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What is CBD and how does it affect the body?

April 16, 2015 by Nick Green

With more and more research emerging on the medical benefits of marijuana, scientist have only begun researching one of the lesser known components of marijuana--CBD.

What is CBD?

While many people have heard of THC as the active ingredient in marijuana, CBD, or cannabidiol, is another chemical found in marijuana that affects our minds and bodies. Both CBD and THC are part of a class of chemicals called cannabinoids.

Cannabinoids are a class of compounds that occur naturally in the body as well as in marijuana. These Cannabinoids interact with receptors in our bodies to affect things like mood and appetite nausea, pain and a number of other bodily reactions. Using marijuana alters the levels of cannabinoids in our bodies and changes the way the endocannabinoid system regulates our bodily functions.

How is CBD different from THC?

CBD is the non-psychoactive ingredient of marijuana, meaning that it does not get you "high." Studies conducted at the Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction, the University of São Paulo and the Clinical Psychopharmacology Unit at the University College London, have shown that CBD may counteract some of the more unpleasant aspects of a high, such as feelings of anxiety and paranoia or memory loss.

CBD also works by a different chemical pathway. Unlike THC, CBD does not directly bind to the CB1 or CB2 receptors. Instead, CBD suppresses the enzyme fatty acid amide hydroxylase ("FAAH"). FAAH is responsible for breaking down anandamide. Anandamide is a cannabinoid that occurs naturally in the body and is responsible for activating the CB1 and CB2 receptors, which triggers the body's natural protective endocannabinoid response.

What does this mean for marijuana users?

For medical marijuana users, CBD offers a great opportunity to treat many diseases without the mental side-effects of getting high. CBD is considered an attractive option for treating children with illnesses that can be treated with marijuana.

For example, researchers at Stony Brook University have determined that CBD may be particularly effective in treating childhood seizure disorders. In a press release detailing the recent finding, Dale Deutsch, PhD, Professor of Biochemistry and Cell Biology and a faculty member of the Institute of Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery at Stony Brook University, explained that CBD is vital in reducing the breakdown of Anandamide. Anandamide is an endocannabinoid, or cannabinoid that is naturally occuring within the body, that has been shown to have "neuroprotective effects against seizures in basic research studies and this may turn out to be a key mechanism of seizure control."

The government agency NIDA, acknowledges that CBD may be helpful in treating cancer, claiming on its website that "Evidence from one cell culture study suggests that purified extracts from whole-plant marijuana can slow the growth of cancer cells from one of the most serious types of brain tumors."

This non-intoxicating cannabinoid can not only allow children to treat their illnesses without the high caused by THC but can also help them reduce their dependence on dangerous pharmaceuticals that can do serious damage to a developing body.

For recreational users, strains with relatively higher amounts of CBD may create a more pleasant high without the anxiety or memory loss that users often experience. Street marijuana is often very high in THC with relatively little CBD because it has been more profitable for dealers to grow strains that induce the desired "high" effect of THC in its users. As we begin to understand more about the relationship between THC and CBD and how they affect how people feel "high," this may begin to change how growers breed their plants based on the balance of cannabinoids.

Always consult a medical professional when making decisions about what treatment is right for your condition. More information can be found at the Project CBD website.


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