Cannabidiol (more commonly known by its abbreviation, CBD) is continuing on an astronomical rise in popularity throughout the United States; a Gallup poll conducted in June 2019 shows that 14% of American adults — over 29 million people — regularly consume at least one CBD oil product. And while some products focus on CBD alone, there’s growing interest in using this plant-derived compound in tandem with other herbal extracts.

What is CBD? It is one of approximately 100 known compounds called phytocannabinoids, all of which are derived from the Cannabaceae family of plants. Each of these cannabinoids has its own unique chemical structure, as well as its own array of potential benefits and effects. It’s important to note that CBD is one component of an intricately complex plant — one part of a bigger picture.

The growing trend of CBD as a health and wellness supplement may seem new, but in reality people have been using cannabis for millennia. There is evidence of the plant’s use since as early as 4,000 BCE, and it’s been used in a variety of ways: as a cash crop, a medicine, and as a spiritual tool in more than a few religions. With CBD products legally available nationwide as of the farm bill’s passing in 2018, there are now two things of equal importance: shifting focus to the future, and understanding the history of cannabis products and how they can potentially help people. The use of the cannabis plant and its constituents (such as CBD) as an herbal supplement is simply resurfacing, not appearing for the first time.

The most common reason that people report using CBD is to assist with pain, followed by relief from anxiety, digestive issues and sleep problems. Many CBD companies offer just one CBD oil (usually an isolated cannabinoid) in a variety of strengths and occasionally with added flavors. While this can be helpful and is valuable for the people who may be looking for isolated CBD, it sells the cannabinoid short and is not the only option.

CBD can be used as one part of a whole-body system instead of as a simple blanket solution. In fact, for some brands, CBD is not the main ingredient in certain products. While CBD will have the leading role in some formulas, in others it instead acts as a companion to other effective, clinically tested herbs. Companies like Fairwinds, based in Vancouver, Washington, focus on creating products to support the unique needs of anyone who uses them.

According to Fairwinds founder and CEO Wendy Hull, “CBD is a powerful natural compound, but there are many other effective herbs that we use in our products, and oftentimes CBD takes a back seat to other herbs and compounds that are more effective for treating specific ailments.” Blending CBD with traditional Eastern herbal remedies practiced for millennia, their holistic approach aims for balance and ensures that every item they craft is designed and formulated to target a specific goal — meaning the amount of CBD in each product varies accordingly.

Does science back this approach? One important factor that supports this lies in the difference between whether a product is formulated using an isolate or a broad-spectrum, full-plant extract. In 1998, researchers coined the term “entourage effect” after discovering that cannabinoids such as CBD and THC perform most effectively when used together (when compared to their effects when used as isolated compounds). While the phrase has been used primarily with regards to cannabinoids and terpenes, it has been shown to be applicable to several other herbs and supplements as well. For example, according to Fairwinds Lab Director, chemist and experienced herbalist, Max Goldman, “while it’s frequently sold as a potential nausea relief option, isolated CBD has the potential to exacerbate nausea in certain people. But when combined with other nonintoxicating cannabinoids such as THCA or CBG, and herbs such as ginger or cardamom that have clinically proven antiemetic benefits, it can instead become an effective aid for assisting with nausea symptom relief in many of those same individuals.”

So which CBD products are right for you? It’s important for people to be able to educate themselves on a company’s practices and products before purchasing, and the knowledge that CBD is simply one piece of the picture of whole-body wellness is an excellent starting point. Now that you’re armed with a truer understanding of what CBD is and what it has the potential to offer people, you’re more prepared to sift through the available options.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any illness.