What is CBD?

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Author: Joy Hughes

It seems everyone is talking about Cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical compound that has shown promise for its therapeutic effects on a number of ailments. Let’s explore what CBD is, its
history, how it works in the body, potential health benefits, and the legal implications of using it.

CBD Definition

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive phytocannabinoid — a cannabinoid that naturally exists in cannabis plants. It is the by-product of Cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), the second most common phytocannabinoid found in cannabis plants1.

There have been over 100 different cannabinoids identified in cannabis plants. Of these cannabinoids, THC and CBD were the first two discovered2.

History of CBD

In 1940, a plant chemist named Roger Adams was the first to discover CBD. However, he remained largely unaware of the many therapeutic effects this chemical compound had6.

Then in the 1960s, Dr. Ralph Mechoulam isolated the chemical compound CBD and began further testing. He soon discovered that CBD was a non-psychoactive chemical compound (it doesn’t get you high). This is unlike the psychoactive THC, the other most-common cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant.

Fast forward about 40 years, and we had the discovery of the endocannabinoid system — a collection of cell receptors and cannabinoids that are naturally present within and throughout our body — our organs, brain, immune system, etc. As researchers began studying the effects marijuana had on the brain, they also discovered our bodies’ endocannabinoid system and the effects of phytocannabinoids. Dr. Mechoulam stated in his findings, “By using a plant that has been around for thousands of years, we discovered a new physiological system of immense importance… We wouldn’t have been able to get there if we had not looked at the plant.”

How CBD works within our body

Now, to understand what CBD is and how it works, we need to look at a couple of receptors — CB1 and CB2 receptors — which are found within our bodies’ endocannabinoid system.

The CB1 receptors are most commonly found in the central nervous system: our brain and spinal cord. The CB2 receptors are most commonly found in the peripheral nervous system: our organs, digestive system, immune system, and overall body function. Although these receptors are more abundant in these areas, they are found all throughout the body1.

Our endocannabinoid system’s role is to promote healthy communication and balance in our bodies — a.k.a. homeostasis — keeping everything as it should be. The endocannabinoids that are present throughout the body help manage a balance in our health and overall function. They have an impact on pain, memory, mood, sleep, immunity, appetite, and cellular health. When these cannabinoids bind to the receptors, they then promote a homeostasis4.

In a 2004 study, researcher Dr. Ethan Russo suggested that the cause of some diseases and other negative health conditions are the result of an endocannabinoid deficiency — the lack of cannabinoids a person produces that promote a regular homeostasis to receptor cells. This study explains why CBD is so effective5.

When CBD enters the body, it helps reduce the manifestation of several health conditions. It does this by helping the body produce endocannabinoids, which directly activate the receptors and bring balance.

CBD Benefits

Multiple studies have been conducted around the world on CBD’s therapeutic effects on various health conditions:

Studies have even seen the effects CBD has on pets. With more and more medical studies being done, people are definitely seeing improvements in their health with the use of CBD. Studies over the past century have confirmed that CBD does not get you high… which is a relief, as most prescription drugs cause a number of side effects and can even lead to abuse.

Ways to consume CBD

There are a number of ways to consume and use CBD. Depending on your lifestyle, what you’re treating, and your health goals, CBD is available in a number of forms.

CBD Oil

CBD oil is typically produced using the process of CO2 extraction — controlling the temperature of the CO2 through the cannabis plant, which then isolates the molecules of CBD. CBD oil is typically utilized in food or ingested orally. It’s usually purchased in a small bottle with a dropper for easy administration. CBD oil can also be used in vaporizer pens.

CBD Tinctures

A tincture is a liquid extract that’s combined with, or dissolved in, alcohol. (Alternatively, some tinctures combine the extract with vegetable glycerin or even apple cider vinegar.)

Although CBD tinctures are a form of CBD oil, their uses differ. The main difference is that tinctures cannot be used in vaporizer pens. Because tinctures are most commonly dissolved in alcohol, the alcohol cannot combust like oil, which can be very dangerous if applied in a vaporizer pen. As for the other differences, because of the alcohol, tinctures generally lack the bitter taste of CBD oil.

In order for CBD Tinctures to be effective, it's important to consume the recommended dosage based on your weight, medical condition and the severity of that condition. Use our simple CBD Oil Dosage Calculator to find your dosage now!

CBD Skin Care Products and Topicals

Another way to consume CBD is through skin care products and topicals. CBD contains anti-inflammatory properties along with the ability to relieve pain. People suffering from arthritis, muscle spasms, acne, and skin disorders have seen improvements through the use of CBD skin care and topical products. For example, a study showed that CBD contains a neuroprotective antioxidant that helps in alleviating acne10. Researchers have also found that CBD has the ability CBD slow down the aging process of the skin11.

CBD Isolate

CBD isolate can come in the form of powder or crystals, and is considered the purest form of CBD. You can do a number of things with CBD isolate. As a powder, you can add it to baked goods, smoothies, and other foods; you can also vaporize it, create a skin cream, or make a homemade tincture. You can “dab” it — inhaling the concentrates of cannabis crystals after applying them to a hot surface. Many people consider this form of CBD very therapeutic and effective. However, it’s important to do thorough research before dabbing, as it involves extreme heat13.

Is CBD Legal?

Though CBD can be purchased and consumed in many ways, it’s important to know that not all CBD products are legal. While we know that CBD is doesn’t get you high, but THC does, and this is where the legality of CBD gets complex. Hemp-derived CBD is legal in all 50 states. Because hemp only contains up to 0.3% of THC, there is a zero percent chance of a euphoric effect. As for marijuana-derived CBD, these products are only legal in states that have legalized marijuana. Marijuana plants can contain up to 30% of THC, causing a mind-altering effect8. Learn more about the differences between CBD and THC.

To ensure you’re following the law, be sure to check your state laws before purchasing a CBD product.

CBD has already shown to have amazing therapeutic effects. Hopefully, with more research, CBD will shed harmful stigmas and emerge as a mainstream natural medicine.

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About Joy Hughes

Joy Hughes writes about health, nutrition, and all things cannabis. Having experienced the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids first hand, she's been spreading the word ever since. She currently travels the country in an RV with her husband and beloved beagle.

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Sarah
Sarah
5 years ago

Great article! Very informative and excellent resources