Cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound found in the cannabis plant. Like its infamous cousin THC, CBD is a cannabinoid, and is produced in the glandular trichomes (the tiny, resin-producing “hairs” on flowers and leaves) of certain varieties of the cannabis plant. Also like THC, it is a highly medicinal compound, and has been found to be effective in treating numerous different illnesses of varying severity.
Like THC and most other cannabinoids, the CBD molecule is comprised of hydrogen, carbon and oxygen atoms. In fact, CBD and THC are practically identical in terms of molecular structure – they both have the chemical formula C21H30O2 (21 carbon, 30 hydrogen and 2 oxygen atoms), and only differ from each other in their arrangement and the position of their chemical bonds.
How Does CBD Work in the Body?
The biological action of CBD has not been fully described in the scientific literature, and it’s likely that we’ll have to do a great deal more research to really get to grips with what it is doing in the body, and what it has the potential to do if used correctly.
Now, scientists are beginning to paint a basic picture of what’s happening – and surprisingly, it seems to be very, very different from the way THC works. As we explained in our recent post What Is The Endocannabinoid System?, THC acts in a similar way to the body’s own natural endocannabinoid, anandamide. It binds to the cannabinoid receptors, which are complex proteins found in the junctions between nerve endings.
But CBD doesn’t bind to these receptors, at least not to any great extent. Instead, it acts on certain other non-cannabinoid receptors, and various other processes that are not dependent on receptors at all. However, it still has its place within the endocannabinoid system, as its activity effects the activity of other cannabinoids and endocannabinoids.
For example, it can delay the re-absorption of anandamide. In typical conditions, anandamide is produced by the nerve endings, then quickly reabsorbed the same nerve endings! But CBD gets in the way of that process, meaning that the effects of anandamide will continue to be felt in the body for longer.
CBD vs THC
Unlike THC, cannabidiol does not cause a psychoactive effect in the user. It is thought that the psychoactive effect of THC is related to its ability to bind to the CB1 receptor, which CBD does not do, at least not to a significant degree.
For this reason, it is not subject to the same restrictions as THC under international law, and it can be legally bought and sold in many countries. However, because of its association with cannabis, there are countries that have placed restrictions on its sale and use in medicine.
Furthermore, now that many countries are beginning to recognize its usefulness in medicine, it has sparked off regulations that actually make it less available, due to the purported need to follow the approval process and have it properly licensed and marketed as medicine. For example, in the UK, the medicines regulatory body recently issued a statement limiting the sale of cannabidiol – although many retailers report that there has been no enforcement and it has effectively not changed anything.
What Medical Conditions Can CBD Treat?
The medicinal effects of CBD have been studied for decades, and dozens of studies from researchers all over the world have shown that it can benefit a wide range of illnesses. Here’s a quick breakdown of what we know – for a more in-depth discussion, take a look at our recent post Conditions You Can Treat With Cannabidiol (CBD).
Strong evidence of the medicinal potential of cannabidiol has come from infant sufferers of rare, treatment-resistant forms of epilepsy, such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. In fact, several high-CBD varieties of medicinal cannabis have been developed in recent years with the primary intention of helping children afflicted with Dravet syndrome.
CBD has repeatedly shown potential in treating various seizure-related conditions as well as epilepsy. For example, some sufferers of Parkinson’s disease apparently experience an almost instantaneous effect on tremors and shakiness after taking a dose of CBD oil.
It’s important to remember that research into the effects of cannabidiol and other cannabis compounds is still in the early stages. The majority of existing research is on animals and not humans, so their usefulness is limited – and the few studies on humans aren’t always conclusive. However, as medicinal cannabis legislation continues to spread worldwide, it should become easier to investigate these crucial aspects of cannabinoid medicine.
How Can CBD Be Used?
How you choose to administer your cannabidiol depends greatly on the form it takes. If you are using a whole-plant extract or oil, you are best advised to ingest it orally or sublingually (beneath the tongue, so that it penetrates the mucous membranes and rapidly enters the bloodstream). You may also choose to add it to foods or drinks, such as smoothies, shakes or salad oils.
Otherwise, if you have access to high-CBD cannabis flowers, you can smoke, vape or make extracts from them in exactly the same manner as high-THC cannabis. CBD Caps are also a very effective method.
On the other hand, you may have CBD in the form of a purified, crystalline isolate. This type of CBD can be dabbed, dissolved under the tongue, dissolved in oil to make edibles, smoked, or vaped! For more information on using purified CBD crystals, check out our post How To Consume CBD!
Legal Status of CBD
CBD is not subject to worldwide prohibition via international treaties – although certain states and countries may have legislation in place controlling it or banning it entirely. So legality and availability depends on your location, but in worldwide terms it’s generally easier – or at least not impossible – to obtain via legal channels.
Where Can Patients Source CBD From?
Depending on location, it may be possible to obtain CBD products over-the-counter at your local pharmacy, or possibly at health food or alternative medicine stores. However, care should be taken to avoid low-strength or poor-quality products in such locations.
In some countries, you may be able to obtain it via a doctors’ prescription. This has traditionally been difficult as cannabidiol has not been officially approved as a medicine in many countries. However, this is beginning to change – recently, the Dutch company Bedrocan received market approval for its drug Epidiolex, which is essentially a whole-plant extract of a high-CBD cannabis strain, for the treatment of epilepsy. This will hopefully pave the way for other CBD-based medications to get to the patients that could benefit from them.
However, if doctors, pharmacists or health stores can’t supply the CBD you are looking for, there are online vendors that will ship to a wide range of locations, discreetly and quickly. With a little knowledge and research, you should be able to find a supplier that will ship you CBD in the desired form, directly to your chosen destination.