What is CBD?
First identified in 1940 by Roger Adams and his colleagues at the University of Illinois, CBD—short for cannabidiol—is one of the most common, well-known, and studied cannabinoids (active ingredients) found in medical cannabis.
While it comes from the same source as THC—the cannabis plant—CBD acts differently in the body, and has a number of distinct potential therapeutic benefits.
THC (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is perhaps the best-known cannabinoid. It is responsible for many of the pharmacological effects of medical cannabis, and may be helpful to relieve pain and nausea, help with sleep disorders, and improve appetite. It can cause euphoria, or what is commonly referred to as a “high.”
On the other hand, CBD is not known to cause the intoxicating, euphoric effects that THC does. In fact, it may help reduce these effects. CBD may be helpful in reducing inflammation, seizures, and anxiety, and in improving sleep.
The differing effects of CBD and THC are likely due in large part to how they act and interact within your body.
THC and CBD interact with the receptors in your body’s endocannabinoid system in different ways. THC binds to the system’s CB1 receptors, and this binding is believed to be responsible, at least in part, for its euphoric effects.
CBD, on the other hand, doesn’t bind well to either the CB1 or CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system. Instead, it exerts its effects by interacting with many other molecules in the body, including other receptors, such as the serotonin receptor.
You may see CBD products advertised as being derived from hemp or cannabis, and wonder if there’s actually a difference. The answer is no—and yes.
Since hemp is a part of the cannabis family, and considered part of the subspecies Cannabis sativa, the CBD that’s harvested from hemp and the CBD harvested from cannabis are structurally the same, on a molecular level.
However, the source of your CBD matters. We recommend you always and only purchase medical CBD products from a licensed producer, so you can be certain that it has undergone proper, regulated testing. That testing is essential to confirm:
- The actual amount of CBD (or any other cannabinoid) the product contains
- That the source plants haven’t been treated with harsh fertilizers or chemicals
- That the product doesn’t contain any other contaminants
When you buy a product from a licensed producer, the label will always list which cannabinoids are present, (most often CBD and THC) and the amount of each.
For more information on cannabis packaging and labels, read our article, How to Read A Cannabis Product Label.
As mentioned above, CBD can act as a buffer against some of the effects of THC. For this reason, it can be very helpful to know the ratio of THC to CBD in a given medical cannabis product. (Again, if you make sure to buy only from licensed providers, the product label will provide this information.)
Depending on your needs and the advice of your healthcare provider, you may wish to take a THC-dominant product, a CBD-dominant product, or a product that contains a balance of both.
You may already be familiar with the Spectrum Framework—our straightforward colour-coding system designed to simplify the understanding of medical cannabis, and to help healthcare professionals and patients communicate clearly about product selection.
Within the framework, CBD-dominant products are colour-coded yellow.
The Spectrum Shop contains a full collection of yellow-coded medical cannabis products, including:
Other CBD-dominant products may enter the shop as they become available—sometimes for a limited time only—so it’s worth checking often to see the current selection.