One of the few undeniable trends to come out of 2020 is that CBD is here to stay. The small molecule, which only a short time ago was practically unknown outside of specialist circles, has earned its place in the consciousness of consumers and it’s not going anywhere.
Whether it’s at the kiosk on the corner, on shelves at the drugstore or in online retail stores — in countries like Germany and the UK, it seems like CBD is available just about everywhere. Yet despite its steadily growing popularity, unfortunately many persistent fallacies about CBD continue to make the rounds.
MISCONCEPTION #1: CBD ISN'T PSYCHOACTIVE
One of the most common misconceptions about CBD is that it’s not a psychoactive substance, or as experts like to call it, a psychotropic drug. That’s based on a misunderstanding of the definition of “psychoactivity,” which actually means that it affects mental processes such as cognition. Yet what people usually mean when they say CBD isn’t psychoactive is that CBD won’t get you high whereas THC does — which is true. Many CBD brands market their products as “non-psychoactive” in order to distinguish CBD as much as possible from THC, which can both be found in the hemp plant. Both substances are indeed psychoactive in that they affect your cognition, albeit in very different ways.
But that doesn't mean you need to be alarmed. You likely ingest several psychoactive substances every day without even realizing it. Your morning coffee (or rather, its caffeine content) is one of the world’s most popular drinks and it also affects people’s mental state by making them feel awake and focused. Even cocoa beans contain psychotropic ingredients that can induce a feeling of happiness by causing the brain to release serotonin. There is evidence that, like cocoa, CBD may potentially affect serotonin receptors and thereby help regulate stress and bad moods.
MISCONCEPTION #2: CBD HAS NO SIDE EFFECTS
Another widespread rumor is that CBD is harmless — and the often unscrupulous marketing of CBD products does little to nothing to stop misinformation from spreading. Although the World Health Organization concluded that CBD has a “good safety profile,” even healthy substances like Vitamin C and water can harm the body when taken in excess. While side effects aren’t common with CBD, they can still occur and people might experience sleepiness (which might be the goal in some cases), insomnia, low blood pressure, dizziness, dry mouth, loss of appetite, diarrhea, increased eye pressure and, in rare cases, allergic reactions.
In general, relatively little is known about CBD’s interaction with other substances and medications.
A gentle reminder here: If you take medication regularly, you should speak to your doctor before giving CBD a try because you never know what else might be at play. For example, CBD acts on at least seven liver enzymes so, as a result, other drugs’ metabolization processes could be influenced if CBD is already present in the system, thus hindering or even strengthening the medication’s effects.
You can read more about this phenomenon in our article on side effects and interactions.
But again, if you are on regular medication or you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, or you’re unsure about CBD for any reason, it is imperative that you speak to your doctor beforehand.
You should also steer clear of retailers who want to tell you that CBD is always 100% safe for reasons like it’s “plant-derived.” Even though CBD is harmless in many cases, sweeping promises should always make you skeptical because they are (at best) questionable and (at worst) even dangerous.
MISCONCEPTION #3: ALL FORMS OF CBD WORK IN THE SAME WAY
If you’ve already looked into the topic of CBD, surely you’ve noticed that there’s a wide variety of different products out there. From oils and sprays, to capsules, creams and bath products — there’s almost nothing out there that hasn’t already been infused with CBD.
One can easily fall into the trap of thinking that a cream and spray work the same because they both have CBD. But not all CBD is the same nor does the body react to all CBD products in the same way. The type of extract in the product (full- or broad-spectrum CBD vs. CBD isolate), the method by which it's administered (inhaled through the lungs, ingested through the mouth, applied to the skin), the other ingredients in the product, the dose amount and frequency, everything else in your diet and routine — all of these factors contribute to CBD’s effects on your body.
There are also a handful of different technologies, such as the encapsulation of CBD in liposomes or the inclusion of CBD in micelles, that can improve the proportion of CBD that the body processes, otherwise referred to as the “bioavailability.” It is therefore important that you understand what type of product you are dealing with, how to take it correctly and, above all, what to expect from it... and what not to expect from it.
That’s a lot to process, right? Yeah, that’s why we’ve already done the work for you and put together a little guide for you on the effects of CBD.
MISCONCEPTION #4: THERE IS NO SCIENTIFIC PROOF OF CBD’S MEDICAL BENEFITS
Many people still believe that CBD is a bogus snake oil and that there’s no evidence of its medicinal benefits. However, this is wrong. The medication Epidiolex is made from plant-derived CBD and is approved for use in the U.S., U.K. and E.U. to treat severe forms of intractable epilepsy in children, such as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.
While it’s true that many people claim to CBD for purposes that have not yet been fully scientifically researched or confirmed, there are studies that explore the benefits of CBD for other medical applications, suggesting that CBD could have a wide range of uses.
Of course, it is extremely important to approach the topic of CBD with expertise and a healthy amount of skepticism. Outrageous claims are often made (especially on the Internet) about the benefits of CBD, which cannot be confirmed either by studies nor by verified reports from real people who’ve tried CBD.
MISCONCEPTION #5: CBD IS LIKE THC, BUT WITHOUT THE HIGH
Anyway you try to spin this sentence is just plain wrong. Not only do CBD and THC affect the endocannabinoid system in different ways, but the differences go beyond the direct role each cannabinoid plays in the endocannabinoid system.
Interestingly, despite their underlying differences, THC and CBD are used by many people for similar reasons: to improve well-being. And there are indeed indications from research that both molecules — both together and individually — could still play a role in better quality of life.
That said, if you’re expecting the effects to be immediately noticeable like they are with THC, you’re in for a disappointment. Typically, the effects of CBD are far more subtle than THC. You might not feel any sudden change in your perception and perhaps only in retrospect will you realise that you’re more relaxed than usual, for example.
MISCONCEPTION #6: CBD IS A MIRACLE CURE AND HEALS EVERYTHING
This is, of course, complete madness!
Even if CBD is often referred to as some magic bullet, it’s not. While scientists continue to investigate the many possible effects of CBD on stress, sleep and our health in general, no one should rush ahead and claim that CBD cures or eliminates any given disease or symptom.
Although people might have many possible uses for CBD products and many have already experienced good things with CBD, it’s definitely not a cure-all and cannot be used to treat most conditions at this point given in the current scientific literature. Even if a select number of studies have indicated that CBD might have a positive effect on a group of people, that doesn't mean it will work the same way for you or for the next person.
In short, claims like this cannot be confirmed, even if it seems tempting to give into them. So if you come across them in, for example, advertisements from other CBD manufactures, beware! Not only are these statements misleading, but they’re also prohibited by regulatory boards.
MISCONCEPTION #7: YOU CAN FEEL CBD’S EFFECTS RIGHT AFTER YOU TAKE IT
If you’ve tried CBD before, this might sound familiar: You take the recommended amount and then you wait for something to happen.
Many people are let down by CBD, especially the first time, because there’s no “bang.” So one might wonder if there’s really something to this stuff anyway. And if things turn south, it might be the first and last time you try CBD too. But maybe that's a bit premature.
For one thing, it can take some time before the effects of CBD (as subtle as they may seem) to kick in. Depending on the administration form (inhale vs. ingest), it can take anywhere from 15 to 90 minutes to start working. Though that doesn't mean you’ll feel it each time either.
For some people, it takes several weeks of CBD for them to even notice the effects. And that, too, is completely normal. On the other hand, that could be because first-timers, in particular, might have false expectations of how CBD feels.
In this respect, CBD differs from THC and alcohol, which have clearly noticeable effects after just a few minutes. With CBD, everything is much more subtle and it might be less about what you feel and more about what you don't feel. Maybe an hour ago you were super stressed ... and now after CBD maybe you feel somehow different. Or your feet were aching after a long day at work and after a little CBD maybe now they feel a little bit lighter.
So when you take CBD for the first time, give your body some time to get used to the unfamiliar substance, be patient and, above all, don’t get your (false) hopes up.
MISCONCEPTION #8: CBD IS JUST A MARKETING HYPE
Like it or not, CBD has become an integral part of the wellness industry and unfortunately there are many out there who are primarily interested in profiting off of it. That’s often why CBD is (unnecessarily) added to all kinds of products and then promoted at full force. This creates some very questionable products, like CBD-infused toilet paper and even a CBD mattress. Even so, such examples should not be taken as an indication that CBD is useless.
While the true potential of CBD is far from being fully explored and lawmakers sometimes don't really know what to do with it, one one thing is clear (at least from our point of view): CBD is much more than just a trend and it’ll be here for a long time. Millions of people already use CBD every day, for example, when they’re stressed, after exercising or when their skin needs care. The internet is full of testimonials about how CBD has changed lives for the better, which means it won’t fade like a trend either.
MISCONCEPTION #9: MORE CBD IS BETTER
If a little bit of CBD helps a little, then a lot of CBD helps a lot, right? What might seem like halfway decent logic at first glance turns out to be wrong on more than one level. First off, there is evidence that the effect of CBD is biphasic, which means that a low amount of CBD might produce entirely different effects than a higher amount would.
Here are a few more reasons why more CBD is not necessarily better:
- In its pure form, CBD has been shown in experiments to demonstrate a maximum effective amount. With lower and higher amounts, the effects are diminished.
- CBD isolate and other products with high CBD content might have a different effect than full- or broad-spectrum products, which contain less CBD, but also contain terpenes, flavonoids and other cannabinoids.
- How you take CBD affects how much of it (and where) your body actually processes. For example, if you keep CBD oil in your mouth for about a minute, your body will absorb it through the lining of your mouth called the oral mucosa. However, if you swallow CBD oil right away, most of it will pass through your digestive tract like a CBD edible, not through your oral mucosa, leading to different and possible lessened effects.
It is important that you don’t blindly follow dosage recommendations from others and that you instead find the amount at which you feel most comfortable. We explain how in this article on CBD dosage and use.
MISCONCEPTION #10: YOU WON’T "FAIL" A DRUG TEST IF YOU TAKE CBD
The idea that CBD is drug-test-friendly is more of a half-truth than a total mistake, and it can be a little confusing. Pure CBD molecules like CBD isolate don’t tend to show up in a drug test, which is, in part, due to the fact that most analyses don’t test for CBD specifically. It gets a little trickier with full-spectrum CBD products because they also contain other components of the cannabis plant, including small trace amounts of THC. Although the maximum THC content in CBD products is technically limited to negligible quantities (albeit according to different thresholds in different countries), there are always manufacturers who don’t take these restrictions seriously. And since cannabinoids tend to remain in your system for months at a time, those who use full-spectrum products often and regularly over a long period of time could indeed have enough remnant THC in their body to “fail” a drug test.
This is what happened to the American triathlete Lauren Goss in 2019. In preparation for a big competition, she used a CBD muscle cream regularly for several weeks. When she then tested positive for THC in a routine drug test, the cream was looked at more closely. It turned out that the manufacturer had incorrectly stated the amount of THC on the label, and that the cream actually contained far more THC than permitted by law. While it wasn't enough to get Goss “high,” it was enough to affect her drug test result and get her banned from competing for 6 months. It’s unclear whether or not her sports career will ever recover.
What does that mean for you? If your career depends on a clean drug test, stay away from full-spectrum CBD products as a precaution. You might instead opt for CBD isolate or so-called broad-spectrum CBD products that have had all THC stripped from them.