What is CBD?

Alexandra Campbell About CBD, FAQ

What is CBD?

What is CBD exactly? Its purported healing properties have brought it national attention, and it has a massively growing market. However, people also wonder about its relationship to marijuana and whether there are scientific studies to back up the claims about its health benefits. If you’re among the many people wondering “what is CBD,” this article will tell you everything you need to know.

CBD, also known by its scientific nomenclature, cannabidiol, is one of at least 100 naturally occurring elements of the cannabis plant. CBD is gaining national popularity for its ability to address the symptoms of many ailments and diseases such as epilepsy, cancer, anxiety, and depression.

Cannabidiol, unlike its psychoactive counterpart, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), offers the benefits of cannabis without the resulting mind-altering effect. THC is one of cannabis’ compounds that will give users a “buzz,” or a “high,” of which CBD contains only insignificant traces. That is, CBD won’t make you high.

CBD’s connection to wellness and its status as a potential holistic alternative to many traditional treatments is making the chemical compound a household name.

The Current Conversation

Cannabidiol can derive from either hemp or marijuana–two different, individual cannabis plants. Whereas the hemp plant has a relatively low percentage of THC (the chemical that gets you high), no more than 0.3 percent, the marijuana plant holds a much higher concentration of the psychoactive chemical.

When CBD first started gaining mainstream popularity in the U.S., the majority of products on the market came from the marijuana plant and therefore included THC. Thus, most of the clinical research currently available focuses on either solely THC or THC alongside CBD.

Very few studies, however, tackle the topic of CBD as a stand-alone chemical, which normally comes from the hemp plant. Understandably, the lack of research pertaining to CBD by itself leads to the questionability of its effects, benefits, and safety to those who already use or plan to use it.

Nevertheless, the minimal amount of research hasn’t stopped people from experimenting with CBD and its many potential benefits, and many preliminary studies are showing positive results.

What is CBD? The Botany Behind the Popular Oil

For all of the science nerds out there, the intricacies of CBD as a derivative of the hemp plant are especially interesting. The hemp plant is harvested for its stalks and seeds and characteristically carries only trace amounts of THC. Moreover, a strain of cannabis can only be identified as hemp if it possesses .03 percent THC or less.

What is CBD?

Many people hear the word “cannabis” and they immediately think of marijuana. As noted above, marijuana does come from the cannabis plant, and so it is understandable that people make that connection. However, cannabis itself is an entity all on its own. The word “cannabis” is the genus name for all forms of marijuana and hemp alike.

How Does CBD Affect My Body?

For most people wondering “what is CBD,” their main concern is what effect it might have on their bodies. In every human body, there is an endocannabinoid system (ECS) which is composed of–you guessed it–endocannabinoids. Believe it or not, little to no attention has been paid to the ECS until very recently despite the system’s essential functions.

It is only within the past few years that the medical and scientific communities began recognizing the ECS as playing a very important regulatory role in the secretion of hormones related to reproductive functions and responses to stress.

The role of endocannabinoids, which are a type of neurotransmitter, is to bind to cannabinoid receptors, which are created throughout the central nervous system. To contextualize this information, consider some other popular neurotransmitters whose status are more widely-known than endocannabinoids.

Two examples of better-known neurotransmitters include the coveted dopamine, better known as the “happiness hormone,” and endorphins, which are known for their appearance after a good workout and their ability to moderate pain. Cannabinoid receptors exist in nearly every organ of the body, including the biggest of all human organs, the skin, and the powerhouse that is the digestive tract.

So what’s the big deal about these naturally-produced cannabinoids in our bodies? When CBD is introduced to the body, it then inhibits the breakdown of endocannabinoids.

The method of CBD ingestion is suggested to also play a role in how and in which ways the chemical will affect the individual using it. The majority of the CBD products on the market are in the form of oil, although there are many other options available as a way to take CBD as well.

What is CBD?

Be that as it may, there is also a wealth of options for those who are interested in ingesting CBD in a different way. Some of those methods include chocolate bars, hard candy, topical balms, capsules, teas and other beverages, and vapes, among many more.

The Legality of CBD

Despite all CBD’s positive qualities and hope for becoming an effective treatment of the symptoms of a number of prevalent and debilitating diseases, there is still the question of legality. Although CBD is still legal in and sold throughout many states in the U.S., the fact still remains that medical marijuana is not legalized at a federal level.

That leaves CBD and its products in danger of being regulated by the federal government, possibly to the excessive point that medical marijuana has been regulated.

However, there does seem to be a trend of dismissing cases involving CBD oil, and the FDA has approved a drug for epileptic seizures that contains CBD oil so more legal recognition of its benefits may be on the horizon. For now, even the minor and infrequent studies are at least providing enough information on the healing properties of CBD to give this could-be miracle compound a promising future. 

Plus, hemp’s legalization in the recent farm bill also puts CBD on firmer footing, though it’s still not a guarantee. The TSA, for example, still treats CBD as an illegal drug on par with marijuana.

There is still no telling where the law will stand on cannabidiol. One thing is for sure–we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed.

What’s Next?

What the current studies suggest is that cannabidiol is most likely an effective and safe symptom-relieving accessory to a more robust treatment plan for a variety of illnesses and diseases. One of the few studies that focus more closely on CBD as a standalone therapeutic method, rather than CBD alongside its psychoactive counterpart, THC, states that it is now clear that CBD has therapeutic potential over a wide range of non-psychiatric and psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, depression, and psychosis.

Additional research, albeit in its early stages, posits that CBD is an attractive candidate for future clinical use, given its many promising benefits. Among these benefits that the 2016 study cited is CBD’s anticonvulsant and anti-spastic properties that can relax muscles and regulate the brain as well as its ability to reduce inflammation, the ground zero of a variety of diseases.

Research is also showing CBD’s positive effects on less severe ailments as well, such as nausea. In essence, despite CBD’s lack of consistent and frequent research, clinical trials, and legal regulations, it’s starting to get the reputation as a miracle remedy of sorts. Given all of its presumed benefits, it’s easy to see why.

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Last modified: April 30, 2019