Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the most prevalent chemical compounds in the cannabis plant. Unlike the more famous molecule, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD is completely nonpsychoactive.
Don’t expect to get “high” off of this organic chemical, however. CBD is all relaxation without intoxication.
While CBD still has an effect on your body, consuming CBD by itself isn’t going to send you on the cerebral adventure associated with THC. For decades, medical professionals and the general public overlooked CBD because psychoactive cannabis took center stage.
Now, the medical potential of CBD has taken cannabis to mainstream audiences. Preclinical trials over the past four decades have found that the cannabinoid shows promise as an:
- anti-tumoral agent
CBD is often used by patients in the form of an oil. Patients with more chronic conditions such as cancer and epilepsy often use medical cannabis oil extracted from high-CBD varieties of cannabis.
How does CBD work?
Most predominant inside the resin glands (trichomes) of the female cannabis plant, CBD is one of over 80 chemical compounds known as cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are agonists that bind to special receptors on your cells, called cannabinoid receptors.
Certain receptors are heavily concentrated in the central nervous system while others are found in almost every organ of the body. Cannabinoid receptors are even found in the skin, digestive tract, and even in the reproductive organs.
You can think of agonists as keys and cannabinoid receptors as locks. By consuming cannabis, you are taking in agonists that interact with different locks on cells in the body. Together, these cell receptors make up a larger endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The ECS is a vast network of cell receptor proteins with many functions. Some describe the ECS as the greatest neurotransmitter system in the body. It lends a hand in seemingly just about everything, including:
- motor control
- immune function
- pain perception
- bone development
Four primary purposes of the ECS include neuroprotection, stress recovery, immune balance, and homeostatic regulation. The last one is a fancy way of referring to a system that creates optimum energy balance in the body.
Somehow, CBD seems to tap into this balancing system to produce its therapeutic effects. CBD is able to interact with cells in our bodies because the molecule has a similar composition to similar chemicals that the human body produces naturally, called endocannabinoids.
Endo means inside and cannabinoid refers to action on cannabinoid receptors. In contrast, the cannabinoids in the cannabis plant are technically called phytocannabinoids.
It’s not often that a plant compound can make headlines over and over again. However, CBD is a phytocannabinoid with some serious life-saving potential.
In fact, CBD has only gained mainstream attention quite recently, after the family of one brave little girl decided to throw caution to the wind and speak out about medical cannabis.