What is CBD? And is it a Nootropic?

CBD has been touted as a cure-all by many people, with anecdotal evidence claiming that it is effective at helping to reduce symptoms associated with anxiety, depression, pain and inflammation to helping with digestive issues, increasing energy levels and more.

Although it’s very exciting to imagine that it could have such a long list of health benefits the biggest questions that we want to answer today are what is CBD? Does it have any side effects? And does it have nootropic qualities?

What is CBD?

CBD is a non-psychoactive compound found in marijuana and hemp plants. CBD, which stands for cannabidiol, starts out as the cannabinoid acid known as CBDA. After undergoing the process known as decarboxylation (exposed to heat), CBDA is converted into the phytocannabinoid known as CBD. Originally discovered by Raphael Mechoulam and his team, the endocannabinoid system is what allows cannabinoids and phytocannabinoid to have an effect on the human body.

The endocannabinoid system is made up primarily of two main types of receptors; CB1 and CB2.

According to Fundacion Canna, CB1 receptors are primarily found in the central nervous system, in areas related to cognitive functions, memory, anxiety, pain, sensory perception, visceral perception, motor coordination, and areas associated with some endocrine functions. They can also be found in some areas of the peripheral nervous system which include the testicles, heart, small intestine, prostate, uterus, bone marrow, vascular endothelium.

CB2 receptors are predominantly found in immune system-related structures. It is believed by many researchers that CBD and cannabinoids in general function with our endocannabinoid system through a lock and key system. The CB1 and CB2 receptors act as locks while the cannabinoids along with phytocannabinoids (such as CBD) serve as the keys to unlock them.

Benefits and Effects of CBD

Early research suggests that CBD offers a number of health benefits.

CBD may be beneficial when it comes to treating pain and inflammation. It’s frequently used for post-exercise muscle recovery. It can help to significantly reduce the frequency of seizures experienced with epilepsy.

Many of the other benefits of CBD are related to cognitive performance, making CBD a promising nootropic compound. CBD helps to improve cognitive function by helping to reduce symptoms associated with health ailments such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, and more.

CBD may also have neuroprotective properties. This essentially means that it helps to protect brain cells from damage and degeneration. Some people believe that CBD may even have a positive effect on serotonin production.

How to take CBD?

CBD can be taken in many different ways. Not all methods of CBD consumption or use are equal because they all have different levels of bioavailability. This essentially means that each form of CBD has a different level of absorption in your body.


Taking CBD oils and tinctures sublingually is one of the most popular ways of consuming CBD products at the moment. Sublingually means that you place the oil under your tongue and hold it there for about a minute or so. After a minute, you swallow the oil. Taking CBD this way has been shown to have much higher levels of absorption than capsules and edibles when done correctly. The absorption rate is believed to be between 15%-30%.

Capsules & Edibles

Although a very easy and in some cases delicious way of consuming CBD products the absorption of CBD products in this form is still up for debate. Some people believe that the absorption rate could be as low as 6%-15% but there are many people that see really great results from using CBD capsules and CBD edibles to help them achieve their health goals.


Topicals are a fun and easy way of incorporating CBD into your routine. They are often marketed towards pain and are used mostly for that reason. There are more and more CBD companies that are creating CBD cosmetics that are focused on helping to improve the health and appearance of the skin. Topicals include a wide variety of products such as bath bombs, lotions, salves, face serums, and more. Because of this wide variety, it’s very hard to say the specific level of absorption. Absorption rates can be as high as 45%, but it’s hard to know what the lower end of the range is.

Vape Pens

Vaping CBD has been shown to have the highest levels of absorption. Many people suspect that there may be side effects to vaping, but with time, more information will come forward.

CBD Types

There are three different types of CBD products that are typically available on the market. They are known as full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate.

  1. A full-spectrum CBD product contains CBD along with other cannabinoids, phytocannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, 0.3% THC along with a base oil such as hemp oil, MCT oil or grapeseed oil.
  2. A broad-spectrum CBD product contains all of these things but with little to no THC at all.
  3. An isolate product only contains CBD and no THC whatsoever.

Although most drug tests won’t detect the trace amounts of THC in a CBD product, it’s still possible for some tests to detect it. CBD Isolates are the best choice for someone that undergoes regular drug testing because there is no THC in the product.

Stacking CBD with other Nootropics

Combining CBD with ingredients such as caffeine may act in a similar way to a very popular nootropic combination L-theanine and Caffeine. Although combining CBD with caffeine will have a different mechanism of action in the body, combining CBD with caffeine can make you feel more alert without having to experience the jitters.

Some companies have also chosen to combine CBD with L-theanine to help treat symptoms associated with anxiety. The theory is that CBD will work hand-in-hand with your endocannabinoid system, while L-theanine will help your brain to produce more GABA.

CBD also helps the body to achieve what is known as homeostasis. Homeostasis is a state of balance both physically and mentally.

Is CBD Safe?

Although there have yet to be any reports of overdosing, taking far too much CBD can cause you to feel drowsy, nauseous, or give you the runs.

CBD may help to lower your blood pressure levels which for most people is a good thing, but if you already have low blood pressure, you may need to be more careful when using CBD products.

CBD may also affect the way that you metabolize medications, so it’s important to talk to a physician before using it.

Safe CBD Products

One thing that can be very challenging is finding a trustworthy and reliable source for CBD products. Listed below are some CBD products that meet both those qualifications.

  1. CBD Oil Orange 1000 mg by Koi Naturals (full-spectrum CBD oil with a great flavor)
  2. Berry CBD Chill Shot 20 mg by CBDfx (full-spectrum CBD drink with L-theanine)
  3. CBD Coffee 500 mg by Green Roads (ground coffee infused with CBD)

If you’re trying to decide what company to purchase your CBD from, we highly recommend ShopCBD.com. They curate only the highest quality CBD products on the market.

Photo credit: Julia Teichmann via PixaBay

Planning to start a new supplementation regimen? See our medical disclaimer.