CBD is an acronym for cannabidiol, a naturally-occurring chemical compound found in the cannabis plant. It is one of over a hundred compounds, or “cannabinoids,” found in cannabis, of which THC is another. Unlike THC, however, CBD is non-psychoactive.
As there are cannabinoids in cannabis, so too are their cannabinoid receptors in human (and other animals’) brains as part of the endocannabinoid system. Cannabinoids like CBD interact with these receptors to produce both physiological and psychological effects in a user.
The endocannabinoid system exists primarily to respond to endogenous cannabinoids or those that are produced naturally in the human body. Only recently has science confirmed that this system also responds to external cannabinoids such as CBD. What’s interesting is how CBD can influence certain receptors to heighten levels of naturally occurring cannabinoids in the brain.
Take anandamide as an example, the first endocannabinoid to be identified by scientists. It is a naturally occurring cannabinoid that plays a role in pleasure and motivation. CBD creates higher levels of anandamide through inhibition of the enzyme Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase (FAAH). The reduced rate of anandamide breakdown by FAAH results in higher levels of the cannabinoid in the brain.
The CB1 and CB2 receptors are still a very new discovery by modern scientific standards, with knowledge of their existence first appearing in 1990 and 1993, respectively. CB1 receptors are located throughout the body, but more so in the brain and spinal cord, while CB2 receptors are found mostly in the nervous system with only a few in the brain.
A common misconception is that CBD “binds” to cannabinoid receptors in the brain. This isn’t accurate, as CBD indirectly affects these receptors (known as CB1 and CB2) by activating others that assisting bodily functions. It’s interesting to note that THC does bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors, thereby stimulating dopamine release and resulting in the euphoric high it’s known for.
CBD and THC are remarkably similar, having the same chemical formula but with a different arrangement of atoms. This slight variance in structure gives THC it’s psychoactive properties. While both THC and CBD have therapeutic effects, CBD’s non-psychoactive nature makes it much more accessible and acceptable.. Despite this, numerous studies indicate an “entourage effect” whereby THC and CBD, among other cannabinoids, work together to enhance their overall effectiveness. This is why whole plant Broad spectrum oils, which sometimes contain a minuscule amount of THC, tend to be so popular.
One of the more interesting examples of CBD / THC interactivity is the curbing of the psychoactive effects of THC by CBD as reported by some users. While more research is needed in this area, anecdotal evidence suggests that coupling a dose of THC with CBD can mitigate some of the unwanted adverse effects of THC, such as the increase in anxiety often attributed to Sativa strains.
This article only scratches the surface when it comes to the science of CBD. As it and other cannabis products continue to grow in popularity, more data will emerge, and more conclusive evidence of their medicinal value will result.
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