What is CBD? I get that question quite often from my patients. Unless you are part of the CBD, Cannabis or Marijuana world, there is a lot of confusion. CBD is one of the over 60 cannabinoids found in the Cannabis and Hemp plants. CBD and THC are the two that are produced in the highest concentrations and thus have been thought to produce most of the effects people feel from Cannabis and or Hemp products. What most people don’t realize that by itself, CBD is only 1 molecule in an entire symphony of molecules that that the Cannabis plant produces. To clarify: Cannabis is the overarching term for both Marijuana and Hemp. Hemp and Marijuana are like brother and sister and Cannabis is the parent. What distinguishes them is the amount of Cannabinoids they produce- Hemp is defined by law as containing less than 0.3% THC. But Hemp also has as many industrial uses as there are stars in the sky. But back to what exactly is CBD.
CBD at the scientific level is just one of the byproducts produced by the Hemp and Cannabis plants. Yet this one molecule has gained a lot of attention, for good reason, as a cure all. But buyer beware, if it cures everything does it cure anything? CBD provides many benefits when ingested and there are stacks of scientific papers that back up its interaction with the human body and even a few FDA approved medications to treat specific aliments. What needs to be realized is this is just ONE molecule out of probably about 700 that the Cannabis and Hemp plant produce. We have just begun to scratch the surface of what this amazing plant can do. A class of these molecules are called Terpenes and they are aromatic producing substances that we are all familiar with. You know that eye opening and energizing smell of cutting into an orange or lemon? You can thank terpenes. What has been found is not only do they produce an aroma, you know that “skunk” aroma associated with Cannabis? You can also thank terpenes. They also have medicinal benefits when ingested. Ever diffused lavender to help calm you down? It works because these molecules are able to cross the blood brain barrier and bind to receptors and actually cause an effect in the human body. No one is talking about the terpenes associated with Cannabis and Hemp, but they are there and they actually are what differentiate the different strains of Cannabis and Hemp, NOT the CBD or THC content.
We happen to have an entire system in our body that is able to interact with these molecules, called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). Lets take it one step further, our own body actually makes 2 molecules that are almost identical to CBD and THC! Our ECS is so vital to our body, that it helps orchestrate organ development when we are a fetus. After we are born and on our way to developing the ECS main job is to maintain Homeostasis, a big word that just means to maintain a steady internal environment against the continuous onslaught of external stimulus we encounter every day.
So to bring it all together, how does CBD work? Well, that is more complicated than what we have time to discuss here. But the best way to understand how it works, is that it not only interacting with receptors in our ECS, but also by interacting with receptors that are found to play a part in anxiety, pain, seizures, stress, PTSD, etc. When ingested one of the main actions of CBD is to actually decrease the metabolism of our natural endocannabinoids. Remember I told you earlier we make 2 molecules identical to CBD and THC? Well, when CBD is ingested one of its actions is to increase the action of our natural CBD by decreasing its metabolism!
With any CBD or supplements, please check with your medical professionals prior to ingesting any products. With CBD, make sure the company is providing lab results and give them a call and ask them questions and get a feel for the company.