Phytocannabinoids - the cannabinoids found in cannabis flowers - are a group of naturally occurring chemicals that provide the plant with natural protection against things like disease, microbes and pathogens.
There are over a 100 different types of cannabinoids with CBD being only one of them!
What is CBD?
CBD (or cannabidiol) is a safe, non-addictive plant compound, with a robust therapeutic profile and significant benefits to the body and mind. CBD is found in high concentrations in hemp plants (typically up to 40% CBD). This, coupled with it’s low THC content of less than 0.2% THC, is one of the reasons why hemp extracts and products made from hemp are legal in the UK.
How does CBD work?
We all have a complex network of cannabinoid receptors and naturally occurring cannabinoids (called endocannabinoids) in our bodies that form part of what is called the “endocannabinoid system”, or ECS for short.
The ECS controls a wide range systems and functions within our bodies, including sleep, mood, immune responses, pain and pleasure reception along with a ton of other things. When the ECS is in balance, we are healthy. But when something goes wrong, it can cause us to get sick.
Usually when this happens, our bodies release endocannabinoids to restore balance and make us healthy again. But scientists have now found that phytocannabinoids can help this process along by boosting the ECS - either by mimicking the endocannabinoids, or in the case of CBD, by augmenting them.
And it is this property of CBD that makes it such a special cannabinoid. Because CBD doesn’t interact directly with cannabinoid receptors, but instead by stimulating the ECS to produce more of its own endocannabinoids, it plays very differently with our bodies than other types of phytocannabinoids.
For example, CBD operates on 60 different molecular pathways - from serotonin and dopamine receptors, to pain and immune system receptors. It also slows the breakdown of endocannabinoids, meaning they stay in your body for longer, keeping your ECS and you, healthier.
And while we aren’t making any medical claims regarding CBD, there is a growing body of scientific evidence showing that it can help with things like:
- Autoimmune diseases (inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis)
- Neurological conditions (Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, stroke, traumatic brain injury)
- Metabolic syndrome (diabetes)
- Neuropsychiatric illness (autism, PTSD, alcoholism)
- Gut disorders (inflammatory bowel disease e.g., colitis and Crohn’s)
- Skin disease (acne, dermatitis, psoriasis)
- Neuroprotective effects
- Anti-cancer properties
How is CBD different from THC?
Both CBD and THC are considered major cannabinoids, and have the same chemical makeup - 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and two oxygen atoms. But, these are arranged differently.
This is also why they work so differently in our bodies.
CBD works by stimulating the ECS and other systems to release endocannabinoids and neurotransmitters to be their best selves. THC (and other cannabinoids) work their magic by taking the place of our endocannabinoids and neurotransmitters.
It is also this difference that’s responsible for the differences in their effects and benefits.
For instance, THC has a ton of positive effects on the body. But it is also very much known for its intoxicating effects - aka getting you “stoned”. And often, it comes with some other undesired side-effects like increased heart rate, memory and motor control impairments, dry mouth, red eyes, “munchies” and even memory loss.
But because of the way CBD works, it doesn’t get you high. CBD also rarely exhibits any noticeable side effects - even at very large dosages. CBD is also proven to be widely tolerated by most people.
This difference in the way CBD works compared to THC is also why it has so many benefits - often beyond just the scope of the systems the ECS is involved with. And it’s also why it can oftentimes mediate the undesired effects of THC.
I’m curious, how should I try it?
CBD can be consumed for so many different reasons and in so many different ways. You can eat it, drink it, apply it, smoke it and even soak in it. So the first step is to a ask yourself what you want to use it for. And then decide which product would suit you and your purpose best.
For instance, if you want to try it for a skin condition, a CBD infused skin-care product is your best bet. Want to reduce muscle aches or arthritis? Look for a topical. Want to improve your mood or mental acuity? A high quality CBD oil or tincture is probably the way to go.