What is CBD Actually?
From CBD oil and edibles to dog treats and topicals, cannabidiol (or CBD as it’s more commonly known) is seemingly everywhere—but what exactly is CBD? Where is this compound found, what makes it different from THC and what is its history?
The Big Two
The cannabis plant, from which CBD oils and products are derived, contains 113 identified chemical compounds known as cannabinoids. The most abundant and well-known cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the compound that gives cannabis its “high” or sense of euphoria when consumed. While CBD itself accounts for roughly 40% of the plant’s extract, it’s considered non-psychoactive. Simply put, CBD won’t get you high and it won’t produce the same mentally intoxicating effect that THC does.
Hemp vs Marijuana
Although they look very similar and are a part of the same cannabis genus of plants, hemp and marijuana serve very different purposes. The characteristic used to define the difference between hemp and marijuana is the amount of THC content in the plant, which determines whether or not the user will get high from consuming it.
Since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, the term “hemp” has been used to describe cannabis plants that contain 0.3% or less THC by dry weight. Hemp is considered non-intoxicating Cannabis that is harvested for the industrial use of its derived products. Not only is it processed to extract valuable cannabinoids such as CBD, but it’s used in the manufacturing of everything from textiles to building materials.
Marijuana is typically used to describe cannabis plants that contain more than 0.3% THC. These crops have psychoactive effects that can induce a sense of euphoria when consumed by the user. Marijuana is approved for both recreational and medical use in a growing number of states, although it still remains illegal at the federal level.
A Brief History of CBD
For centuries, the hemp plant was grown for its fibers and used in making paper, rope and even clothing. The first documented use of it for medicinal purposes goes back to 2737 BC when Chinese Emperor Sheng Nung used an infused tea to aid with a variety of ailments.
Despite the plant’s ancient history, it wasn’t until the 1940s that CBD was first successfully extracted and isolated by American chemist, Roger Adams. Even then, scientists didn’t understand the effects of individual cannabinoids. That all changed when Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, often cited as the “Godfather of Cannabis Research,” made two groundbreaking discoveries. Dr. Mechoulam managed to identify the stereochemistry of both CBD and THC. Mechoulam’s work confirmed THC’s euphoric effect and disassociated CBD as a psychoactive compound.
Hemp & CBD Regulation
The legal status of hemp for cultivation, research and distribution has had a rocky path. Progress is being made, however. In 2018, the Farm Bill passed, permitting cultivators to grow hemp and sell hemp derivatives, including CBD oils, CBD topicals, CBD edibles and more, in all 50 states.
In April, 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Epidiolex, a CBD-based prescription drug that treats two rare forms of childhood epilepsy. More research needs to be done for the rest of CBD’s potential uses before the FDA will approve it for other uses.
What About the Benefits?
Now that it’s seemingly everywhere, you may be asking yourself: What are the benefits and effects of CBD? While there is currently a lack of research on its benefits, there is a significant number of anecdotal stories and evidence touting the benefits of regular CBD use. Many companies are claiming that CBD oils can help reduce anxiety, relieve pain, provide anti-inflammatory properties and more. But these statements haven’t been approved by the FDA or substantiated with studies.
CBD oil has been studied for its potential role in treating many common health issues, but there is still much research to be done before any medical claims can be made. We encourage consumers interested in CBD to do their research and discover the many ways in which CBD is being used to promote wellness.