Much has been written about the Cannabis Sativa L. and its THC psychoactive molecule, but since a few years more research on the plant has shown there’s another compound we should pay closer attention to, Cannabidiol or better known as “CBD”.

What’s CBD and what are its effects on the human body?

First thing that’s important to understand is that the Cannabis plant is composed by several molecules called cannabinoids, but mostly the plant is composed by two main ones, THC and CBD. These cannabinoids - 108 discovered so far - interact with our endocannabinoid system, known for regulating our bodies and keeping us somehow in balance. 

Since Cannabis was for years considered a recreational drug and only a few studies were performed to look into its benefits for treating several ailments and diseases, breeders at that time were only focus on THC and developing cultivars with a higher concentration of it and containing only small traces of CBD. However, after the approval of the 2018 Farm Bill in the US and recent research over the effects of CBD, there has been a great deal of attention towards this compound, that comes in larger quantities in the hemp plant and that so far has shown a large versatility in treating pain, stress and sleeping issues, among others.

CBD, unlike THC is not psychoactive and it actually reduces the effects of THC, controlling the “high” and narcotic effect of Cannabis. This way, CBD is quickly gaining ground due to a several therapeutical benefits that we are slowly beginning to understand.

CB1 and CB2 Receptors

Cannabinoids like THC and CBD interact with our endocannabinoid systems binding with two known receptors: CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are mainly present in our brains, where they are involved in cognition, memory, motor skills and pain, but also in the peripheral nervous system, liver, thyroid, uterus and more. THC attaches to these receptors, inhibiting the release of neurotransmitters and possibly increasing the release of others, altering our normal functioning. CBD, on the other hand, binds more regularly to CB2 receptors, which are abundant in the immune and gastrointestinal systems, as well as the brain and nervous system. Although, scientists don’t know exactly how CBD affects our bodies, they believe that CBD encourages as well our body to produce its own endocannabinoids, which may help reduce anxiety, pain and inflammation.

In 2017 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that CBD, in its pure state, is considered safe, well tolerated by humans and animals and not likely to produce any physical dependence or abuse.

So far, the strongest evidence of CBD’s effectiveness is in relation to the treatment of epilepsy. In 2018, the FDA (US Federal Drug Administration) approved Epidiolex, a medication used to treat Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndromes, two severe forms of epilepsy. In 2020, the FDA approved its use for controlling seizures related to tuberous sclerosis complex. Epidiolex was the first FDA approved cannabis-derived drug and since then it has paved the way for the development of more CBD-based drugs meant to treat other medical conditions.

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