Cannabidiol (CBD)

kan-ə-bə-ˈdī-ˌȯl | Noun


A non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in cannabis. After tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD) is the second-most abundant cannabinoid in the plant, and has many potential therapeutic benefits, including anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-anxiety and seizure-suppressant properties. CBD can be sourced from both marijuana plants and hemp plants, which are legal in most countries as they contain minuscule amounts of THC.  


CBD is the yang to THC’s yin; it halts anxiety and elevates your level of chill without intoxication.


Combine THC and CBD to fully employ the entourage effect; THC and CBD work hand-in-hand to amplify each others’ effects.


What does CBD stand for? Cannabidiol. 

More about Cannabidiol (CBD)

The phytocannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-intoxicating molecule that results from the heating, or decarboxylation, of cannabidiolic acid, or CBDA. As popular as CBD has become in both the cannabis community and among mainstream consumers, its natural precursor, CBDA, is one of 114 unique cannabinoids found in cannabis. In most cultivars, or cultivated varieties of cannabis, CBD ranks low on the expression chart; there often isn’t much. However, following an explosive discovery in 2009 — it was noted that a handful of strains are rich in CBD versus the intoxicating THC. Droves of CBD-rich cultivars began cropping up all across the U.S., resulting in a marked uptick in CBD availability across the states.

How CBD works

CBD’s action within the brain and body is quite complicated. To date, scientists have discovered more than a dozen different mechanisms of action, or ways that CBD affect us. It’s very likely that the beneficial effects of CBD are a result of the total of its activation of all of these biological pathways, not a single one in particular. Much more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms by which CBD relieves ailments such as anxiety and seizures.


CBD directly interacts with a number of proteins in the body and central nervous system, a few of which are components of the endogenous cannabinoid system, or endocannabinoid system (ECS). For instance, CBD binds to both the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors, but it binds in a way that sets off a reaction that is essentially the opposite of what THC does. CBD is an inverse agonist, while THC is an agonist at CB1. Simply put, CBD is not intoxicating; at the molecular level, it does the opposite of what THC does. Our bodies have several other receptor proteins that participate in the endogenous cannabinoid system (GPR3, GPR6, TRPV1 and TRPV2, for example). CBD binds to all of these, and many of its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects may occur through these pathways.


CBD has some other very important jobs outside of the ECS. For instance, CBD mildly activates one of the brain’s predominant serotonin receptors (5-HT1A), which may explain CBD’s effects on depression and anxiety. It also acts at the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs), which halt the proliferation of cancer cells and convey neuroprotection and cardioprotection.


CBD can affect liver function, however. Have you ever had a prescription that warns you not to take the medicine along with grapefruit? That’s because grapefruit inhibits certain drug-metabolizing enzymes in your liver, resulting in much higher levels of your medication in your bloodstream. CBD does the same thing, so it is wise to discuss your medication regimen with a doctor or pharmacist before engaging in CBD therapy.


In the United States

The legality of CBD in the United States is contingent on CBD product in question being derived from hemp or marijuana plants. Following the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp as an industrial crop, hemp-derived CBD products containing less than 0.3% THC became legal.  Marijuana-derived CBD, however remains a Schedule I drug under federal law, but is permitted in various adult-use and medical marijuana states. Some states only allow for products infused with CBD, some only allow for high-CBD and low-THC products, while others allow both THC and CBD. 


The mosaic of laws that govern CBD legality across the globe varies just as much as the legislation across the U.S. Generally, CBD extract is legal in most countries, but what makes it illegal is where and what it’s extracted from. Most Group of 20 (G20) countries allow CBD extracted from industrial hemp, but not CBD extracted from whole-plant marijuana. 

Is CBD a Drug? 

Scientifically speaking, CBD fits the definition of a psychoactive substance, as it is known to interact with the brain with psychotropic implications. However, it’s important to reiterate that CBD is a non-intoxicating substance, and will not cause the type of sensory and psychological effects that THC does. While hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% THC are no longer considered a classified drug in the eyes of the federal government, marijuana-derived CBD still maintains its status as a Schedule I substance.

The relationship between THC and CBD

The relationship between THC and CBD is complex, but in short, CBD appears to minimize some of THC’s undesirable effects, such as paranoia, heart palpitations, and impaired thinking. Compared with THC in isolation, or its synthetic cousins such as Marinol, the combination of THC and CBD has much greater therapeutic value to patients. This phenomenon of cannabis-derived molecules working better together than they do in isolation is commonly referred to as the entourage effect.

Medical Uses

Consumers report using CBD for a huge variety of health and wellness reasons, but a lot more research is needed to determine which symptoms and ailments it works best for. Currently, there are more than 55 clinical trials enrolling patients to examine the effectiveness of CBD for a variety of conditions. Even young children can tolerate daily doses of up to 20 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. For a 175-pound (79.4-kilogram) adult, that’s more than 1,500 milligrams. The most common side effect of high-dose CBD is sleepiness.


Some very good medical and scientific research has been conducted for the following conditions.  

Pain Relief / Anti-inflammation

Understanding CBD’s analgesic, or pain-relieving, interactions with the ECS can shed light on CBD’s other interactions and effects. Importantly, the ECS participates in our bodies’ pain processing, but when CBD is introduced to our ECS, it stops the body from absorbing a pain-regulating compound known as anandamide — one of our body’s’ own natural cannabinoid molecules. Inhibiting the absorption of this compound shunts excess quantities into the bloodstream that in turn reduces pain. One study has revealed that CBD targets alpha-3 glycine receptors to suppress chronic pain and inflammation associated with dysfunctional glycine receptors, which are an important target for pain processing in the spine. In both humans and animal models, CBD has been shown to have a variety of anti-inflammatory properties.

Epilepsy and seizures

One of CBD’s chief benefits is its anticonvulsant properties. Although CBD has been documented as an antiepileptic since 1881, CBD’s anticonvulsant mechanisms still remain unclear. Not enough studies have been conducted to understand this relationship fully. One possible explanation for CBD’s neuroprotective effects is its interaction with NMDA receptors, which play a key role in the overly active neuron activity that is a hallmark of epilepsy.

Addiction treatment

In 2015, University of Montreal researchers conducted a comprehensive review to get at the heart of CBD and its intervention of addictive behaviors. These researchers concluded that CBD may indeed have a beneficial impact on opioid, cocaine, and psychostimulant addiction. Further, studies heavily suggest that CBD may also be beneficial in the treatment of marijuana and tobacco addiction. One reason that CBD may be effective as treatment for addictive disorders is its ability to ease the anxiety that leads people to crave drugs such as heroin.

Does CBD Affect Mood? 

Some people also wonder whether CBD can be used to treat mood-related disorders, such as depression or anxiety. While more research into the mental health benefits of CBD is needed, existing evidence suggests that it could be viable treatment. For instance, at doses of 400 to 600 milligrams, CBD can alleviate situational anxiety, such as public speaking. Interestingly, cannabis cultivars, or strains, that are high in CBD and low in THC are better than other cultivars for alleviating depression

Single compound vs. whole plant

The Hebrew University of Israel published a study in 2015 that documented the potency of single-molecule CBD extract versus the potency of whole-plant CBD-rich extract. It found that extract taken from whole plant CBD-rich cannabis is therapeutically superior to single-molecule extract. 


The scientists behind this study noticed that science had been utilizing pure, single-molecule CBD, which resulted in a bell-shaped dose-response curve. This means that CBD’s efficacy plummets at very high and very low doses. The 2015 study from Israel essentially documented the synergistic effects of whole-plant cannabinoid profiles; as noted above, this is the entourage effect. 

Industrial hemp and whole-plant marijuana

Although both hemp and marijuana are cannabis, hemp produces less than 0.3% THC, while marijuana produces more than 0.3% THC and is considered a “drug-type” product.


What’s better, CBD derived from industrial hemp or CBD derived from whole-plant marijuana? The answer appears to be whole-plant marijuana, but perhaps not for the reasons you’d assume.


Industrial hemp contains, by weight, far less CBD than CBD-rich cultivars such as Harlequin or Sour Tsunami. This means that producing a single 10 milliliter dose of CBD would require the cultivation and extraction of far more hemp than it would from whole-plant marijuana; thus raising the risk of exposing users to more contaminants. Hemp is classified as a “bioaccumulator,” or a plant that naturally absorbs toxicants from the soil.


Also, CBD derived from industrial hemp lacks the incredibly diverse profile of different cannabinoids and terpenes found in whole-plant marijuana. CBD derived from hemp boasts a weaker entourage effect.

High-CBD Strains

AC/DC: A sativa-dominant phenotype of Cannatonic, this cultivar boasts one of the highest ratios of CBD to THC, clocking in at 20:1. 


Cannatonic: A cross between MK Ultra and G13 Haze, Cannatonic hails from Spain and stands as one of the earliest cultivars to be bred for its high CBD content. 


Harlequin: This cultivar was bred by crossing classic landraces from Nepal, Switzerland, and Thailand. Its consistent 5:2 CBD to THC ratio ranks it among the CBD-rich staple cultivars. 


Sour Tsunami: One of the first strains bred for its CBD content, Sour Tsunami washes pain away. This cultivar typically sports a 1:1 ratio of CBD to THC, making full use of the “entourage effect” to deliver potent relief without an overwhelming high. 


Ringo’s Gift: This cultivar is named after cannabidiol pioneer Lawrence Ringo. Ringo’s Gift is a cross between two other CBD-rich strains, AC/DC and Harle-tsu. Its CBD to THC ratio varies from 1:1 to 22:1, but it consistently favors CBD. 


CBD Products

Cannabidiol is as versatile as THC — perhaps even more so. Through science and determination, CBD has worked its way into an entire host of products.


Flower: As expanded above, CBD-rich cultivars can be located all across the globe due to the boom in interest in the late 2000’s. Combusting or vaporizing CBD weed allows users to almost immediately feel the therapeutic effects of CBD. 


Isolate: CBD isolate is cannabidiol in its purest form: a fine white powder. This Crystalline form of CBD is versatile and allows users to measure exactly how much CBD they’re consuming.


Concentrates: CBD can also be purchased in concentrate form, including raw CBD oil, cartridges, vape pens, syringes and more. Concentrates bridge the gap between CBD flower and CBD isolate. 


Infusions: Research and opportunity have driven chefs and chemists to infuse CBD into all sorts of readily usable products, such as edibles to elixirs, sublingual sprays, capsules, and even topicals.