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Given its popularity, there are some things you probably already know about the prominent product—that it derives from cannabis and has been associated with a number of health benefits. However, there’s still a lot of confusion over what CBD actually is and what it can do for those who use it. We’re here to answer any questions you may have before trying CBD for yourself.
CBD stands for cannabidiol, which is a naturally occurring chemical compound found in cannabis plants. One of the 108 different kinds of cannabinoids that scientists have isolated from cannabis, CBD has gained significant popularity in recent times thanks to its therapeutic potential.
The health benefits of cannabis have been taken advantage of for thousands of years. According to CBD Origin, Chinese Emperor Sheng Nung was the first person to use cannabis for medicinal purposes, in the form of cannabis-infused tea in 2737 BC. Researchers started to take the medical properties of cannabis seriously in 1839, after Irish physician and medical researcher William B. O’Shaughnessy published a study outlining its rudimentary effects and possible medical applications. Over a century later, British chemist Robert S. Cahn discovered the first individual cannabinoid: cannabidiol, or CBN. Then, in 1942, American chemist Roger Adams was able to successfully isolate it.
Going forward, scientists found it challenging to identify which cannabis molecules were responsible for specific effects like relaxation and pain relief. However, the first breakthrough was made by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam in 1963, when he successfully determined the stereochemistry— the arrangement of atoms and molecules and its impact on chemical reactions—of CBD. He went on to lead a 1980 study into the potential application of CBD for epilepsy treatment, which found that seizures would either stop or become less frequent after four months of use.
However, the discovery was not considered a breakthrough at the time, due to the stigma surrounding cannabis. As research progressed, medical marijuana began to be legalised in a number of U.S. states, starting with California in 1996. Today, as public feelings towards cannabis shifts, more people have started to embrace the benefits CBD offers.
The human body includes a biological system called the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is composed of endocannabinoids naturally produced by the body itself. This system is thought to help maintain homeostasis—steady internal physical and chemical conditions—and regulates a number of functions including sleep, mood, and memory. While scientists aren’t exactly sure how the compound affects the body, it’s now thought that CBD encourages the natural production of more endocannabinoids in order to boost the ECS.
Some studies have also claimed that CBD could prevent Alzheimer’s and diabetes, fight cancer, and promotes a healthy heart.
The form in which you choose to take CBD will depend on your own needs and preferences. For instance, vapes act quickly but the effect doesn’t last as long, whereas you will be waiting longer for edibles to work but feel the impact for four to five hours.
All forms of cannabis contain CBD, which is distinct from the psychoactive component called tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. The cannabis most people are familiar with contains 3%-20% THC, which is why those who consume it will typically experience a high. However, CBD is derived from hemp, which is another strain of the cannabis plant and has significantly lower concentrations of THC—a maximum of 0.3% by dry weight.
Unlike cannabis, CBD has no psychotropic effects and will not make you high or stoned. The World Health Organization has reported that “CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential.” However, some scientists claim CBD is technically psychoactive in the sense that it can change mood and perception—as demonstrated by its ability to moderate anxiety, psychosis, depression, and other mental conditions. Therefore, CBD has mood-boosting properties you can experience without any of the negative effects associated with cannabis.