Cannabidiol (CBD) came out to the world in a big way after this simple plant chemical stopped an epileptic seizure in its tracks on U.S. national television. In the time since, many enthusiasts have realized that this miracle compound can stop spasms, calm anxiety, and soothe those in chronic pain. But, what is CBD and how does it work? How is it different from THC? To help you become more familiar with the cannabinoid here is everything you need to know about CBD.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the most prevalent chemical compounds in the cannabis plant. Unlike the more famous molecule, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD is completely non psychoactive.
Don’t expect to get “high” off of this organic chemical, however. CBD is all relaxation without intoxication.
While CBD still has an effect on your body, consuming CBD by itself isn’t going to send you on the cerebral adventure associated with THC. For decades, medical professionals and the general public overlooked CBD because psychoactive cannabis took center stage.
Now, the medical potential of CBD has taken cannabis to mainstream audiences. Preclinical trials over the past four decades have found that the cannabinoid shows promise as an:
CBD is often used by patients in the form of an oil. Patients with more chronic conditions such as cancer and epilepsy often use medical cannabis oil extracted from high-CBD varieties of cannabis.
Most predominant inside the resin glands (trichomes) of the female cannabis plant, CBD is one of over 80 chemical compounds known as cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are agonists that bind to special receptors on your cells, called cannabinoid receptors.
Certain receptors are heavily concentrated in the central nervous system while others are found in almost every organ of the body. Cannabinoid receptors are even found in the skin, digestive tract, and even in the reproductive organs.
You can think of agonists as keys and cannabinoid receptors as locks. By consuming cannabis, you are taking in agonists that interact with different locks on cells in the body. Together, these cell receptors make up a larger endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The ECS is a vast network of cell receptor proteins with many functions. Some describethe ECS as the greatest neurotransmitter system in the body. It lends a hand in seemingly just about everything, including:
Four primary purposes of the ECS include neuro-protection, stress recovery, immune balance, and homeostatic regulation. The last one is a fancy way of referring to a system that creates optimum energy balance in the body.
Somehow, CBD seems to tap into this balancing system to produce its therapeutic effects. CBD is able to interact with cells in our bodies because the molecule has a similar composition to similar chemicals that the human body produces naturally, called endocannabinoids.
Endo means inside and cannabinoid refers to action on cannabinoid receptors. In contrast, the cannabinoids in the cannabis plant are technically called phytocannabinoids.
It’s not often that a plant compound can make headlines over and over again. However, CBD is a phytocannabinoid with some serious life-saving potential.
In fact, CBD has only gained mainstream attention quite recently, after the family of one brave little girl decided to throw caution to the wind and speak out about medical cannabis.
Before she was five years old, Charlotte Figi stopped laughing. While the average child laughs around 300 times a day, Charlotte temporarily lost her ability to communicate due to a rare and severe form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome.
Dravet syndrome affects roughly 1 in 30,000 infants around the globe. Though most Dravet patients begin their lives as healthy children, development quickly begins to regress after the first few months.
Intense seizures overtake children as young as three months old. These seizures cause them to lose consciousness and convulse for up to a few hours at a time.
After years of rushed trips to the emergency room, the Figi’s were desperate. Between unexpected complications, experimental medications, being told that they’ve reached “the end of the line”, they had experienced it all. When there were seemingly out of options, the family finally made a life changing decision.
What they didn’t know was that their choice would ultimately spur a social movement and, more importantly, bring their daughter back to life. The Figi’s decided to treat their daughter with cannabidiol (CBD), one of the primary compounds found in the marijuana plant
When Paige and Matt Figi first began their search for nonpsychoactive cannabis in Colorado, they fell upon some tough luck. Since the 1980s, marijuana breeders have had one major goal: creating the most potent, psychoactive cannabis out there.
The competition is tough. After nearly three decades of rising demands for psychoactive cannabis, it’s not uncommon to walk into a dispensary today and find cannabis with THC content over 20%. By comparison, cannabis in the 70s contained an average of 6 to 8%.
Focusing on THC content alone meant growers overlooked CBD during the hybridization process, making access nearly impossible for anyone hoping to experiment with CBD as medicine.
Fortunately for children like Charlotte, one Colorado family was ahead of the curve. The Stanley Brothers had been developing exactly the plant the Figi’s had been searching for: a strain high in CBD and low in THC.
10 CBD Facts You Need To Know
#1: Key Ingredient
Cannabidiol is a key ingredient in cannabis, one of more than 60 compounds unique to the plant and grouped under the umbrella term “cannabinoids.” Cannabidiol, otherwise known as CBD, and THC are usually the most common cannabinoids in the plant and are therefore the most widely studied.
#2: Won’t Get You High
CBD does not get you high like THC does. THC causes euphoria by binding to special CB1 and CB2 nerve receptors in the brain. CBD does not bind to these receptors, so cannabidiol does not get you stoned.
#3: CBD From Hemp is Legal
CBD can be made from medical marijuana plants or industrial hemp plants. Marijuana is illegal under federal law but legal in some states. Industrial hemp when grown in other countries can be imported legally into the United States, making it easier for consumers to get CBD treatment without breaking the law.
#4: Cannabinoid Levels Vary
CBD and THC levels, known as cannabinoids, vary between plants. Marijuana plants grown for recreational use tend to be high in THC and varying amounts of CBD. Industrial hemp plants are very low in THC while medical marijuana plants are typically high in CBD.
#5: No Prescription Needed
It is legal to order CBD made from industrial hemp plants online for use in any state without a prescription. Individuals ordering CBD products made from medical marijuana plants must live in a state where medical marijuana is legal and have a prescription.
#6: Has Medical Value
Scientific studies show CBD provides therapeutic medicinal benefits. According to a 2013 review published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, soothes nausea and vomiting, acts as an anti-oxidant to reduce free radicals that cause neurodegenerative disorders, and works as an anti-inflammatory to reduce swelling. CBD also stimulates appetite and relieves pain.
#7: Benefits the Mind
CBD also combats psychological issues, including working as an antipsychotic to combat psychosis. Additionally, CBD works to reduce chronic anxiety and depression disorders. These benefits of CBD are also helpful for patients struggling with temporary anxiety and depression resulting from a more serious medical condition.
#8: Combats Cancer Spread
CBD products may reduce the spread of some types of cancer cells. The National Cancer Institute reviews several studies that show cannabidiol may have a protective effect against cancer. This review includes research investigating the benefits of CBD treatment for a variety of cancers, including breast, colorectal, and lung cancers.
#9: Reduce THC Fallout
CBD counteracts the negative effects of THC. According to research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, CBD seems to prevent THC-induced memory impairment. CBD may also ease paranoia and other negative side effects commonly associated with THC.
#10: Helping Children with Seizures
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted University of California at San Francisco researchers permission to study the effects of the purified cannabidiol drug on children with uncontrolled seizures. Study participants are all between the ages of 1 and 18 years, and all suffer symptoms resistant to conventional treatments. Many participants have Dravet syndrome, a condition that begins in early childhood and causes frequent, disabling seizures on a daily basis. The FDA and Drug Enforcement Agency promise to monitor the research closely. Pending FDA approval, more institutions will take up the study.