With the ever-increasing popularity of CBD, the marketplace is flooded with hype-filled claims and benefits of this natural miracle drug. We can now find CBD-infused lattes at coffee shops, CBD facials at the spa, CBD candy and baked goods, and loads of lotions and potions containing CBD oil. So, what exactly is CBD, and why all the hype? Is it really the miracle drug your anxious coworker and your achy mother-in-law claim it is? Here are some answers to top questions about CBD.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a chemical compound from the cannabis plant  (Cannabis sativa). Hemp and marijuana are both varieties that come from the same species of plant. CBD is typically the second most abundant cannabinoid in cannabis plants, next to tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. A cannabinoid is a compound that interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) via receptor sites. There are 2 receptors in this system: CB1, and CB2. The way cannabinoids affect our bodies depends largely upon the way they interact with these two receptors.

How is CBD Oil Obtained?

There are two main extraction methods for CBD oil. CO2 Extraction involves the use of carbon dioxide, which is subjected to extremely low temperatures and increased pressure. This causes a phase change from a gas to a liquid. When reheated and pressurized, the CO2 becomes “supercritical”, which basically means it has properties of a gas and a liquid. Next, the supercritical fluid passes through a chamber containing the raw cannabis material. As it does so, it gently dissolves the membrane of the plant to release its active compounds. Then the CO2 and cannabis oil particles funnel into a pressurized cyclonic separator, where the CO2 evaporates from the mixture. The cannabis oil, waxes, and resins descend into a collection vessel and are ready for further filtration and purification. Solvent Extraction is a method of soaking raw cannabis material in ethanol to pull compounds into the solvent. Following extraction, the plant material is then removed, and the alcohol is evaporated out.

So Which Extraction Method is Better?

Well, that depends on who you ask. Because CO2 involves the use of high pressures and temperatures, some people contend that it destroys more of the chemical constituents of the plant. Others prefer the CO2 method because solvent extraction destroys the cannabis waxes, which contain beneficial flavonoids and carotenoids. Additionally, there is a limited risk that some of the solvent chemicals remain in the final product.

Is CBD Oil Considered an Essential Oil?

In short, no. An essential oil, by definition, is obtained by steam distillation. Therefore, CBD is not an essential oil. The main reason for this is that the high temperatures required for steam distillation would degrade most of the fragile compounds of CBD. CBD essential oil would have far fewer therapeutic properties than the whole oil.

What About Aroma, Viscosity, and Volatility?

Of course, the characteristics of the CBD oil you use depend on the extraction method, the producer, and any additives that it may contain. In general, as a whole oil, CBD oil is heavier and thicker than an essential oil, but not quite as thick and slick as carrier oils, such as olive, coconut, or almond oil. The oil does have the natural aroma and flavor of the cannabis plant; however, it is not as aromatic as an essential oil and will not evaporate as readily.