Understanding the science behind cannabis may help you enjoy a better experience when consuming cannabis responsibly. Today, we are going to break down some information we found in some scientific and academic studies on cannabidiol (CBD) and share some interesting findings that may help you understand cannabis better.
Cannabis is a plant of the Cannabaceae family, which is likely to have originated within the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere and later spread worldwide. Besides cannabis, the Cannabaceae family includes two species of hops, and their female flowers are what we use for making beers.
We often use the words “cannabis” and “marijuana” interchangeably, but the word “cannabis” is actually referring to all products derived from the cannabis plant. While “marijuana” refers to any parts or products that are made from the dried flowers, leaves, stems and seeds of Cannabis Sativa or Cannabis Indica with a substantial amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Parts or products of the Cannabis Sativa plant with no more than 0.3% of THC are basically just “industrial hemp”.
Cannabis is a complex plant that consists of over 400 chemical entities, of which more than 60 of the chemical compounds are cannabinoids. CBD and THC are two of the most well-known phytocannabinoids that are naturally produced in significant amounts in the cannabis plant. However, CBD is not intoxicating and impairing, meaning it won’t get you “high”. According to a recent review of CBD done by an expert committee of the World Health Organization (WHO), CBD alone is not habit-forming. The use of pure CBD is not associated with addiction or dependence, although it does not mean CBD is completely risk-free and 100% harmless.
CBD is one of those cannabinoids that can also be derived from hemp or non-hemp plants like cannabis. In 2018, a law was passed in the U.S. that effectively legalized CBD that comes from hemp. Products with CBD derived from hemp are now marketed in many consumer products like foods, oils, and cosmetics in Canada and some states of the U.S. In the same year, Canada legalized the non-medical use of cannabis, we can now access cannabis products with CBD through licensed sellers like us, offside cannabis.
Many believe CBD is not psychoactive, simply because it does not give us the sensation that THC offers. But that’s not true, CBD is just taking up another role and doing it differently. Before we dig into how CBD works in our bodies, we have to bring in the endocannabinoid system for our discussion, in order to understand how CBD balances out the unwanted effects of THC.
The endocannabinoid system is a very complex regulatory system found within animals, human-being is one of them. It regulates diverse functions including memory, digestion, immune response, and more. CB1 and CB2 are the primary subtypes of classical cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system that are distributed throughout the central nervous and immune systems and within many other tissues, including our brain.
The CB1 receptor is expressed throughout the brain when endocannabinoids – the naturally occurring lipid-based neurotransmitters that send signals between nerve cells, combine with CB1 to form a “circuit breaker”. In fact, THC is the only compound that robustly activates the CB1 receptor. When THC mimics an endocannabinoid by binding to this receptor, it creates a sense of euphoria.
While THC activates the CB1 receptor and brings out the psychoactive effects of cannabis, CBD binds the receptor very weakly and plays its role in psychoactivity in a different manner. Instead of producing a “high”, it reduces the unwanted psychoactive effects of THC, such as sedation. Cannabis compounds in cannabis plants tend to work together in synergy and deliver what is often referred to as an entourage effect.
CBD has been advertised in many places as providing relief for stress disorders, depression, anxiety, and insomnia. But does it work exactly how it was promoted? CBD does work for some conditions, but not all. For example, there is no evidence of CBD as a cure for cancer. However, there is moderate evidence that CBD can improve sleep disorders and anxiety, or even help lower chronic pain and inflammation. Studies also exhibited that CBD seems to act faster than conventional antidepressants in some cases.
CBD has been touted for a variety of health issues in different research and studies, but one of its strongly scientifically-proven effectiveness is treating childhood epilepsy syndromes that typically do not respond to antiseizure medications. CBD was proven to be able to reduce the number of seizures in numerous studies.
Canadians can access cannabis in the form of dried plant material or other cannabis products like oils for medical purposes, but only from licensed producers with the authorization of their health care providers. Since cannabis for non-medical use was legalized in October 2018, cannabis products can be easily accessed from licensed retailers. But those cannabis products are for recreational use by adults only.
CBD can have adverse side effects. In some clinical studies, side effects like drowsiness, nausea, fatigue and irritability are reported. Abnormalities in liver-related blood tests may be shown in people who take a high dosage. CBD can also increase the level of blood thinning and the concentration of some medicines in our blood because it may compete for liver enzymes that break down those medicines. CBD is not risk-free, you may want to consult for professional advice if you are unsure about the type of products or dosage that are right for you. If you notice or experience adverse or allergic reactions after using CBD, you should seek medical help.
Ever wonder what is the difference between cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabinoid (CBN), or ever being curious about the myth of indica and sativa? There are many more cannabinoids and chemical constituents produced within the cannabis plant yet to be explored. Currently, we publish articles under the Terpene Spotlight Series to outline the effects and benefits of different terpenes. Go check them out if you want to know more about what gives the aroma in cannabis and how terpene-dominant cannabis works with our bodies.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2019, November). Cannabis (marijuana) and cannabinoids: What you need to know. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Retrieved December 6, 2022, from https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/cannabis-marijuana-and-cannabinoids-what-you-need-to-know.