What is CBD and How Does It Work?
What is CBD and How Does It Work?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-toxic and naturally occurring compound found in the resinous flower of the cannabis plant with the botanical name Cannabis sativa. CBD is one of the plant’s 120 phytocannabinoids along with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the plant’s only psychoactive compound.
CBD comes primarily from hemp extract. While THC is an illegal substance according to the federal government, many states have legalized THC for medicinal or recreational use. Hemp has low amounts of THC, while cannabis is cultivated to have between 5 and 25 percent of THC. CBD manufacturers can use extraction methods to ensure their products have zero THC.
Hemp has been used to describe non-intoxicating cannabis for many decades. Some of the common products created from industrial hemp include rope, canvas, shoes, paper, carpeting, plastic, soap, cosmetics, biofuel, and building materials like paint and solvents. A more recent application is hempcrete which is a bio-composite material used as a
construction and insulation product. Hempwood has also been developed as a sustainable alternative to oak and other hardwoods.
Hemp and cannabis are cultivated differently. Hemp is generally grown to maximize its size and yield while cannabis is bred to produce female plants that yield budding flowers, which are the primary source of THC.
Categorizing cannabis as either hemp or marijuana based on a single characteristic (amount of THC) understates its diversity and potential. It’s also confusing for adults trying to learn about CBD to determine if it’s safe and legal.
CBD is a safe and non-addictive substance with various therapeutic uses. CBD is also a pleiotropic drug in that it produces many effects through multiple molecular pathways. CBD has nothing to do with marijuana other than sharing genetics with the cannabis plant. Many companies are creating their CBD products from hemp extract to maximize the benefit of CBD with minute amounts or zero THC with the use of established extraction methods.
CBD can be created from cannabis with various levels of THC. This is relevant in states where cannabis is legal for medicinal or recreational use. The option of creating distinct strains of CBD and THC together allows breeders to focus on chemical combinations for specific clinical uses. Research indicates that CBD and THC work best together for some specific conditions, but more research is needed to understand the interactions. The glossary references some of the popular strains.
So, how does CBD work? CBD interacts with the human body through the endogenous cannabinoid system (also known as the endocannabinoid system or ECS). The ECS is present in all mammals. It modulates neuronal and immune cell function, both of which play key roles in inflammation and the experience of pain. CBD stimulates cannabinoid production within our body, and it replenishes and strengthens our endocannabinoid system as we age.
The ECS is an extensive network of neurons, neural pathways, receptors, cells, molecules, and enzymes. This vast neurotransmitter network regulates many physiological processes that helps our body maintain a state of homeostasis. Homeostasis refers to the body’s internal environment (essential functions) being balanced for peak performance despite constant changes and stressors in the external environment. Examples of external stressors include pollution, toxins, noise, and temperature extremes.
The receptors within the ECS bind the cannabinoids to make them useful. They trigger various chemical, natural and pharmacological effects impacting on how we feel and function. The two main ECS receptors are CB1 and CB2. This distinction is mostly about the areas where the receptors target. CB1 targets the central and peripheral nervous system and CB2 targets the immune system.
The ECS impacts sleep, mood, appetite, digestion, immune function, inflammation, pain perception, memory, motor control, metabolism, reproduction, fertility, temperature regulation, the lifespan of cells, and neurogenesis (growth and development of nervous tissue). The cell receptors that process CBD and other cannabinoids are located all over and inside the body. This explains why CBD can be consumed in a variety of ways – ingestion, inhalation, sublingual, absorption, topical absorption, and transdermal absorption.
CBD products fall into the following categories:
• Crystalline Isolates
• Full Spectrum CBD – supposed to contain less than 0.3 percent THC
• Unrefined Full Spectrum CBD – less than 0.3 percent THC plus CBN, CBG and CBN
• Broad Spectrum CBD – Full spectrum CBD without any THC
Each category has pros and cons.
Crystalline Isolate products have no taste and zero chance of failing a drug test since there’s no THC. On the downside, Crystalline Isolate products have less plant nutrients which means you need to take a lot of product to feel the CBD effects.
Full Spectrum products have all the terpenes, cannabinoids, flavonoids, and fatty acids found in hemp, all of which have therapeutic value, along with trace amounts of THC. The
downside is the inclusion of THC could result in a failed drug test.
Terpenes are naturally occurring organic compounds found in herbs, spices, fruit, and cannabis. They enhance the effects of cannabinoids. Terpenes are highly bioactive and demonstrate a wide variety of therapeutic effects including relaxation, stimulation, pain relief, improved memory, and improved focus. Terpenes are also antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral. Some of the more prominent terpenes found in the cannabis plant include Linalool, Myrcene, Caryophyllene, Limonene, Humulene, Alpha-Pinene, and Beta-Pinene.
Unrefined Full Spectrum products have THC and additional cannabinoids like CBN, CBG, CBN, and CBDV. Once again, the potential downside is THC can register in a drug test.
A small amount of THC can amplify the effects of CBD to make the product more effective. This is known as “the entourage effect” and the main idea is that the cannabinoids in cannabis and hemp are synergistic with other phytochemicals that are naturally present: terpenes, flavonoids, fatty acids, esters, and lactones. Exploring the level of this synergy represents a major focus of current research.
Broad Spectrum CBD is Full Spectrum CBD without any THC. The cannabinoid profile includes cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and fatty acids with the single exception of THC which has been removed. This is the best option for City, County, State or Federal employees, first responders, professional or amateur athletes or anyone else who may be subject to drug testing.
A final question to answer in this section is how does CBD become a product that can be used by adults? Hemp extractors use various methods to remove CBD from the raw plant material so they can create useable products including edibles, oil tinctures, body oils, salves, balms, and more. The primary methods that are used for extraction include manual (solvent-free) or with the use of various chemical solvents like hydrocarbons (butane or propane), alcohol-like ethanol, or a pressurized form of CO2. Each method has its pros and cons, and they are all effective with the right equipment and processes.
The CO2 method of extraction has many benefits beginning with a higher-grade product. It allows for the temperature and pressure to be carefully adjusted during the extraction process so that it can isolate the CBD precisely. Its typically done using an expensive piece of equipment called a closed loop extractor. This machine has three chambers. The first chamber holds solid, pressurized CO2 (dry ice), the second chamber contains the dried hemp plant material, and the third chamber separates the finished product.
The CO2 is pumped from the first chamber into the second chamber that is holding the plant material, taking on the form of supercritical CO2 which is between a liquid and gas. The supercritical CO2 runs through the plant material extracting the cannabinoids. It is then pumped into the third chamber where the CO2 rises to the top of the chamber while the oils containing the cannabinoids fall to the bottom and are collected for the development of products that can be used safely by consumers.
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