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Looking around, it’s hard to believe that only a few years ago hardly anyone was talking about CBD — and most of the people who were talking about it did so in passing, usually as a note in the margins on a much louder discussion about why marijuana should be illegal.

Things have changed since then, obviously.

Now cannabidiol (CBD) is legal, destigmatized, and literally available in everything. Shampoos, brownies, drops, vapes, candies, dog treats…you name it.

And what’s the reason behind the CBD explosion? Is it just another example of runaway consumerism? Crafty marketing? A passing fancy?

If you’re suspecting as much, you may want to take a second look. A quick glance at the recent history of CBD in America can give you a wealth of insight into its “sudden” popularity. As it has with many substances that are being slowly decriminalized, the internet has been a huge help.

By connecting people all over the world and allowing them to share their experiences with CBD, it has allowed the public awareness to grow beyond rumor and boogeyman claims to reveal the many cases where it legitimately helped people.

Some people reported that CBD helped with their anxiety, a claim that’s now backed up by research.

Others found relief for pain or migraines. (The Arthritis Foundation recognizes that “CBD may help with arthritis-related symptoms, such as pain, insomnia and anxiety.”)

And some of the most moving stories involved the amazing affect that CBD has on some epilepsy syndromes in children, allowing them to live normal lives after years of struggling.

In seeing these positive stories, opinions have changed. Not just about CBD, but many of its relatives and neighbors.

As minds open, so do opportunities. People began to realize that CBD was capable of providing numerous benefits with almost no downsides or risks. Naturally, that kind of reputation made it very popular.

It’s legal. It’s awesome. Now where do I start?

Be sure to ask your physician before starting any supplement or therapy, regardless of how safe it is. This is especially true for pregnant women and people who are on medications of any kind, as supplements can have unexpected effects in these situations.

Now, let’s start with CBD oil, since it really is the starting point for many other CBD products. CBD oil is a natural oil that’s extracted from the flowers and leaves of the cannabis or hemp plant. Its cannabis origins are what led to CBD’s initial controversial (and illegal) status.

We call that “guilty by association”, since there are immense differences between marijuana and CBD.

The Differences Between Hemp and Marijuana

Marijuana is high in the psychoactive compound THC. That’s the stuff that gets you high, and the reason why the federal government considers marijuana to be a Class I controlled substance.

Hemp is not marijuana. Although hemp does contain cannabinoids, it has negligible amounts of THC. In fact, in order to be legally cultivated, hemp must contain less than 0.3% THC.

Then why grow it? Hemp is grown as an industrial crop for its fibers, which can be used in everything from building materials to clothing. This type of industrial hemp isn’t a great source of CBD oil, though some lower-quality CBD products are made from it.

What you’re looking for is CBD products made from hemp that’s explicitly cultivated for its cannabidiol content. The best way to ensure you’re getting this is to order from reputable brands.

Different types of CBD Oil

Full-spectrum CBD oil

Extracting oils from hemp generally yields compounds called terpenes along with cannabinoids. Full-spectrum oils retain the natural level of terpenes found in the plant rather than removing them. Since the terpenes have their own benefits, some people choose to keep them around.

Broad Spectrum CBD Oil

Broad spectrum CBD oil also retains the cannabinoids and terpenes but has all trace amounts of THC extracted. If you want to be sure that there is no THC in your CBD products, look for this.

CBD Isolate

Pure CBD is known in the industry as CBD isolate. Purified cannabinoids take the form of colorless and odorless crystals at room temperature. CBD isolate can be consumed directly, used as an additive in other products, or as an ingredient in an edibles recipe. Yum!

CBD-Infused Oil

The term CBD-infused can be used to describe either a product which has been infused with purified CBD isolate or concentrate. Depending on the effects you’re looking for, you’ll want to check the label to see which type of CBD extract was used.

CBD Tinctures and oils

As you can see, there are a variety of products referred to as CBD oil. It’s a pretty broad term that includes all of the above, from raw hemp extract to pure infusions. Some oils even include added ingredients for additional benefits, such as essential oils and vitamins.

While tinctures and oils are easy to use and available in myriad forms, they can be messy if you’re trying to use them in the car, at work, or on the go. Remember, you’ll be dealing with a dropper and a bottle that’s most likely made of glass, so you may not want to take a tincture with you on a rough-and-tumble adventure.

CBD Oil capsules

Not much different than the Fish Oil capsules that dad swore by, except without the aftertaste-for-days effect that few can endure. Meant to be taken orally, CBD capsules are made with gelatin which dissolves in your stomach and delivers the entire serving of CBD oil.

Capsules are a convenient, travel-worthy alternative to oils and tinctures. It should be noted that it’s also much easier to gauge your doses with capsules. Taking your capsules with food will allow more of the CBD to reach your bloodstream, as it won’t be as readily absorbed into the stomach lining.

CBD-Infused Topicals

Skin creams, balms, salves, oils, sticks, rubs…this is where the choices abound! These products may be infused with pure CBD, or they might contain a CBD oil. As mentioned above, the products with the full or broad spectrum oils will contain other beneficial cannabinoids and terpenes.

You can expect many topical CBD products to contain additional ingredients to increase the bang-for-the-buck factor. Skin creams may contain moisturizers and vitamin E, while balms for pain may contain penetrants or warming agents.

Obviously, topicals are the go-to choice for skin care. Since they deliver the CBD directly where you need it, they’re also a good choice for aching joints or muscle pain. Salves and balms take some time to apply and can be a little messy, but most who use them would agree that the relief is worth the trouble.

Some mitigate the mess by using CBD-infused body wash, adding the oil to their favorite castile soap before bathing, or using CBD for massage oil to get easy full-body coverage.

Quality and trust: Choosing the best CBD company

Choosing the type of CBD oil to start with is only the beginning of your CBD journey. You’ll also want to find a maker that you can trust, and who will provide you with quality oils that you can count on.

So what do you look for? Finding the buried treasure in a sea of CBD producers and retailers can seem like a daunting task, but asking the right questions can get you far.

You’ll want to know what processes the company uses to extract their CBD. Are they using chemicals that may taint the purity, or does their processing result in truly pure extracts? King Buddha, a well-known maker with an extensive online store, uses the C02 method of extraction to produce extremely pure CBD.

And when it comes to the quality of their products, you don’t want to go only by what’s on the label. Unfortunately, that information isn’t always correct or reliable. Look for companies that provide CBD lab reports on their products, or some other third-party verification of quality.

Finally, shop around for a respected and trusted name. The CBD community is as large and diverse as CBD itself, so it’s easy to find helpful people who can guide you along your journey. If you’re still unsure, choose a company like the aforementioned King Buddha who offers a satisfaction guarantee.

Enjoy every step of it as you begin to take advantage of all the benefits that CBD has to offer for your mind and body!