What is this CBD stuff anyway?!
OK, first things first. What is CBD?
CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a chemical compound from the Cannabis sativa plant, which is also known as marijuana or hemp, according to the US National Library of Medicine.
It's a naturally occurring substance that's used in products like oils and edibles to impart a feeling of relaxation and calm. Unlike its cousin, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the major active ingredient in marijuana, CBD is not psychoactive.
So you're saying CBD won't get me high?
Nope. The cannabis plant is made up of two main players: CBD and THC. "CBD is the non-psychoactive portion of the plant, so what that means is you won't have any effects like euphoria," says Junella Chin, an osteopathic physician and a medical cannabis expert for cannabisMD. "You won't feel sedated or altered in any way."
There are two possible exceptions to this. The first is that some people, for unknown reasons, just react differently to CBD. According to Dr. Chin, about 5% of people say they feel altered after taking CBD. "Usually they're the same people who have side effects from Advil or Tylenol," she says. You never know how your body will react to any new supplement, so when taking CBD for the first time, do so safely under supervision.
It's also crucial to buy third-party-tested CBD for quality assurance. Because the FDA doesn't regulate CBD, it is possible to buy a product that is more or less potent than advertised, or even contains small amounts of THC.
So how does it work??
Cannabinoids, or phytocannabinoids are capable of interacting with the body and the brain through the endocannabinoid system (ECS). While THC and other cannabinoids act directly on the cannabinoid receptors in the ECS, Cannabidiol has a slightly different nature.
CBD And the Endocannabinoid System
In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan threw tens of millions of dollars into studies that were aimed to prove that marijuana causes brain damage and cognitive impairment. As you might guess, these studies failed to prove the [politically biased] claim and instead, they ended up discovering the endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system is a complex network of cell receptors and neurotransmitters that are responsible for maintaining homeostasis in the body. Cannabinoid receptors are spread throughout the entire body, with largest concentrations in the central and peripheral nervous systems, and in the immune system. The ECS improves the communication between all those systems.
The endocannabinoid system also controls a wide range of biological functions, including sleep, mood, temperature control, immune response, pain and pleasure perception, fertility, memory, and appetite. Whenever something wrong happens with your health, the endocannabinoid system will release its natural cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) to restore the balance.
THC vs CBD
As the legal use of marijuana and other cannabis products grows, consumers are becoming more curious about their options. This includes cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), two natural compounds found in plants of the Cannabis genus.
CBD can be extracted from hemp or from marijuana. Hemp plants are cannabis plants that contain less than 0.3 percent THC, while marijuana plants are cannabis plants that contain higher concentrations of THC. CBD is sold in the form of gels, gummies, oils, supplements, extracts, and more.
THC is the main psychoactive compound in marijuana that gives the high sensation. It can be consumed by smoking marijuana. It’s also available in oils, edibles, tinctures, capsules, and more.
Both compounds interact with your body’s endocannabinoid system, but they have very different effects.
Read on to learn more about these compounds. While they may have a lot in common, they have some key differences that determine how they’re used.
CBD vs. THC: Chemical structure
Both CBD and THC have the exact same molecular structure: 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms. A slight difference in how the atoms are arranged accounts for the differing effects on your body.
Both CBD and THC are chemically similar to your body’s own endocannabinoids. This allows them to interact with your cannabinoid receptors.
The interaction affects the release of neurotransmitters in your brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals responsible for relaying messages between cells and have roles in pain, immune function, stress, sleep, to name a few.
CBD vs. THC: Psychoactive components
Despite their similar chemical structures, CBD and THC don’t have the same psychoactive effects. In fact, CBD is a nonpsychoactive compound. That means it doesn’t produce the “high” associated with THC.
THC binds with the cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors in the brain. It produces a high or sense of euphoria.
CBD binds very weakly, if at all, to CB1 receptors. In fact, it can interfere with the binding of THC and dampen the psychoactive effects.
CBD vs. THC: Legality
In the U.K, cannabis-related laws are evolving regularly. Marijuana and THC are on the list of controlled substances, so they’re prohibited under U.K law.
CBD vs. THC: Medical benefits
CBD and THC have many of the same medical benefits. They can provide relief from several of the same conditions. However, CBD doesn’t cause the euphoric effects that occur with THC. Some people may prefer to use CBD because of the lack of this side effect.
In June 2018, the Food and Drug Administration approved Epidiolex, the first prescription medication to contain CBD. It’s used to treat rare, difficult-to-control forms of epilepsy.
CBD is used to help with other various conditions, such as:
• Psychosis or mental disorders
• Inflammatory bowel disease
THC is used to help with conditions such as:
• Muscle spasticity
• Low appetite
CBD vs. THC: Side effects
CBD is well-tolerated, even in large doses. Research suggests any side effects that occur with CBD use are likely the result of drug-to-drug interactions between CBD and other medications you may be taking.
THC causes temporary side effects, such as:
• Increased heart rate
• Co-ordination problems
• Dry mouth
• Red eyes
• Slower reaction times
• Memory loss
These side effects are part of the compound’s psychoactive properties.
Neither compound is fatal. However, high THC use may be connected to long-term negative psychiatric effects. This is especially true for adolescents who consume large amounts of THC.
The effect on the brain is more profound for teens. Using the compound increases the risk for some psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia.
CBD vs. THC: Drug testing
Cannabinoids like THC and CBD are stored in the body’s fat. They can show up on drug tests for several days or weeks after you use them.
Not every drug test will be able to detect CBD, but CBD-sensitive tests are available. Most standard drug tests will look for chemicals related to THC, so THC or marijuana use might show up on a screening.
Likewise, hemp can produce some THC in addition to CBD, so a test could be positive for THC even if you’ve not used it.