What Is CBD? | A Brief Overview


CBD is something many of you have probably seen in the stores, but what actually is it? Why has it become so popular?

CBD is an active compound in the cannabis plant and has been studied for a range of benefits for your health, wellness, and healing. Until the 2018 Farm Bill was passed, it was federally illegal to cultivate or sell CBD (1).

What is the difference between CBD and THC?

CBD and THC are cannabinoids, two of 80 active ingredients in the cannabis plant. So, besides one making you "high" (aka THC) and one not, how else are they different? CBD has been studied for its anti-seizure, anti-psychotic, and anti-inflammatory effects (3). THC is an appetite stimulant, an anti-nausea supplement, and a compound for calming muscle spasticity and reducing glaucoma symptoms (3). Both are good for sleep, pain, and anxiety relief!

What types of CBD can I buy?

CBD comes in many different formulations. It can be bought to be consumed as flower, vape pen, a tincture (also known as oils), topical (lotion or balm), edible (like chocolate), and even suppositories (4). This gives customers a lot of options to obtain the benefits of CBD, in ways that fit their lifestyle. Tinctures and oils can be mixed into drinks like tea or foods, or they can be placed directly under the tongue for immediate exposure. This type of ingestion starts working within 15-30 minutes, while consuming foods and edibles take up to two hours because it must get digested first before it can enter the system (4). Topicals and suppositories are used for more localized relief such as cream for muscle pain, suppositories for local tissue damage (4), or face serums for fine lines and brightening.

Will CBD show up on a drug test?

Pure CBD should not show up on a drug test (5). Although small, there is still a chance for this to show up on a drug test and here is why. Theoretically, someone would have to consume about 2000mg of CBD with 0.3% THC to get themselves above the 50ng/mL threshold for most urine drug tests tests (5). The average person does not consume this much, but THC can build up over time (5). There are CBD products that may some THC in them, so if you know you will be drug tested it is advisable to avoid formulations that have any amount of THC–namely, broad spectrum and full spectrum products.

For more information, please visit our What Is CBD? or watch this video of Dr. Swathi.



  1. Hudak J. The farm bill, hemp legalization and the status of CBD: An Explainer. Brookings. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2018/12/14/the-farm-bill-hemp-and-cbd-explainer/. Published December 13, 2018. Accessed October 31, 2021.
  2. Kosecki D. Can CBD make you fail a drug test? CNET. https://www.cnet.com/health/nutrition/can-cbd-make-you-fail-a-drug-test/. Published September 13, 2021. Accessed October 31, 2021. 
  3. Rudd J. CBD vs THC – what are the main differences? Analytical Cannabis. https://www.analyticalcannabis.com/articles/cbd-vs-thc-what-are-the-main-differences-297486. Published June 23, 2021. Accessed October 31, 2021. 
  4. What is CBD? the 'miracle' cannabis compound that doesn't get you high. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/may/28/what-is-cbd-cannabidiol-cannabis-medical-uses. Published May 28, 2018. Accessed October 31, 2021. 
  5. Wilcox A. CBD 101: Everything you need to know about CBD. Herb. https://herb.co/learn/cbd-101-everything-you-need-to-know-about-cbd/. Published August 13, 2020. Accessed October 31, 2021.


This article was edited by Dr. Swathi and was written by Element Apothec Scientific Communications Intern, Milica Stojsavljevic. She is a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) student at Concordia University Wisconsin School of Pharmacy in Mequon, Wisconsin.

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