What is CBD?

CBD, which is short for cannabidiol, is one of more than 100 compounds found in cannabis plants. It’s received a lot of attention in recent years due to its potential medicinal value.

CBD may be responsible for many of the positive effects attributed to medical marijuana, such as pain relief and anxiety relief. While both CBD and THC are found in cannabis, CBD may offer greater therapeutic benefits. It can even reduce the adverse effects of THC.

The compound is found in all types of cannabis plants, including marijuana strains and hemp. According to the U.S. Federal Government, hemp is a cannabis plant containing no more than 0.3% THC by weight. 

The 2018 Farm Bill established the classification for hemp to include hemp-sourced extracts, including cannabinoids such as CBD. 

Cannabinoids are extracted from the plant and used for a variety of products, including CBD oil and rosin. You can also obtain CBD capsules and liquid tinctures. These products allow for the safe consumption of CBD without exposure to THC.

With fewer restrictions on cannabis cultivation, researchers are starting to explore the medical benefits of CBD. Some of the latest findings suggest that CBD may treat a wide range of ailments, from cancer and epilepsy to minor aches and pain.

Researchers have also started synthesizing CBD for pharmaceutical use. Clinical studies show that CBD is well tolerated by most people. It has a low risk of causing side effects. However, you may still want to learn more about CBD and how it works before consuming a CBD-based product.

How Does CBD Work?

CBD is a phytocannabinoid that stimulates the production of cannabinoid receptors in the body. The receptors are part of the endocannabinoid system. 

The endocannabinoid system was discovered in the 1980s through funding provided by the U.S. government. Researchers found that this system controls a variety of biological functions, including:

  • Sleep
  • Memory
  • Mood
  • Appetite
  • Pain response
  • Immune response
  • Body temperature regulation

The cannabinoid receptors are found throughout the body, but primarily in the central nervous system. Studies suggest that almost every pathological disease leads to the dysregulation of the receptors. 

For example, if you suffer from cancer, blood disorders, or infectious diseases, your endocannabinoid system may be out of balance. Without receptors to regulate the system, some internal functions may not run smoothly.

Medical experts believe that the benefits of CBD come from its ability to regulate the endocannabinoid system. Unlike THC, which directly interacts with cannabinoid receptors, CBD promotes the production of new receptors. It also helps slow the degradation of cannabinoid receptor cells.

When you consume a CBD product, the CBD helps regulate your endocannabinoid system. This may ease symptoms stemming from a wide range of diseases and illnesses. 

For those that don’t suffer from any medical issues, the effects of CBD are likely to be more subtle. You may notice that you sleep a little better at night or experience improved memory or mood. It’s also commonly used to relieve depression and anxiety.

Is There Pharmaceutical Grade CBD?

Yes, there is a pharmaceutical-grade CBD. On June 25, 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Epidiolex for the treatment of two severe forms of epilepsy. 

Epidiolex is a medical-grade CBD formula designed to treat Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. It’s approved for patients two years old and older. 

Other FDA-approved drugs are available that contain synthetic versions of cannabinoid compounds. Epidiolex stands out as the first FDA-approved drug derived directly from the plant.

The CBD is extracted from cannabis plants grown at a facility in the United Kingdom for GW Pharmaceuticals. After the drug received FDA approval, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) classified it as a Schedule V pharmaceutical. It’s now available via prescription.

The drug comes in liquid form and is taken orally. The CBD may relax the central nervous system, helping to limit the frequency of seizures.

During clinical trials, Epidiolex helped reduce the occurrence of seizures in patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome. People with the former condition experienced 20% to 25% fewer seizures. Patients suffering from Dravet syndrome had 26% fewer seizures.

Researchers are exploring the medical use of Epidiolex for other conditions, such as:

  • Pain management
  • Anxiety
  • Autism
  • Migraines
  • Schizophrenia
  • Infantile spasms
  • Tuberous sclerosis
  • Multiple sclerosis

As the only FDA-approved CBD product, Epidiolex is currently the standard for pharmaceutical-grade CBD. Other CBD products are available, but they may not contain the exact amount of CBD listed on the label. In one study, only 31% of CBD products contained the advertised amount of CBD. 

What’s the Difference Between THC and CBD?

CBD (cannabidiol) is one of at least 113 compounds found in the marijuana plant. THC is a separate phytocannabinoid and responsible for the “high” that marijuana users experience.

When you take a CBD product with no THC or minimal THC, you do not feel “stoned.” CBD doesn’t produce psychotropic effects

Instead of causing mildly intoxicating effects, CBD has minimal impact on your brain function. If anything, you may feel slightly relaxed and clear-headed.

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the principal compound in cannabis. It’s listed as a Schedule II drug while cannabis remains a Schedule I drug. The only FDA-approved THC product is a prescription-only appetite stimulant made with a synthetic form of THC.

Some of the side effects of THC include anxiety, paranoia, and an increased risk of chronic psychosis. Studies show that CBD may help counter the negative effects of THC.

THC is known to decrease brain activity in the striatum, which plays a role in modulating motor activity and performing cognitive tasks. CBD increases activity in this area of the brain, producing an opposite reaction compared to THC.

Researchers have also found that THC-dominant marijuana strains tend to lead to higher rates of psychosis, anxiety, and other mental health issues compared to weed with a higher CBD content. Additional studies found that CBD may help treat social anxiety disorder.

The vast amount of research demonstrates that THC and CBD have different effects on the brain and body. 

THC causes psychotropic effects and increases the risk of mental health issues. You may feel sleepy, relaxed, and experience limited motor skills and brain function. CBD negates these risks and may improve cognitive function.

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