CBD is short for cannabidiol (pronounced can-a-bid-EYE-ol). Cannabidiol is one of over 120 compounds called cannabinoids found in members of the cannabis genus which includes both industrial hemp and marijuana plants. All members of this genus produce a range of cannabinoids that include non-psychoactive compounds like CBD that cannot get you high, and THC related psychoactive compounds that produce the mind altering effects associated with marijuana.
Important: industrial hemp is NOT marijuana; they are two distinct species of the same genus. Marijuana is a short squat plant that only grows from 2’ to 6’ normally grown to get people high. Industrial hemp is a spindly plant that grows from 12’ to 20’ high historically grown to produce hemp rope. Marijuana typically has very low amounts of CBD and very high amounts of THC (from 5-30% with an average of 12%) which can easily get you stoned, while industrial hemp plants naturally contain a high percentage of CBD and very low THC (less than 0.3% by dry weight in products made legal by the 2018 Farm Bill) and cannot get you high. Many CBD products made from industrial hemp are formulated to contain no THC at all. Products containing CBD made legal by the 2018 Farm Bill MUST come from industrial hemp plants and CANNOT come from marijuana!
There are many articles on the internet describing in great technical detail how researchers believe CBD works in the body to provide all its reported benefits (see selected references below).
For those who do not want to wade through all the technical details, we offer this non-technical overview.
Your body has systems whose purpose is to keep it in an optimal or homeostatic (balanced) state. They let you know if something is out of the ordinary so you can remedy the situation. If it is injured, you feel pain. If a threat is perceived, you become anxious. If it is sick, you usually feel symptoms of the illness. They also mount an internal response. If you are injured, they initiate an inflammation response. If a threat is perceived, they affect adrenaline production. If an invader is detected, they assist activation of the immune system.
One of these is known as the endocannabinoid system. This is a network of chemical receptors located in the central and periphery nervous systems, known as CB1 can CB2 receptors. These receptors respond to stimuli signals and trigger any adjustments needed to maintain your optimal state. These signals are modulated by cannabinoids. Your body produces its own cannabinoids, called “endogenous cannabinoids”, but for various reasons these may cause the CB1 or CB2 receptors to overreact or underreact to stimuli and prevent the body from achieving and maintaining a balanced homeostatic state.
This is where CBD comes in. Research indicates that It, and the other cannabinoids, help the endocannabinoid system function properly. THC directly interacts with the CB1 molecule, which in excess produces mind altering effects, while the non-psychoactive cannabinoids like CBD activate non-endocannabinoid receptors which in turn interact with the CB1 and CB2 receptors and modulate their activity.
The result is CBD’s potential to reduce the pain and inflammation resulting from injury or illness, reduce anxiety, and enhance the immune system.