What is Cannabidiol (CBD)?

Updated January 2023 – By Sandy Yanez

Cannabidiol or CBD is one of over a hundred compounds, called a cannabinoid, naturally produced by the cannabis plant. Cannabinoids help our bodies maintain homeostasis (balance) and are similar in function to the endogenous (internal) cannabinoids that our bodies produce. The most well-known and researched plant cannabinoids are THC and CBD.

While THC gets most of the attention due to the psychoactive properties it produces, CBD has recently ignited the interest of the public and scientific communities for its ability to treat chronic pain, anxiety, depression, inflammation, and insomnia without impairing the mind.

CBD can be found in abundance in the fiber cannabis plant (hemp) and contains less than 0.3% THC. CBD from cannabis (marijuana, weed) may have higher amounts of THC, and due to this, it is not legal in all 50 states. The 2018 Farm Bill officially legalized CBD on a federal level as long as it is derived from hemp and as long as the hemp plant from which it was derived contains less the 0.3% THC.

Benefits of CBD

CBD is a safe, non-addictive cannabinoid that has a rich history as a medicine going back thousands of years. Today the therapeutic properties of CBD are being tested and confirmed by scientists and doctors around the world.

Research in human and animal studies, as well as anecdotal reports, suggest that CBD may help with :

  • Anxiety and Depression – by increasing neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine
  • Insomnia – in large doses quiets the mind of ruminating thoughts
  • Chronic pain – both muscular and nerve
  • Addictions – reduces cravings for opioids, heroin, tobacco, and more
  • Seizures – specifically pediatric treatment-resistant epilepsy
  • PTSD – by reducing activity in the amygdala (part of the brain associated with fear) and helping reduce traumatic memories
  • ALS symptoms – CBD in conjunction with ALS medication can improve symptoms, aid in functioning, and is believed to help treat any motor neuron disease
  • Protects against neurological disorders – like Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, MS, migraines, and more
  • Inflammatory skin conditions – including eczema, dermatitis, and psoriasis
  • Relief from chemotherapy side effects – including nausea, vomiting, appetite, and more
  • Weight loss – turns white fat (stored for energy but can become excessive = obesity) into brown fat (burns calories, thermogenesis, and is full of mitochondria = energy)
  • Immunosuppressant – reduces an overactive immune response (arthritis, lupus, IBD, MS, Hashimoto’s)

How CBD works

CBD impacts two major cannabinoid receptors in the body when consumed. CB1 is primarily found in the brain and central nervous system (nerves of the brain and spinal cord) whereas CB2 is found in immune system cells, the gastrointestinal tract, and the peripheral nervous system (nerves extending to the rest of the body from the brain and spinal cord).

This is important because activating these receptors can have significant consequences. Some research has discovered that activating CB2 receptors can rid the brain of beta-amyloid protein – a plaque present in people with Alzheimer’s disease – while activating CB1 receptors can improve depression, reduce anxiety and paranoia, and lower intestinal inflammation and blood pressure.

CBD plays a major role by activating and inhibiting non-cannabinoid receptors, as well as enhancing the synthesis and activity of anandamide (our “bliss” molecule) in the central nervous system (CNS) and immune system.

Is CBD safe?

CBD is considered safe for human consumption and well tolerated in large doses. That being said, some consumers have some reactions to CBD that include nausea, fatigue, dizziness, and diarrhea. These side effects were usually found in patients taking the wrong dose or from a non-reliable source.

There is a family of enzymes, called the cytochrome P450 group, which work to metabolize a large percentage of the pharmaceutical drugs we consume. CBD at high doses may inhibit the metabolic activity of these drugs. Unfortunately, because each person’s endocannabinoid system is unique, there is no standard to know how CBD may affect you and the medications you consume. A simple way of determining if you should be concerned about possible CBD interactions is to see if your medications cannot be taken with grapefruit.

When it comes to research on the subject of CBD interactions with pharmaceuticals, the blood thinner Coumadin (Warfarin) is affected by CBD. CBD has been shown to decrease Coumadin metabolization and therefore CBD should not be consumed.

Be wary of CBD products that are marketed as cures or treatments for health conditions. Although CBD may benefit people with certain conditions, this depends on factors such as dosing, quality, and the presence of THC in the product.

Suggested dosing

Anecdotally, most patients have found around 10mg of CBD taken two to three times a day helps with pain, depression, anxiety, muscle spasms, thought processes, memory, focus, and more. A higher dose of 30mg or more helps quiet the mind so you can fall asleep faster and sleep better through the night.

Take away

CBD has significant and profound effects on how our body maintains balance in the face of countless external stressors. As a single compound, CBD has a vast spectrum of potential therapeutic benefits and offers a large number of treatment options for a multitude of seemingly unrelated diseases and conditions.

Before you use a CBD product, talk with a healthcare professional to discuss appropriate dosing and any other questions you may have. If your doctor is unfamiliar with CBD, speak with a qualified cannabis consultant.


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