Ask an Expert: How Does CBD Make You Feel?

Posted on November 30 2021

By Dr. Dave Gordon, MD, IFMCP, ABoIM

Do you often wonder how you made it through the day? I know I do. There is constant stimulation and often I feel like my brain and my body are in overdrive, just begging me to let them quiet down.

As an expert in integrative medicine, I use a lot of different tools, and one of my favorites to help create balance is cannabidiol (CBD). Of course, everyone is unique; but “balanced” is the best way to describe the effects of CBD.

How nice does that sound?

CBD oil isn’t magic, but it’s not surprising it has this effect. Knowing how and where CBD works in the body lets us predict how it makes people feel and the benefits it can have.

How CBD works in the body 

To start, CBD boosts the functioning of our Endocannabinoid System (ECS). The main job of the ECS is to maintain balance in the body and it does so primarily by decreasing inflammation after activity and relaxing our fight-or-flight response. Through the ECS, CBD can make you feel less wired, on edge, and irritable. It might also reduce swelling or discomfort related to inflammation. In fact, optimizing the ECS has been associated with improvements in a range of chronic symptoms and conditions.

CBD also acts on various brain receptors, specifically ones that contribute to relaxation. For example, CBD is an effective seizure therapy because it stabilizes overactive nerves. For others, those effects can create a sense of calm or reduced anxiousness.

Even beyond its work through the ECS, CBD can reduce discomfort and inflammation after exercise through other mechanisms. Many people notice improved muscle and joint symptoms which are where we typically link inflammation. However, many intestinal and mood symptoms are also caused by too much inflammation so one might feel improvement in brain fog, sadness, or abdominal issues.  

CBD—the holistic healer

I’m a holistic healer, which means I focus on the big picture rather than just addressing symptoms in isolation. CBD is a holistic healer as well. I often describe the goal of regular CBD intake as “raising your floor.” We all have a range of how we feel throughout the day or week. I see CBD improve one’s baseline, so even the low points aren’t as bad. It works especially well when combined with other tools. I believe great health requires a commitment to 4 Pillars — Food, Movement, Relaxation and Community. CBD products are a tool that makes you feel balanced and more resilient, and thus better able to strengthen your 4 Pillars.

CBD works at different sites in the body, which contributes to its many potential benefits. This also helps CBD have a great safety profile. Side effects commonly occur when a compound very aggressively stimulates or inhibits a single receptor in the body. That is how most pharmaceuticals work. Alternatively, compounds that work subtlety at many spots, like CBD, are better tolerated, and most consumers have no adverse effects. One interesting finding is that in small amounts, CBD can be stimulating. It’s not a side effect, but it’s often unexpected and surprising to consumers. Especially for those looking for increased sedation, you might get the opposite effect if you don’t take sufficient amounts.

Although rare, CBD may interact with prescription medications, either making them less effective or increasing their side effects. I do recommend that anyone who takes prescription medications should speak to a cannabis-trained health professional. (Elixinol is a proud partner with Leaf411, a FREE hotline to chat with trained cannabis nurses). Some research studies of high dose CBD patients (amounts 15-30 times what the average consumer uses) reported diarrhea, fatigue, weight gain and liver issues. Personally, I’ve not seen these issues in patients.

In fact, since CBD is so well tolerated, the biggest concern I have for consumers is about the company making the product.

Finding the right product

There is little regulation for CBD products; so, company and product quality are crucial. Look for companies that use safe, sustainable growing practices and clean extraction methods. Only buy products that are third-party tested for purity, with testing reports easily accessible. This ensures you’re only putting safe, quality ingredients in your body in the appropriate amounts. 

So, you’ve found a quality product and gotten started. How do you know it’s working? Sometimes it’s obvious; many consumers see immediate benefits and feel more comfortable, relaxed, and vibrant. For others, it’s subtle, taking time and/or increased amounts. When I counsel individuals on an intentional and consistent CBD regimen, alongside the 4 Pillars, I know it’s working because they consistently say things like the following:

  • “I enjoy activities more”
  • “I can focus on the important parts of my life, rather my discomfort, or the chaos around me”
  • “I am more resilient, and don’t crash after big stressors”
  • “I feel more balanced” 
And isn’t that really what all of us want? It’s certainly what we need. There is much we cannot control, and we're constantly bombarded by triggers that knock our seesaw to the ground. Thankfully, using the diverse effects of CBD, and incorporating the 4 Pillars to address the deeper root causes, we can lift up, boost our resilience, and achieve the balance we need.