CBD has surged in popularity in the past few years. In the UK alone, an estimated 4-6 million people have already tried this natural, cannabis-derived compound.
Taken for its many potential health benefits, CBD seems to be the leading wellness trend of our time. It’s sold in a dizzying array of products, including CBD oil, capsules, gummies, creams, vape e-liquids, and beverages.
Yet despite increasing awareness, CBD remains confusing to many. What is CBD? How does it differ from THC? What are CBD’s benefits?
Here’s what you need to know about this promising herbal compound.
What is CBD?
CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a natural chemical present in cannabis. It’s one of over 100 phytocannabinoids (cannabinoids that come from plants), which are the main active components of cannabis.
Unlike THC, the cannabinoid most of us have heard of, CBD is non-psychotropic. That means it doesn’t get you “high”, allowing people to reap the potential health benefits of cannabis without any intoxication.
It’s also recognised for its remarkable safety, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) concluding that CBD is “generally well tolerated with a good safety profile.”
CBD products are sourced from hemp, a legal variety of cannabis with low THC levels. Under UK and EU law, hemp plants must contain 0.2% or less of THC, which isn’t enough to cause mind-altering effects.
Cannabidiol is usually sold in the form of CBD oil, a food supplement that contains CBD extract dissolved in a carrier oil for improved absorption, such as coconut-derived MCT oil.
But that’s not the only way to use CBD; it’s also available in capsules, softgels, gummies, CBD vape e-liquids, topicals, beverages, and many other product forms, so there are many ways to use it.
Types of CBD
You’ll encounter three main kinds of CBD: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and CBD isolate. It’s important to know the difference between these extracts so you can pick the one that fits your needs.
What is full-spectrum CBD?
Full-spectrum CBD is a whole-plant extract that contains not just cannabidiol but all of the beneficial cannabinoids and terpenes found in hemp.
This can include minor cannabinoids such as CBG, CBC, CBDV, and no more than 0.2% of THC, which isn’t enough to cause intoxication.
Full-spectrum extracts can also contain many other hemp phytochemicals, including flavonoids, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, waxes, and chlorophyll, but it depends on the specific extraction process used.
Full-spectrum CBD extracts make the most of what researchers call the “entourage effect” — the natural synergy between cannabinoids, terpenes, and other components of cannabis.
Research suggests that the entourage effect makes whole-plant cannabis preparations more effective than those containing only CBD or THC.
That’s not surprising since human civilisation has successfully used herbal remedies in their whole-plant form for millennia. If you’re looking to maximise the health benefits of CBD, full-spectrum hemp extracts are the ideal option.
What is broad-spectrum?
Broad-spectrum CBD is essentially a full-spectrum extract with all detectable traces of THC removed. Aside from that, it contains the same ingredients, such as terpenes and other cannabinoids.
Broad-spectrum CBD is ideal for people who need to completely avoid THC. Whether it’s due to being very sensitive to THC, having to pass employee drug testing, or another reason, broad-spectrum extracts are the ideal THC-free option.
Broad-spectrum CBD also takes advantage of the entourage effect, even though it’s missing one cannabinoid.
What is CBD isolate?
CBD isolate is pure cannabidiol. Made by separating CBD from all other hemp cannabinoids, isolate comes in the form of a white powder that has no taste or smell. It typically contains over 99% CBD and has zero THC.
While isolate might seem like the ideal form of CBD, it’s not as effective as a full or broad-spectrum extract because it’s missing all of the extra cannabinoids, terpenes, and other synergistic compounds that produce the entourage effect.
CBD isolate is most widely used to make CBD gummies, vape e-liquids, beverages, and other products where whole-plant extracts are more difficult to blend and formulate. However, it can also be used in CBD oils and capsules.
What does CBD do?
Like all cannabinoids, CBD can interact with your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS).
Composed of cannabinoid receptors (CB1 & CB2), endocannabinoids (endo meaning made within your body), and the enzymes that make and break them down, this crucial system works to maintain what scientists call homeostasis — a healthy state of balance.
When anything disrupts this optimal state, such as stress, injury, or illness, the ECS works to bring things back into equilibrium. To achieve that, the ECS regulates essential processes, including:
- Cognitive function
- Immunity and inflammation
Unlike THC and your body’s endocannabinoids, CBD doesn’t directly bind to cannabinoid receptors. Instead, it influences the function of the CB1 receptor, changing how other cannabinoids interact with it.
More importantly, CBD inhibits the enzyme that breaks down anandamide, one of the body’s two main endocannabinoids. In doing so, CBD can prolong its effects, supporting the numerous regulatory functions of the ECS.
Cannabidiol can also affect other parts of the body. For example, studies have shown that it can interact with the serotonin receptor, which plays a role in regulating sleep, anxiety, mood, memory, learning, and other cognitive processes.
What are the benefits of CBD?
Most people use CBD products to help them relax, recover, and maintain their overall well-being. Since CBD interacts with the ECS and many other receptors, it can have a wide variety of potential health benefits.
Above all, CBD can help your body maintain a sense of holistic balance. However, researchers are still investigating how CBD impacts the ECS to result in positive effects.
In addition, CBD continues to be examined in high-quality clinical trials that provide further evidence for its capacity to benefit human health.
One outcome of this research was the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s 2018 approval of the first CBD-based pharmaceutical drug for the treatment of certain types of severe, treatment-resistant epilepsy.
CBD’s Bright Potential
CBD is a natural, non-intoxicating cannabis compound used as a food supplement. It’s sold in the form of CBD oil and other products, which are particularly popular in the United States, the UK, and mainland Europe.
CBD has been the focus of intense scientific research, suggesting that it interacts with our body’s endocannabinoid system and other key receptors.
These effects can result in many potential health benefits that add up to promoting overall well-being and balance. That’s why CBD products are used to deal with everyday issues that can disturb this balance, such as anxiety.
While more studies are needed to substantiate CBD’s benefits, we can certainly say it’s one of the most promising and exciting herbal molecules science has come across.