the adenosine receptor is activated, the body’s inflammation decreases. The same receptor is also used to activate the dopamine and glutamate neurotransmitters that are important for the body. The dopamine receptor that CBS activates also helps improve motor control of the body, cognitive function, and also in motivation (which we all could use). Glutamate receptors help in better memory, cognition, and learning too.

According to many studies, CBD helps activate the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor that has anti-depressant effects on the body. CBD also eliminates the CPR55 signaling that helps in the cancer cell proliferation and also decreases the re-absorption of bone to a great extent.

Because the FDA prohibits websites for making medical claims regarding CBD, you can check out the National Library of Medicine to learn more about actual research is done on the effects of CBD. The above reasons show why CBD supports health.

Is CBD safe?

All newbies to CBD ask if it is safe. CBD is considered safe but there hasn’t been enough research to take into consideration what the long-term effects could entail. It has been legalized in the USA and many parts of the world but there haven’t been clinical trials so it’s not completely legal worldwide. Keep in mind, CBDnerds is not a medical site and would encourage you to consult with a physician regarding the use of CBD for medical purposes.

According to Endoca’s guide which can be downloaded, CBD is non-toxic, doesn’t negatively affect gastrointestinal transit, and doesn’t affect physiological parameters like blood pressure, heart rate, or body temperature. High doses up to 1,500mg for humans can be tolerable. We do highly recommend if you purchase CBD to make sure the company you buy from has transparent lab test results on their website as well as dosage instructions. We’ll give you general dosage instructions further down this guide.

How Does CBD Work

Is CBD Legal?

Yes, CBD is legal almost worldwide (a controlled substance in Canada alone). As we’ve seen above, there is a lot of misinformation surrounding CBD, partially because its chemical properties are poorly understood and partially because of its close resemblance to THC.

Marijuana is classified as a Class A drug (primarily for political reasons rather than dangerous ones). Regardless, even the lawmakers recognize that CBD poses no health threats and have legalized it. You can purchase CBD legally in all 50 states and have it shipped to your door.

How Strong Should My CBD Be?

You’ll notice when browsing for the best CBD products like oils and edibles the pricing typically will vary based on how much CBD mg content that item has. The more CBD the product has, the more expensive it will be. But how much should you get and why?

You’ll notice in our brand reviews that we make recommendations for lower CBD content (typically found in oils) if you are new since you may be able to realize the health benefits without the higher-cost products. If you have an ailment that is more serious or you are a veteran of CBD then you may want to dabble with stronger items such as extracts that are in paste form.

You can search through our reviews to see which brands sell these products. Nearly all of the brands sell extracts in oil form. When purchasing the higher concentrated products, you typically pay less $/mg for the CBD so don’t be deterred by the higher prices, especially if you see yourself buying for the long term.

What are the Effects of CBD

What Are The Best CBD Products?

The first thing you want to do when choosing the best CBD products is to first figure out how you want to consume the product. Do you like vaping, using pure CBD oils, or topical creams?

Typically beginners like vape products or oils, especially since you can control dosage more efficiently. You’ll want to identify why exactly you’re taking the compound in the first place. Do you have a muscle injury? In this case, try the topical balms. Do you have anxiety? You may consider the oil extracts as they enter the bloodstream quickly.


There are three types of CBD: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate.

Full-spectrum CBD is a whole-plant extract containing all the cannabinoids and other active compounds found in hemp.

Broad-spectrum CBD is identical to full-spectrum but with except for one major difference — the removal of THC.

Isolate is pure CBD with THC and all other active compounds removed, which looks like an odorless white powder.

Full-spectrum CBD is believed to be the most effective form of CBD because of something scientists call the “entourage effect.”

First proposed by Israeli researchers in 1998, this evidence-based theory suggests that cannabinoids and other compounds in cannabis work together in synergy. Put simply, the entourage effect means that cannabis seems to work best as a whole-plant preparation — with CBD, minor cannabinoids, and other active compounds together.

To illustrate this, think of an orchestra. As a musical ensemble, an orchestra will sound far more impressive and grand than a piano or violin on its own.

Similarly, using all the chemical components of cannabis together can produce greater effects than CBD or any other cannabinoid on its own.

CBD isolate does not benefit from the entourage effect. That’s why it’s considered less effective than full and broad-spectrum extracts, requiring larger doses and which comes with a higher likelihood of producing side effects.

There’s one other major player in the entourage effect that’s missing from CBD isolate: terpenes.


Terpenes are a diverse group of aromatic compounds found in plants. They’re responsible for the unique aromas and scents of various plants, including different strains of cannabis.


More importantly, terpenes contribute to the entourage effect through their unique health properties and synergistic interactions with cannabinoids.


Choosing The Right CBD Brands

There’s a huge influx of CBD brands because of the demand for CBD. High-quality CBD is not easy to come by since most companies look for margins over quality.

This is why CBD Nerds exists, to help you find what brands and products are vouched for and would benefit your needs. You can check out CBD reviews on the top brands here at CBD Nerds. We don’t actually sell CBD here but can point you in the right direction. We are passionate about this industry and want to make it easy for you.

Where to Buy CBD

Here is what we recommend

  • Hemp pulls toxins from the ground so be sure that the brand is growing organically in low pollution environments.
  • Make sure the brand doesn’t use heat extraction methods. Heat destroys nutrients but it’s an inexpensive way to extract CBD so a lot of low-quality manufacturers use this method. If you aren’t sure if your desired brand does this, you can always just email and ask.
  • You’ll want to stay away from CBD isolates. Most promoted CBD comes from Isolates because it’s inexpensive to produce. These can be less effective and even harmful.
  • Always make sure the brand lab tests their products. Make sure their test results are posted. You’ll want to check and make sure there are no heavy metals or contaminants in the oil.
  • As consumers, we look to pay the best price for our products. With CBD you’ll get what you pay for. Do not buy the least expensive brands or products, there is a reason they are cheap! We get it, you don’t have all the money in the world. Check out our CBD brand reviews and see if there are any coupon codes to help save cash. Not to mention, we’ve gone out of our way to list the best cheap CBD oils currently on the market.

Are There Any Side Effects To CBD?

According to Elixinol, CBD has few side effects and is very safe to consume. Known side effects can include feeling drowsy, dry mouth, lightheadedness, and increased tremor in some Parkinson’s patients. Because it’s a non-psychoactive compound it won’t get you high negating the side effects of THC. The health benefits of CBD  being analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and has neuroprotective properties heavily outweigh any side effects.

There are also some potential side effects of CBD reviewed and published here. According to NCBI Cannabinoid can induce some side effects like inhibition of hepatic drug metabolism, alterations of cell viability, decreased fertilization capacity, and more. Studies show today that controlled CBD may be safe in humans and animals.

Gleb Oleinik

Gleb Oleinik is a freelance CBD & cannabis writer from Vancouver, Canada. He’s read thousands of studies about cannabinoids and other beneficial natural compounds, helping him translate complex science into plain language. He’s also written third-party lab test reports of CBD products and knows the industry inside and out. When he’s not writing, Gleb likes to spend his time in the gym and out in nature.