What is CBD?

Welcome to our CBD article! As pioneers in the CBD market since 2014, we are delighted to share some of our knowledge with you today.

Recently, CBD has become a trendy wellness ingredient. Cafes sell CBD lattes, cosmetic brands make CBD creams, and most stores are considering stocking CBD products. So naturally, more and more people want to try CBD products, from your anxious aunt to your busy work colleague. But deep down, lots of you are asking yourself dozens of questions. What is CBD? What are the actual benefits of CBD? Can it get you “high”? Is it detected during a drug test?

Even though millions of people are experimenting with CBD products, many users are still a little lost. Although CBD is a legal, natural component, it is extracted from hemp, and there are lots of stigmas surrounding this plant. So how do you make sure your CBD product is safe? How do you take CBD? Here's everything you need to know about the ingredient everyone's talking about.


CBD is the abbreviation of Cannabidiol, a compound belonging to the family of cannabinoids naturally present in the hemp plant. It can be extracted and used in various products, such as CBD cosmetics, oils, or vapes [1]. 


No, CBD does not get you high. There are two main cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant, CBD and THC. While THC is highly psychoactive and can create an elated and euphoric state, CBD doesn’t cause these effects. On the contrary, it can have an anti-psychotic effect [2]. CBD is not classified as a narcotic. And the World Health Organization (WHO) declared in 2018 that CBD is safe and non-addictive [3]


The benefits of CBD are numerous and have been studied since the ‘80s. Recently, the number of registered trials has risen exponentially, making CBD one of the most studied cannabinoids. Scientific studies indicate a positive effect on well-being or medical uses including anti-inflammatory, anti-psychotic, anti-epileptic, helping with sleep disorders, fibromyalgia, and many more. The potential of CBD is vast and depends heavily on the dosage applied [4]. For this reason, we must make a distinction between wellness use and medical use.

For medical use, dosages are usually hundreds of grams or even multiple grams of CBD per day. In order to make medical claims, clinical trials costing millions of Euros have to be carried out. Such trials are the only way to ensure and prove effectiveness against diseases such as epilepsy. This type of research is done by pharmaceutical companies that eventually manufacture CBD prescription drugs that are sold in pharmacies. This approach is very useful but limits the accessibility of these products. 

For wellness use, the FSA recommends not exceeding a dose of 70mg of CBD per day [5]. Harmony products fall into this category and do not claim any healing or medicinal properties. A lot of people report that low doses of CBD, typically under 50mg per day, have a positive effect on their general health and wellbeing. Among the perceived benefits are reduced anxiety, better sleep, and lower levels of stress. These are some of society’s biggest problems, and they’re problems that are generally lacking adequate treatment options. CBD-containing topicals are also often used to improve skin appearance and help with muscle soreness [6]


Your body has a so-called endocannabinoid system. It comprises receptors, enzymes and endocannabinoids that the body produces naturally. While it’s still under investigation, it is safe to say that the ECS plays a crucial role in our bodily processes, such as sleep, appetite, mood and immune function. In short, it contributes to homeostasis, which allows our body to function as it should. 

Cannabinoid receptors are located in the central nervous system (receptor CB1) and the peripheral nervous system, digestive system and specialised cells in the immune system (receptor CB2). Once an imbalance is detected, the body's endocannabinoids should interact with these receptors to trigger a response. Unfortunately, this process doesn’t always work perfectly. 

THC can also interact with the CB1 and CB2 receptors, binding to them and causing the “high”. On the other hand, CBD does not bind to these receptors and instead interacts with our endocannabinoids and inhibits CB1 activity. Based on our current understanding, this explains some of the beneficial effects of CBD; research in this area is still ongoing [7].


There are several ways to take CBD, for example orally, by applying it to the skin, or by vaping. What is best for you mainly depends on your personal preferences and the benefits you want to obtain.

CBD oils and edibles like CBD gummies or CBD capsules allow for oral absorption of CBD. These products are by far the most popular ones. You can easily control how much CBD you are using by counting drops, gummies or capsules [6]. Vaping CBD is a good method if you are already smoking or vaping. It will take effect more quickly and at lower quantities because this method offers a higher bioavailability than others [8]. CBD skincare and cosmetics are a great choice if you are looking for local relief or if you want to tackle skin issues and maintain a healthy skin barrier [9]

If you want to learn more about the different ways of taking CBD, have a look at our article here.


If you want to start a new dietary regimen and include supplements – even vitamins and minerals – in your daily routine, it is always a good idea to speak with a healthcare professional beforehand. This good idea even becomes a must if you have an underlying health condition and are already taking prescription medications. 

CBD, taken in wellness quantities below 70 mg per day as per FSA recommendations, should be safe and have no adverse health effects [5]. Studies with medicinal quantities of CBD, however, revealed possible interactions with other drugs [10]. So if you want to add CBD to your routine but you are already on prescription medication, please consult your doctor first. Everyone's medical history is different and your doctor should know it best. Please understand that for this reason, we cannot give you generalised advice on this subject.


Within the “Cannabis Sativa” plant family, you can make a rough distinction between what we call “marijuana” and “hemp”. Although both contain CBD, hemp contains very low levels (less than 0.2%) of THC when compared to marijuana. Hemp can be grown legally by farmers in many countries, and in fact, it was one of the first crops grown to spin fibre, over 50,000 years ago. 

Today, the majority of industrial hemp is grown to harvest fibres and provide food from the seeds. There are also some newer applications, like use in building materials, paper, biofuels and many more. In addition, more and more farmers are now growing hemp to harvest CBD, which is mainly present in the flower [11].


In the majority of cases, CBD is extracted from dried, ground hemp using a solvent. The most commonly used solvents are alcohol and liquid CO2, which are removed entirely from the extraction product after the process is finished. 

Further purification steps lead to different types of extracts, all the way up to isolated, crystalline CBD [12]

If you want to learn more about CBD extraction, have a look at our article here.


There is much misuse and confusion between these terms. Hemp oil or hemp seed oil is cold-pressed from the seeds of the cannabis plant. While high in healthy fats and other nutrients, it is virtually free of cannabinoids like CBD and THC. You can identify hemp oil in cosmetics in the EU by checking the ingredient list for "Cannabis sativa seed oil" [13]

Hemp extract or CBD oil is a substance derived from an extraction process involving not only the seeds but also other parts of the plant. It is rich in cannabinoids like CBD, but can also contain terpenes and flavonoids. In cosmetic ingredient lists, you will find it as “Cannabidiol” or “Cannabis Sativa Leaf Extract” [14].

You can learn more about the differences between the two here.


Hemp extracts can be divided into full-spectrum and broad-spectrum extracts. Full-spectrum extracts are whole-plant extracts containing the full spectrum of cannabinoids, including THC, along with terpenes, flavonoids, and sometimes even chlorophyll and residual oils and waxes. In order to remove the contained THC, they are often refined into so-called broad-spectrum extracts through a process called distillation. The distillation removes the THC but leaves the CBD and other minor cannabinoids like CBG intact.

Finally, a broad-spectrum extract can be further refined into CBD isolate. This is achieved through a process called crystallisation. This process removes all other components, only leaving isolated CBD [12].

If you want to learn more about the different types of CBD, have a look here.


CBD in its pure form is legal in many countries around the world, but its history is quite complex! In 2020, the UN voted to remove “Cannabis and Cannabis resin” from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention by recommendation of the WHO. This is seen as recognition of its therapeutic effects and has paved the way for fewer restrictions on scientific research on CBD. And CBD itself, irrespective of source, is not listed in the schedules of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs [15].


There should be no problem with travelling with CBD products in Europe, the UK or the United States as long as you respect the general limits on the amount of liquids that can be carried onto an aeroplane. Make sure, however, that the CBD products you bring along do not contain traces of THC. Travel outside of the above-mentioned countries can become tricky and we strongly recommend that you check the laws of your destination country before packing your bags!


A drug test should come back negative, as long as you only use products that are completely THC-free. Check the certificates of analysis of the product you are using to be on the safe side. The level of THC should be “not detected” or start with “< 0.0…%”! Unfortunately, products that are labelled “THC-free” often contain trace amounts of up to 0.2% THC. This can cause problems in sensitive drug tests, such as those used for athletes [16].


The market for CBD products is booming. The easier it gets to find products that meet your needs, the more complicated it gets to find your way around.

Here are some tips for checking your CBD products:

  • Look at the label for specific information on disclaimers, warnings, and manufacturer contact information.
  • Make sure the product has been third-party tested by having a look at the manufacturer's website or scanning the QR code on the packaging.
  • If the label or the manufacturer's website contains medical claims (curing diseases, for example), you should be very careful, as this indicates that the producer is not complying with current regulations.
  • Check for a batch code on the bottle or outer packaging to make sure the manufacturer is following good manufacturing practices and can recall a product if it's faulty.
  • Check the ingredient list for any potential additives in the product.
  • It is better to buy from a trusted website or from a store that has carefully selected its suppliers. Avoid buying from dubious sellers or online sources.

Do you have any other questions?

We love to talk about the fabulous uses of CBD! Don’t hesitate to write to us or leave a comment below!

Portrait of Anna Falk

written by

anna falk - head of product

As the Head of Product at Harmony, Dr Anna Falk leads the development of our products and provides expert tips for your wellness. With over 10 years of experience in the research and development of natural products, her work is based on rigorous scientific studies.

Anna is an award-winning, internationally published researcher with a PhD in Organic Chemistry. She applies her expertise to develop Harmony's certified products that support your overall well-being. From research to development, she ensures that our products are of the highest quality and meet the highest standards.