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What Is CBD (Cannabidiol)? How It Works for Our Body

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What is CBD (cannabidiol)?- Dr. Axe

This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of medical advice or treatment from a personal physician. All viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Axe nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.

By now, you’ve probably heard about the possible benefits of CBD oil and maybe you have considered using products containing the cannabis compound. But you may be wondering — what is CBD, exactly?

There’s a lot of confusion out there about CBD and how it may affect the human body. Considering the endocannabinoid system was only discovered approximately 25 years ago, we are just beginning to learn about cannabidiol and its possible abilities.

But so far, the research is promising, even though research is ongoing and more research needs to be conducted. That helps explain why so many people are becoming interested in using this thousand-year-old approach for their own health interests.


What Is CBD?

CBD, or cannabidiol, is the second most abundant component of the Cannabis sativa plant species. It’s one of over 100 phytocannabinoids that have been identified in cannabis and hemp plants.

Unlike THC, the main constituent in cannabis, cannabidiol does not induce intoxicating effects. This led scientists to originally believe that CBD was an inactive compound, but eventually, it was discovered that CBD initiates multiple actions in the central nervous system and even has an influence on the effects of THC.

CBD is gaining a lot of attention lately because of its potential health benefits.

How does CBD make you feel? For one thing, it doesn’t make you feel high. Instead, it typically has calming and warming effects on the body. It is believed to interact with receptors throughout the body to keep the endocannabinoid system in balance. This is what is believed to allow for cannabidiol’s positive effects.

Related: 10 Herbs and Superfoods with Cannabinoids Similar to Cannabis

How Does Cannabidiol Work With Our Body?

The belief is that cannabidiol works within the body by mimicking the effects of compounds called “endogenous cannabinoids,” or “endocannabinoids.” Scientists have discovered that there are cannabinoid-like chemicals inside the body that respond with receptors that make up the endocannabinoid system, a recently discovered body system that may be one of the most important physiologic systems involved in establishing and maintaining our health. We naturally synthesize these chemical compounds and they modulate receptors throughout the body.

What does this have to do with CBD? Remarkably, CBD and other cannabinoids also interact with these receptors. When we ingest CBD or apply it topically, it activates these receptors in the body.

This is what gives CBD its ability to positively benefit areas of the body.

The Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system is a biochemical communication system in the body that was discovered about 25 years ago, when scientists were researching how THC affected the body. In their research, they uncovered a complex network of cannabinoid receptors that affect cells throughout the body, including the central nervous system.

We now know that our body naturally synthesizes what are called endogenous cannabinoids, which are chemical messengers that interact with these receptors. But ingesting or applying cannabinoids found in cannabis, like CBD and THC, has the same effects.

Generally speaking, receptors in our nervous system and immune system react to cannabis compounds and produce specific effects that may benefit many bodily processes.

Scientists have discovered that “endocannabinoid system dysfunction” can lead to unfavorable effects. But using compound like cannabidiol can be extremely helpful for keeping this important system in balance.


CBD vs. THC

CBD and THC are both compounds found in the Cannabis sativa plant species and can be extracted to make hemp and cannabis products. There are hundreds of other compounds in cannabis, but these two get the most attention (at least for now).

But when it comes to CBD vs. THC, most people tend to ask the same question: Which one is better?

Here’s the thing — CBD has been misrepresented as a non-psychoactive agent, when in fact, it’s actually psychoactive. This is typically what allows CBD to deliver any benefits. However, the psychoactive effects caused by CBD do differ from those caused by THC, in the sense that CBD is non-intoxicating.

Larger amounts of THC can often lead to unwanted psychoactive effects, but some studies indicate that in smaller amounts, THC can be beneficial. This is especially true when it’s used in combination with CBD, causing what’s called the “entourage effect.”

CBD Isolate vs. CBD Full Spectrum

If you’ve been checking out CBD product labels recently, you have probably noticed that some say “CBD isolate” and others are “full spectrum CBD.” So what’s the difference between CBD isolate vs. full spectrum CBD?

CBD isolate means that the cannabidiol products contains only CBD and no other cannabis compound. It’s been processed further than whole hemp extracts, isolating CBD to a create a purified form of the compound.

Full spectrum CBD products include CBD and all other compounds found naturally in the plant. This means other cannabinoids (including trace amounts of THC), terpenes (which give the plant a distinct smell and flavor) and essential oils are all present.

CBD isolates used to be touted for their purity, but as more research is conducted, initial findings indicate that full spectrum CBD may have even greater potential. This is because the compounds found naturally in hemp or cannabis may have a compounding effect when they are used in combination.


CBD Products

The CBD industry is booming and many new products are hitting the market. This means that consumers have a lot to choose from, but it can also add to the confusion.

Here’s a simple rundown of the CBD products that are available today. (Of course, you should always discuss CBD usage with your healthcare professional and use any product according to directions.)

  • CBD Oils: CBD oils are usually the most potent and unprocessed form of cannabidiol. During the extraction process, CBD oil is removed directly from the flowers, stalks and seeds of the hemp plant. In full spectrum CBD oils, you are getting all compounds that are found naturally in the plant, including cannabinoids (with very small amounts of THC), terpenes and essential oils. You can usually find CBD oils in a bottle with a dropper so that it can be used by mouth. You can also use CBD oils for DIY recipes made with cannabidiol. This is one of the easiest ways to control your CBD oil dosage.
  • CBD Tinctures: CBD extracts can be found in tincture form. Technically, a tincture has CBD that’s been extracted with alcohol or another solvent, and they are generally less potent than CBD oils. Tinctures are typically used by mouth as well.
  • CBD Capsules: CBD capsules are available as a convenient way to take the cannabinoid orally.
  • CBD Powders: CBD powder can be added to water, juice, tea or a smoothie. This is another easy way to take CBD orally and it allows you to control the dose.
  • CBD Topicals: Topical creams, lotions, salves, gels, rollers and sprays containing CBD are commonly used for joint comfort and more.
  • CBD Edibles: Edibles, like gummies and chocolates, containing CBD are popular because they’re easy to use on the go.
  • CBD Vape Oil: Using CBD vape oil requires using a vape pen or e-cigarette. This isn’t recommended for beginners, as it usually contains higher concentrations of CBD and makes it more difficult to control the dose.

CBD Side Effects

While more research needs to be conducted, some research presently shows that there are few, generally mild CBD side effects, including fatigue, irritability and nausea. A “tolerance” for CBD does not seem to occur over time.

CBD may also raise the levels of certain medications in your blood. If you are taking any medications, talk to your doctor about possible interactions.

When choosing a CBD product, make sure to purchase from a reputable company that provides a certificate of analysis (COA) and lists all ingredients on the label. You also want to choose an organic CBD in order to avoid ingesting pesticides and other harmful chemicals that can lead to unwanted side effects.


Final Thoughts About Cannabidiol

  • What is CBD? CBD, or cannabidiol, is the second most abundant component of the Cannabis sativa plant species. Both cannabis (also known as “marijuana”) and hemp are part of the Cannabis sativa species.
  • CBD generally interacts with receptors in the endocannabinoid system to benefit many body systems, including your central nervous system.
  • Both CBD and THC have psychoactive effects, but CBD is known for its non-intoxicating properties.
  • CBD may have a range of health benefits.
  • There are many CBD products on the market today — with tinctures, capsules, powders and topical solutions being the most popular.

Read Next: CBD for Dogs

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