In case you’ve been out of the loop, CBD is having a moment. But just because this is the hot wellness topic du jour as of late, that hardly means that CBD is to be miscategorized as a passing health fad that warrants little (if any) of our careful attention. In fact, CBD is the stuff of decades-long scientific and medical exploration, despite having only recently made its way into the limelight as a rife-with-potential player in the wellness sphere. However, as is only natural, with the rise in CBD’s popularity subsequently comes a rise in questions about the compound. What is it, really? What’s the point of using it? Is it safe? Here, we explore these questions and more as we dive deeper into CBD, its uses, its benefits, and the reasons behind why this stuff has got some arguably strong staying power in the health world.
What is CBD?
First things first, the big question: what is CBD, anyway? For those who may not be as well-versed in the cannabinoid space, it’s not uncommon to just put CBD in the same bucket as marijuana and call it a day. That’s not quite the case, though. In order to understand what separates CBD from the forms of cannabis we’re most familiar with (again, marijuana), we have to start by breaking it down at the source.
Contrary to popular misconception, there are plenty of chemically-similar compounds – as in, more than 100 – that fall under the umbrella category of cannabinoids, some of which can be derived from the cannabis plant (these are what are known as phytocannabinoids) and some of which actually occur naturally in the human body (these are endocannabinoids). As far as phytocannabinoids go, each different component that can be derived from the cannabis plant has a unique effect on the body based on how it interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is a system of neurotransmitters and cannabinoid receptors that controls a range of physiological and cognitive processes in the body (think mood, appetite, memory, and pain).
What’s the difference between CBD and marijuana?
Now, CBD, or cannabidiol, is one example of a phytocannabinoid, as is THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, which is perhaps the component of the cannabis plant that most of us are more familiar with as the active ingredient in marijuana. Neither CBD or THC actually is marijuana, though. Rather, both are compounds that exist in marijuana, which is a classification of the cannabis plant, along with hemp. The difference between different breeds of cannabis, then, largely comes down to the respective CBD and THC content; more specifically, the ratio of CBD to THC.
So, what sets CBD apart from THC? Well, the biggest difference comes down to the effects that each component has on the brain. While both CBD and THC have some kind of effect on the mind – they’re both psychoactive, in that regard, and we’ll elaborate on just how CBD affects the brain in a later section – the former doesn’t have the same intoxicating or high-inducing effects as those of the latter. In other words, one of the biggest differences here is that THC will get you stoned, while CBD won’t.
What’s the difference between marijuana and hemp?
Again, there are two main cannabis plants that are sources of CBD: hemp and marijuana, and, as mentioned above, the big difference between the two kinds of cannabis are the CBD-to-THC ratios that exist within each.
Both hemp and marijuana are technically members of the cannabis plant family and share similar chemical compositions, but the distinction comes down to the levels of cannabinoids in each plant. Hemp is one type of cannabis that is very low in THC (about 0.3% or less), and therefore does not produce the same kind of psychoactive experience that can be derived from marijuana, which contains very high levels of THC (anywhere from 15-40%).
That being said, however, CBD can be extracted from either hemp or marijuana without THC content, and which is what allows it to be used without creating the kind of high associated with THC.