Yes, it's related to THC. No, it won't make you high. We got the full download on cannabidiol, which is taking over the wellness world.

By Mirel Zaman
February 26, 2019
Photo: Norman Posselt / Getty Images

CBD: You've heard of it, but what is it? Derived from cannabis, the compound affects the body's endocannabinoid system, which plays a role in pain sensation and stress response, says Naomi Feuer, M.D., a neurologist in New York City. But unlike with its cousin THC, you get the perks without the high. (Here's the difference between CBD, THC, hemp, and marijuana.)

The compound's legal status is complex. CBD from marijuana is illegal under federal law. "But CBD derived from hemp is legal under federal and most state laws," says Rod Kight, a lawyer who focuses on the cannabis industry. Federal legislation was just enacted that loosens restrictions on hemp products like CBD. (Looser regulations means you have to be more careful about which products you buy, though. Here's how to safely buy CBD.)

Already, though, it's cropping up in everything: health tinctures, drinks, snacks, cosmetics, even pet food. (Here, see more of the best health and wellness CBD products.)

We asked the top experts whether CBD is really as effective as you're hearing. Here's what they told us.

1. CBD chills you out.

People mainly look to CBD for stress relief. One of the largest studies done to date confirms that it does relax you, possibly by calming the nervous system. "In one trial, people with social anxiety disorder who took CBD were less stressed during simulated public-speaking sessions than those who didn't use it. My patients find it helps them sleep better too," says Donald Abrams, M.D., a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. In the study, the most effective dose was 300 milligrams of CBD. (See: What Happened When I Tried CBD for Anxiety)

2. It promotes postworkout recovery.

CBD has been shown in studies to be an anti-inflammatory and a muscle relaxant, so it may help with muscle stiffness, Dr. Feuer says. Alex Silver-Fagan, a Nike Master Trainer and a mental health advocate, says she adds the oil to her coffee to treat both muscle aches and anxiety.

Choose an oral supplement or a transdermal patch; topical CBD creams may not reach the bloodstream. (More on that here: Do CBD Creams Work for Pain Relief?)

3. You'll get a glowing complexion.

CBD cream benefits your skin. (That's why there are so many new CBD beauty products.) "It's anti-inflammatory, so it may help with conditions like psoriasis and atopic dermatitis," Dr. Feuer says. It may also help clear up acne by reducing oil production and calming irritation. A good brand to look for is CBD for Life, which makes an eye serum, a face cream, and a lip balm.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Here are all the proven health benefits of CBD.