The ABCs of CBD: Everything You Need to Know

Everything you should know about CBD

Image Credit: By Iana Alter on shutterstock.

Perhaps no other product exploded onto the market in the last two years quite like CBD. There are CBD gummies, CBD tinctures, capsules, cupcakes, bed sheets, shampoos, and so much more. CBD, or cannabidiol, shows promise in scientific studies as a beneficial element for healing. It may be a good addition to your whole-living plan. As the CBD market grows, here are some common terms you should know before choosing the CBD that is right for you.

Is Hemp the Same as Cannabis?

Technically, yes, but probably not in the stereotypical way you think of it. That’s because cannabis has been classified for so long as a controlled substance. Due to the criminalization of this genus of plants many years ago, there is a lot of confusion about cannabis. Cannabis sativa plants are a species of the Cannabaceae flowering plant family. Cannabis sativa gets the label of “marijuana” when it contains more than 0.3% THC by dry weight. This same plant falls under the category of “hemp” when it contains 0.3% THC or less by dry weight. When considering CBD, here are some other words to know:

CBD: A Glossary of Common Terms

Active Ingredient

According to the FDA, an active ingredient in a lotion, a medicine, or any other regulated product is the ingredient that gives benefit. It is the ingredient that makes a medicine or even a sunscreen work. The actual definition from the FDA states “any component of a drug product intended to provide therapeutic and pharmacological activity in direct effect to a diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or to affect the structure of any function of the body of humans.” CBD labels should not list CBD as an “active ingredient” at this point, as CBD products have not yet been approved by the FDA.


Cannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds within cannabis plants. To date, scientists have identified more than 100 cannabinoids, including CBN, CBG, THC, and the popular CBD, which many believe has healing properties.

Carrier Oil

A carrier oil takes an ingredient and “carries” it to the digestive system or to the liver to be metabolized. When CBD is extracted from hemp, it first forms a sticky resin and is then isolated to a white powder. For maximum benefits, CBD needs to be mixed with a carrier oil in order for it to be absorbed by the skin as a topical or into the bloodstream by ingestion. One of the best carrier oils for CBD is coconut oil. Other oils used include olive oil, avocado oil, and palm oil.


CBD is the acronym for cannabidiol, one of more than 100 cannabinoids in cannabis that have been identified by scientists and medical researchers. CBD has been shown in some studies to interact with the natural endocannabinoid system found in humans and other mammals. It is believed that CBD helps restore the body to its healthy state of homeostasis, meaning that there is no inflammation in the body.

Industrial Hemp

Industrial hemp is thought to be one of the first crops ever harvested in the United States. It was used for centuries to create many commercial products, including rope, clothing, textiles, paper, and even shoes. Today, since industrial hemp was declassified as a controlled substance in the 2018 Farm Bill, industrial hemp is being grown also for the cannabinoids that naturally occur in this crop. Cannabis can only be classified as industrial hemp if its dry weight contains less than 0.3% THC.

Endocannabinoid System

In 1998, researchers Allyn Howlett and William Devane discovered that the brains of mammals react and respond to compounds found in cannabis through receptors and that these neurotransmitters are found throughout the brain. In 1992 at the Hewbrew University in Jerusalem, Dr. Lumir Hanus and Devane made further discoveries, and these receptors became known as the Endocannabinoid System, or ECS. The ECS contains the receptors and the enzymes that interact with them.


Flavonoids are plant chemicals found in many fruits, vegetables, and spices. They are the components in plants that give them vivid colors. These phytonutrients (plant nutrients) have strong antioxidant and antiinflammatory properties. They also boost the immune system and are being studied for their possible ability to kill or prevent cancers.

Entourage Effect

Entourage effect means that sometimes chemicals and healing ingredients work better together than they do by themselves. When considering a CBD product, because hemp has more than 100 cannabinoids, some people prefer  a full-spectrum product, meaning that it contains more than one cannabinoid and other ingredients that may be beneficial in combination with CBD. This may give users a multiplied benefit, rather than a singular one.


MCT stands for medium-chain triglyceride, which means the fats in the oil are medium-chain in length. MCTs are easily digested by mammals and have health benefits are experienced by the way bodies process these fats.MCT oils are believed the be brain boosters and a good source of immediate energy, so that the body does not have to store fat. Coconut oil is the most well-known MCT, but there are many others. 


Terpenes give plants their scents. They are compounds found in plant resins that produce strong smells. For example, lemon contains the terpene limonene in its rinds. Linalol is the terpene that gives lavender its soothing scent. Scientists are discovering that terpenes actually have medicinal effects, and consumers who love essential oils are discovering that too. Naturally occurring terpenes found in cannabis and those added to CBD products may give a boost to the healing effects of CBD products.  


THC is the acronym for the chemical compound tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis that gives users a feeling if euphoria or “high.”


A tincture made by soaking a plant in alcohol to extract certain chemicals thought to be medicinal. A CBD tincture is created when cannabis is soaked in alcohol (or extracted by other means), and the resulting extracted cannabinoids are then added to carrier oils. The CBD tincture can then be ingested by placing drops under the tongue.

Natalie Gillespie
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Natalie Gillespie
Natalie Gillespie
Natalie Gillespie is an author, journalist and editor who has published more than 2,000 articles in the last 20 years in magazines and websites such as HomeLife,, and Publishers Weekly. You can reach Natalie with article ideas, personal testimonies, theological thoughts, or just to say “hello” at [email protected]

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