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Introduction: What is CBD?

Due to heightened media attention, CBD has been gaining mainstream appeal for its potential health benefits based on new and promising scientific research. But what exactly is CBD? To put it very simply, it’s a naturally occurring chemical compound found in specific plants that interact with our body and may ease some of those everyday ailments that we all experience, from inflammation to trouble sleeping. As we’ll explore below and in future articles, the complete answer is a bit more complicated, but full of fascinating insights. If you’re considering adding CBD to your daily routine, follow us as we examine the budding world of CBD. Let’s explore!

Discovered as early as the 1940s, CBD (short for cannabidiol) is one of many cannabinoids commonly found in the Cannabis genus of plants. (We’ll explore these plants in a later article). These cannabinoids are chemical compounds that interact with the human body causing a variety of effects, depending on the cannabinoid. Specifically, cannabinoids interact with the human body’s natural endocannabinoid system through two primary receptors, CB1 and CB2. Thus, to understand the effects of CBD on the human body requires an understanding of how these receptors work. 

Our bodies are filled with receptors. We have receptors that help us detect a change in temperature, so we know when it’s cold outside, or light, so we know when it’s time to go to bed. Receptors in our bodies also help to alert us to pain or to register the touch of a loved one. All things considered, receptors are important elements that allow us to interact and adapt to our environments.

For our purposes, CB1 and CB2 are the receptors that determine the sensational and behavioral effects of ingested cannabinoids such as CBD, as well as the cannabinoids that our bodies produce naturally, such as 2-AG and anandamide. CB1 receptors can be found throughout the body, many of which are located in the brain. In contrast, the majority of CB2 receptors are found in the immune and gastrointestinal systems. One of the better-known cannabinoids, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, primarily interacts with the CB1 receptors. THC is the primary cannabinoid found in marijuana (a species within the Cannabis genus) and its interaction with the CB1 receptors manifests itself as the “high” associated with marijuana use. This effect is the result of the psychoactive properties of THC.

Unlike THC, CBD does not have the same psychoactive properties. Using CBD does not result in the same intoxicating effects as THC. Thus, CBD alone is not used for recreational purposes. In fact, some studies have even suggested that CBD may reduce the psychoactive response of THC. Nevertheless, the interaction between CBD and the CB1 and CB2 receptors is still being investigated. Despite the ongoing research, CBD use has shown some clear health benefits. For example, it has been used successfully to treat many of the worst childhood epilepsy syndromes. Further, CBD has also been used to treat anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain and inflammation. So while we might not yet understand why it helps, we can already see positive results. As investments and interest continue to pour into CBD research, we will continue to learn more about this unique compound to unlock its full potential.