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What is CBD?

November 12, 2017

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is often simply thought of as "the stuff other than THC in marijuana."  True, it is different from THC, but it is only one of a wide variety of effective molecules found in cannabis.  We'll explore what CBD is, where it comes from, and how it works.


If a flowering female cannabis plant is pollinated by a male, she will produce seeds. If she is not pollinated, the energy that she would have put into making seeds goes into making resin glands called trichomes.  Trichomes are very sticky. Their function is to trap pollen and serve as a defense against insects, trapping them like fly paper.

All the molecules of interest in cannabis are found in these trichomes.  Included among them are cannabinoids.  Terpenes are also found in trichomes, and you can read more about them here.


The human nervous system is made up of billions of nerve cells that serve as a communication network between different parts of the body. The transmissions are made up of chemical and electrical processes that control everything we do, from breathing to motor tasks. The nerve cells that make up this complex system contain receptors that are triggered by only specific key molecules. Two of these receptors, called CB1 and CB2, are keyed to accept a certain type of molecule known as cannabinoids.


Endocannabinoid System
Some cannabinoids are naturally produced by the body.  These are known as endocannabinoids (endo- means internal).  The endocannabinoid system is an intercellular communication system. It is comprised of cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2, the endocannabinoids for those receptors, and enzymes that create and destroy
the endocannabinoids.

Studies in the early 1990s provided initial evidence of the existence and purpose of the CB1 and CB2 receptors.  Both CB1 and CB2 are found throughout the entire body, but they are distributed differently. CB1 receptors are concentrated primarily in the central nervous system, while CB2 receptors are mainly found in the immune system. However, CB1 receptors are also distributed in the lungs, liver, kidneys, and a variety of peripheral areas, and CB2 receptors exist in the brain, in smaller concentrations.

The primary endocannabinoids are anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoyl glycerol (2-AG).  AEA is the endocannabinoid for the CB1 receptor. Its chemical structure is very similar to THC.  2-AG, unlike AEA, has a high affinity for activating both CB1 and CB2 receptors.


Cannabis produces its own cannabinoids, which are called phytocannabinoids (phyto- means plant). THC and CBD are both phytocannabinoids, but they are only two of the over-111 phytocannabinoids identified in cannabis!  Some of the most notable phytocannabinoids are explained below.

THC is the most common phytocannabinoid in cannabis drug (marijuana) plants.  THC has a fingerprint that fits the CB1 receptor, similar to the endocannabinoid AEA. In addition to being a psychoactive agent, THC is a pain reliever, muscle relaxant, bronchodilator, antioxidant, and anti-itch agent. It has 20 times the anti-inflammatory power of aspirin and twice that of hydrocortisone. THC may inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells, and it induces cell apoptosis in them. Brain cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, oral cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, cancers of the blood, liver cancer, and even pancreatic cancer. More research needs to be conducted on THC and cancer.

CBD (cannabidiol) is the most common phytocannabinoid in hemp plants, and usually the second most common in marijuana. It has proven extremely versatile pharmacologically. In low concentrations, it attaches to and blocks CB1 in the presence of THC, despite having little binding affinity for CB1. This has a modulatory effect on THC-associated adverse effects such as anxiety, elevated heart rate, hunger, and sedation. CBD has been used as a pain reliever and a potent neuroprotective antioxidant. It is therapeutic in disorders of cell migration, notably endometriosis (a painful condition affecting women’s reproductive organs). It may help reduce epileptic seizures and nausea. It may reduce stroke risk. It may improve cognitive function and motor skills. Patients have reported a reduction in cancer pain when highly-addictive opioids fail. CBD might be toxic to cancer cells, while being preservative for normal cells.

CBC (cannabichromene) may be a strong AEA reuptake inhibitor. It has been shown to be an anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antibiotic, antifungal, and antidepressant. Like CBD, it can reduce the undesirable effects of THC intoxication.

CBG (cannabigerol) has a relatively weak binding effect at CB1 and CB2, and may be a strong AEA reuptake inhibitor. It has been shown in some people to be an antidepressant and mildly anti-hypertensive. It may inhibit GABA uptake even more than THC or CBD, making it a powerful muscle relaxant. Its strong analgesic and anti-inflammatory benefits may rival those of THC. It may treat psoriasis. It may be a powerful agent against MRSA, a highly resistant staph infection.

CBN (cannabinol) is an oxidative by product of THC. As THC ages, it oxidizes (loses electrons), and the result is CBN. When combined with THC, CBN increases its sedative effects. Cannabis aficionados have long known that old weed makes you sleepy, and now we know why: THC sheds electrons over time, which turns it into CBN, and CBN is a strong sedative. It may be effective against inflammation and seizures. Like CBG, it may be a powerful agent against MRSA. It may promote bone growth and it has been used in breast cancer treatment regimens. 

THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin) modulates the intoxicating effects of THC. It is a CB1 blocker at lower doses and a CB1 trigger at higher doses. It may produce weight loss, decreased body fat, and increases energy in the obese. It may be a powerful anticonvulsive, or anti-seizure, agent.  

CBDV (cannabichromevarin) is a molecularly similar to CBD. Like THCV, it may be a powerful anticonvulsive.

The chart below summarizes common conditions and the phytocannabinoids potentially effective in treating their symptoms.

Cannabinoids as treatments

(Click to enlarge)


Unlocking Natural Potential
Recent research has shown that small, regular doses of phytocannabinoids can signal the body to produce more of its own endocannabinoids and to create more cannabinoid receptors. This is why some first-time cannabis users may not feel much of an effect until the next few exposures, when their bodies have built more receptors and are ready to respond. So small amounts of cannabis not only make the body more receptive to future small doses, but it also kick-starts the body’s own natural neurological system!


So what is CBD?  It's effective, versatile, abundant, and legal.  It is plant-derived, but it works with the human body's pre-wired endocannabinoid system.  It has shown in some people to diminish many of the undesirable effects of THC when consumed in small quantities.  It may be effective in dealing with pain, neurological disorders, epilepsy, nausea, stroke, acne, and cancer.  It is non-addictive and non-psychoactive, and it can be consumed in small or large doses without side effects.  

After reading the many customer testimonials we get on a regular basis, we believe research has only scratched the surface in understanding the healing power of cannabidiol!