The sea of CBD terminology can be a bit overwhelming.

CBD Lingo: Know the Basics to Be a Smart Shopper

By Jenny Menzel, H.C. 

“Have you tried CBD?” This is an increasingly common question the average layperson asks when within earshot of discussions about the most simple and complex health ailments. Cracked up as a miracle solution by many and now sold everywhere, from online to your corner gas station, CBD has myths attached to the term that have yet to be completely demystified — leading to a confusing conundrum for beginners when it comes to shopping for this highly touted “silver bullet.” 

While studies show promising effects of CBD for specific ailments, there’s still much to be researched and unveiled. To be a smart CBD shopper in this swiftly blooming industry, you should know the lingo. Good news — there are exhaustive online glossaries out there you can refer to. But in case you don’t feel like sifting through the endless verbal maze — here are the most common terms you need to know to ensure you purchase not only a quality CBD product, but the CBD product best suited for your needs.

Most Commonly Used CBD Terms You Should Know

The Basics

  • Cannabidiol (CBD) — CBD is the commonly used nickname for cannabidiol, a natural compound found in the cannabis plant. Just under it’s more famed psychoactive cousin, THC — CBD is the second most prevalent active cannabis ingredient, making up 40% of cannabis extract. CBD can be extracted from both cannabis and hemp plants and infused into a variety of products, providing external and internal delivery methods. Legal CBD will contain 0.3% of THC or less.
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)THC is the primary cannabinoid found in the Cannabis sativa plant, popularly known as marijuana. While CBD is found in marijuana, THC is not found in hemp, at least not in elevated amounts that can lead to the sought-after “high” effect that is produced when THC binds to the cannabinoid receptors.
  • Psychoactive An effect that alters the brain function, causing shifts in perception, mood, consciousness, cognition, and behavior. THC produces a psychoactive effect, while CBD does not. 
  • Cannabis When thinking of cannabis, many think of the identifiable marijuana leaf. Cannabis is actually a broad term to describe three different types of marijuana plants commonly associated with the psychoactive properties of THC — Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. 
  • Hemp Hemp is a particular strain of the Cannabis sativa plant grown to use in products for industrial use. While hemp-derived CBD is used therapeutically in products like CBD oil, gummies, creams, and more — hemp is used in a number of industrial products like clothing, food, biofuel, and biodegradable plastics. Hemp was made legal under the FDA-approved Farm Bill, so long as it contains less than 0.3% THC.
  • Cannabinoids Not to be confused with cannabidiol, cannabinoids are diverse compounds that act on the endocannabinoid receptors in the body. The most commonly noted and heavily researched cannabinoids are CBD, THC, and CBG.
  • Endocannabinoid System The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is made up of endocannabinoids — receptors that release dopamine when bound to by cannabinoids like THC and CBD. While both interact with the ECS, they do so with different effects. For example, THC binds to the cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) while CBD inhibits CB1 — the action responsible for a psychoactive effect. The ECS influences appetite, stress, sleep, pain, memory, and immunity.
  • TerpenesThere are over 100 terpenes found in cannabis. Hemp-derived CBD will have fewer terpene profiles — leading to a limited variety of different aromas and flavors that are often associated with other cannabis strains. 
  • Extraction  There are several ways to extract CBD from hemp. The best extraction methods are gentle. Cold ethanol extract involves using cold, high-grade alcohol to softly pull active cannabis compounds. CO2 extraction involves changing the temperature and pressure to create carbon dioxide changes, gently drawing out the CBD. The result is a high-quality, full-spectrum CBD hemp extract.

Dosing and Potency

Dosing for CBD may vary based upon your individual needs.

The suggested amount of CBD to take is incredibly individual, as dosing is dependent upon the goals and needs of each person. Another consideration that determines dosing is CBD potency — the measurement of CBD compounds. The following terms may be most important to understand when shopping for CBD products. 

  • Full-spectrum CBD that is full of all hemp compounds such as terpenes, cannabinoids, flavonoids, and fatty acids is considered full-spectrum CBD. Each compound has its own therapeutic value that contributes to the efficacy of CBD and may contain trace amounts of THC — 0.3% or less to be considered legal.
  • Broad-spectrum Broad-spectrum CBD is the middle child between full-spectrum and isolate. It contains terpenes and cannabinoids but is entirely void of any traces of THC — a preferred option to people wishing to avoid THC altogether.
  • Isolate CBD isolate ensures at least 99% cannabidiol content, with all other hemp plant matter being removed. These products are also completely void of THC, yet also lack in terpenes and flavonoids.
  • Certificate of Analysis If your CBD product comes with a Certificate of Analysis (COA), that means an accredited laboratory has tested and certified levels of cannabinoids in the product. Third-party labs offering proof of analysis are the most reliable and offer certainty of proper labeling on your CBD product — helping to deter you from purchasing low-quality CBD.

Delivery Methods

The preparation method of how CBD enters the body in order to produce a therapeutic effect is important as it often affects how much of the dosage gets absorbed into the body.  

  • Oil — CBD oil is one of the most popular options on the market. This is typically a CBD extract carried in an oil such as MCT, coconut, or olive. One important distinction must be made: the difference between hemp oil and hemp seed oil. As CBD is extracted from hemp, you may see hemp oil listed as an ingredient. That is a sign you are buying a product with CBD content. Hemp seed oil, on the other hand, is derived from industrial hemp, but it is created by pressing the hemp seeds — which is void of CBD and its therapeutic benefits.
  • Tincture — A liquid delivery that is administered by mouth and can be swallowed. A CBD tincture is usually alcohol- or water-based CBD extract — whereas CBD oil is oil-based CBD extract. If oil carriers are contraindicated for you, a CBD tincture may be of more value.
  • EdibleAny ingestible product that contains a form of cannabis. The most popular form of CBD edibles include gummies, coffee, cooking oils, and other baked goods.
  • Topical CBD can be delivered topically, meaning it can be applied externally onto the skin in the form of a lotion, salve, or oil. The skin can absorb the benefits of CBD locally, which is a common option for people with very localized pain or inflammation.
  • Vape Vaping is another form of delivery where CBD extract enters the system through inhalation through a vaporizer. Vaporizers typically heat CBD oils electronically — a method of delivering CBD that needs more research to determine long-term safety.
  • Sublingual — This form of administration involves an edible form placed under the tongue that readily dissolves — allowing for quick circulation into the bloodstream through the blood vessels in the mouth.
  • Capsule — A CBD extract delivery method that allows for convenient carrying and easy swallowing.

The Takeaway

This brief list of CBD jargon should be enough to enable you to start asking CBD suppliers the right questions — eventually leading you to become more knowledgeable about CBD, potential benefits and side effects, and the correct product to help you achieve your health goals. A reputable supplier will have excellent customer service and be happy to assist you in getting the answers you need to feel confident in your CBD purchase. Remember that even with the best products, it may take experimenting to find the proper CBD formula for you. 


  • Bloomfield MAP, Green SF, Hindocha C, et al. The effects of acute cannabidiol on cerebral blood flow and its relationship to memory: An arterial spin labelling magnetic resonance imaging study. J Psychopharmacol. 2020;34(9):981-989. doi:10.1177/0269881120936419

Jenny Menzel, H.C., is a Certified Health Coach and branding specialist for various alternative healthcare practices, and volunteers her design skills to the annual grassroots campaign, the Lyme Disease Challenge. Jenny was diagnosed with Lyme in 2010 after 8 years of undiagnosed chronic pain and fatigue, and continues to improve by employing multiple alternative therapies, including Āyurveda, Chinese Medicine and Bee Venom Therapy.

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