What is Cannabidiol (CBD) + How it works?

What is Cannabidiol (CBD)?

When people ask “what is CBD” they are also asking what’s in this product and how does it work, exactly? The short answer to your question: CBD stands for cannabidiol, a phytonutrient (more specifically, a cannabinoid) from the cannabis plant that’s believed to have calming and inflammation-modulating effects on the body and mind. 

While minor concentrations of it are present in several strains of marijuana (the psychoactive kind you’d smoke or eat to feel ‘high’) our CBD is derived from the hemp plant, the non-psychoactive “cousin” of the marijuana plant according to Harvard Medical School’s blog. More and more clinical studies are pointing to CBD’s ability to quell anxiety and help folks sleep better. One small study completed in 2019 found that, of 72 adults presenting anxiety and sleep issues, nearly 80% noticed improved anxiety symptoms and 67% reported better sleep.  

How CBD works in the body and endocannabinoid system:

Another study, one of the first to study CBD’s effects on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), observed PTSD symptoms in a small group of diagnosed adults. The PTSD patients took oral CBD consistently for eight weeks and reported reduced PTSD symptoms as well as, interestingly, a reduction of frequent nightmares associated with PTSD. Scientists postulated that this is because CBD acts on the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) — a system designed to modulate the central nervous system as well as neurological activity. 

According to a recent report released by the World Health Organization (WHO), CBD “exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential,” in humans. It gets pretty deep, but ECS dysfunction (which CBD and other cannabinoids help alleviate) has even been associated with psychological disorders like schizophrenia. Additionally, the endocannabinoid system is thought to be involved in helping the body adjust its response to stress in the context of gastrointestinal disorders specifically, and has been linked to consciousness, emotions, and, (not surprisingly) our dreams and sleep 

Simply put, cannabinoids like CBD act similar in various ways to the bodies own endogenous cannabinoids (Anandamide and 2-AG). When hemp cannabinoids and endogenous cannabinoids interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors throughout the mind and body, they cause a cascade of cellular transactions that eventually lead to a feeling. CBD leads to a calm, cool, and collected feeling, while other cannabinoids like CBG, CBC, and CBN turn the volume up and down on different states of being like focus, sleep, relaxation, and pain management. The Discovery Flight is one of the best ways to experience the targeted benefits of hemp cannabinoids before purchasing a full bottle. 

The Trinity Flight | Discover which Full Spectrum CBD Oil is Right for You

Vapor distillation vs. hydrocarbon, ethanol, and CO2 extraction:

CBD can be distilled from the plant in many ways — hydrocarbon extraction, ethanol extraction, carbon dioxide extraction, and a newer method, vapor extraction. All Cerena products utilize USDA certified organic hemp that has been vapor distilled, a process that preserves the integrity of the plant and its terpene profile, which is extremely important for a more effective solution. Vapor extraction utilizes flash heat to cleanly and safely extract hemp. The end product is a true full-spectrum oil with an abundance of cannabinoids / terpenes and a process that’s better for you and for the planet.

’Whole hemp extract’ (front of our product labels), because it truly represents the whole plant from which it came. 

    What is the difference between CBD and hemp oil? 

    The main difference between CBD and hemp oil (not to be confused with hemp seed oil - high in omegas 3 and 6 but doesn't contain cannabinoids) is that CBD is a single compound of hemp oil whereas a full spectrum (includes less than 0.3% THC) or broad spectrum (the THC has been removed) hemp oil should contain several cannabinoids, terpenes, and other phytonutrients; ultimately improving its effectiveness. 

    A lot of products on the market are made with isolated CBD (a process that removes all other hemp compounds) and sold as full or broad spectrum hemp oil. Just another reason why it's so important to request and review updated batch reports / certificates of analysis.

    *Isolated CBD, as long as it's extracted / isolated properly, is not inherently bad for you and may suffice for your wellness journey. With that said, nothing in isolation works better than the sum of its parts. 

    I got CBD down. What are these other cannabinoids you keep mentioning? 

    The hemp plant is home to hundreds of phytocannabinoids. While CBD and THC are the most studied, minor cannabinoids CBC, CBG, and CBN (amongst others) are becoming more prevalent due to their own unique and powerful effects. These plus more are all included in our Cerena formulas, as we believe a full-spectrum hemp oil (rather than an isolate) is the best way to receive the plant’s full potential. Below is a deeper dive into some of the growing research that’s available. 

    Cannabinol (CBN)

    CBN is short for cannabinol — while it looks and sounds similar to cannabidiol (just swap the “N” for “DI”) it’s function is slightly different. CBN is most commonly found in older hemp plants, as it is a by-product of THC oxygenation and decomposition. According to Steep Hill, a leading cannabis and hemp testing facility that also frequently advises legislators at a local and national level, CBN is linked to pain and inflammation reduction, and for its free-radical fighting antioxidant quality. In another small study on humans with ADHD, those who took higher doses of CBN self-reported fewer symptoms than those who took THC. Another study conducted in 2003 observed that CBN was associated with a drop in mucus production, suggesting that CBN could be an immunomodulatory key in helping individuals with asthma and other inflammatory airway conditions. 

    Cerena's NOCTURNO formula has a generous 4:1 ratio of CBN which equates to an effective 300mg of CBN per bottle. 

    Cannabigerol (CBG)

    CBG is short for cannabigerol, and though it is another powerful compound in the cannabinoid family, it’s also the precursor to all other cannabinoids. While CBG has not been studied as extensively as CBD, empirical evidence points to its therapeutic potential. While further study is needed, scientists have said it may be more potent than CBD. According to a recent Forbes article, CBG seems to be the up-and-coming cannabinoid, the “new CBD” if you will. CBG is found in the highest concentrations in unprocessed hemp. CBG has also been studied for its anti-inflammatory effects, particularly in the context of neurodegenerative diseases. In a 2018 in-vitro study (taking place in a controlled “test tube” environment and not in a living being), CBG was associated with increased neuroprotection and helped mitigate oxidative stress (stressed out cells). Further study was recommended to explore its use in “pathological conditions where neuroinflammation and oxidative stress play a main role.” 

    Cerena's ALIVIO formula has a generous 2:1 ratio of CBG which equates to an effective 500mg of CBG per bottle. 

    Cannabichromene (CBC)

    CBC is an abbreviation for cannabichromene. Its anti-inflammatory effects have been studied in conjunction with THC (the psychoactive compound found in the hemp plant less than 0.3% that elicits a “high”), but, interestingly, on a cellular level, it works in a different way. In one study on mice, CBC has “ameliorated” colitis, showing promise for treatment in irritable bowel diseases. It may be helpful in skincare, fighting acne due to its antibacterial qualities. In breast cancer studies it’s been linked to “anti-proliferative” effects on tumor growth, which essentially means that it prevents tumor growth from continuing. 

    All of Cerena's hemp formulas are naturally abundant with 1-5% CBC.

    These are just some of the studies on CBD and other cannabinoids, but the body of research continues to grow almost daily. We’ll do our best to keep you updated on new and groundbreaking studies. This is all to say that we think plants are nature’s healers, and they can play an important role in helping us all feel better. 


    In Spanish, "El Sereno" is a term that describes the palpable feeling in the air as the late afternoon transitions into early evening, when the heat of the day gently cools and an evening dew starts to form.