What is CBD?

The Simple Explanation

CBD, which is short for cannabidiol, is one of many naturally occurring cannabinoids found only in the cannabis family and has been used for wellness for millenniums.

The In-Depth Explanation

The cannabis plant is complex, containing > 400 chemical entities, of which more than 60 are cannabinoid compounds. The four major cannabinoid compounds are d-9-THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD (cannabidiol), d-8 THC (delta–tetrahydrocannabinol) and cannabinol. These 4 compound are similar in their chemical structure, however can differ greatly in their pharmacological effects.

d-9-THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly referred to as just “THC”) is the major psychoactive ingredient and is well known for its psychotropic effects. 

In contrast, CBD (cannabidiol), is the major non-psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. CBD was first isolated in 1940, while d-9-THC wasn’t isolated and characterized until 1964. Because of its psychotropic effects, much of the research since the discovery of cannabinoids has focused on THC. In the late 1980s, it was discovered that d-9-THC binds to two cell membrane receptors, named the cannabinoid type 1 (CB1) and type 2 (CB2) receptors, to exert its effects. Unlike d-9-THC, CBD does not activate CB1 and CB2 receptors, which likely accounts for its lack of psychotropic activity. 

Recently, there has been an increasing amount of research on CBD. CBD has been found to interact with many signaling pathways and therefore may have multiple targets in the body. Several studies in both animals and humans have characterized the effects of CBD, but more research is likely needed to fully elucidate the mechanism of action.

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