What is CBD?
Cannabidiol (kan-uh-buh-dahy-uhl), or CBD for short, is a chemical compound found in the hemp plant. While there are a number of hemp plant species, CBD is usually extracted from the flowers of the hemp plant. It belongs to a group of compounds known as cannabinoids.
CBD is one of 66 chemical compounds found in the hemp plant. The most well-known of these compounds is THC, a psychoactive cannabinoid, but CBD (and CBD products) will not typically produce any psychoactive effects in its user.
By law, CBD can only be extracted from hemp. Legally and scientifically, the plant has to adhere to certain guidelines to be classified as hemp. Hemp is a plant with a THC concentration that does not exceed 0.3 percent of its dry weight, at any point during cultivation whether the plant is fully grown or still maturing.
The CBD found in most products is a concentrated extract. Distilleries can extract CBD from a hemp plant in a few ways, but the three most common commercial methods are:
- Solvent extraction
- Olive oil extraction
- CO2 extraction
WHAT DOES CBD STAND FOR?
As mentioned, CBD is an abbreviation for cannabidiol.
Despite how prevalent CBD (and THC) is throughout human history, the individual compounds were only discovered in 1940. That year, Robert S. Cahn, a British chemist, became the first researcher to identify the structure of cannabinol (CBN).
American chemist, Roger Adams, was the first to successfully isolate CBD two years later. No other cannabinoid had ever been isolated before then. Not long after, Adams went on to discover and isolate THC, and this research is part of the reason we know so much about those two compounds today.
Thanks to the popularity of the plant in the ancient world, the hemp plant has many derivatives. One source is the Greek word for hemp: kannabis. The root word for hemp is also present in Armenian (kanap), Russian (konoplja), Persian (kanab), and Lithuanian (kanapės) etymology.
WHERE DOES CBD COME FROM?
As Cahn and Adams discovered, the compound CBD comes from the hemp plant, but we’ve learned a lot more about its origins since then. CBD was the first cannabinol isolated and studied, but a hemp plant has more than 400 compounds in total.
Like 6% of all flowering plant species, hemp is dioecious, meaning a plant will have either male or female reproductive organs. Identifying the gender of a hemp plant is an important part of the growing process as it affects the composition of its compounds.
To produce seeds, male and female hemp plants need to be grown together so they can cross-pollinate. This is how cultivators develop new strains and select the desired genetics in their plants. However, to grow plants that can produce high concentrations of cannabinoids, the male and female plants need to be separated before they can cross-pollinate.
That’s easier said than done. Hemp pollen can travel up to 7 miles at high wind speeds. For this reason, growers tend to favor working in greenhouses or with indoor growing setups to create ideal environments. For outdoor growers, the best bet is usually removing all the male plants before they flower and start producing pollen.
While a male hemp plant will only flower for two to four weeks in ideal conditions, it can still produce 350 000 pollen grains in that time.
When the male plants are removed, the female hemp plants can grow unfertilized, saving the energy they would have poured into seed production. This frees up more energy to produce sensimilla – the dense, seedless buds we typically associate with hemp. These buds are what produce the higher concentrations of cannabinoids.
In unfertilized female hemp plants, these buds produce CBD in abundance while containing very low THC levels. That’s what makes female hemp plants the most popular source of CBD extract. Not only do they produce a high yield of CBD, but their makeup falls in line with the guidelines in the 2018 Farm Bill.
THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM
The ECS is a vast biological system that regulates important processes in the body including pain, mood, stress, and sleep to maintain perfect balance – homeostasis.
Our bodies are constantly regulating temperature, hydration, oxygen levels, internal pressure, etc. to keep the body in balance and achieve homeostasis – equilibrium with all of your physiological processes.
The ECS is also responsible for communication between your cells. As for the name, we have Czech analytical chemist, Lumír Hanuš, to thank for that.
HOW CANNABINOIDS INTERACT WITH YOUR ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM
One reason THC has psycho-intoxication effects is that it binds to the CB1 and CB2 receptors in your endocannabinoid system. Its interactions with those receptors give it a powerful effect. Because this system is also tied to functions like mood, appetite, sleep, and immune responses, it can produce the effects we commonly associate with the psycho-intoxication effects of THC, like relaxation and enhanced appetite.
In the simplest terms, we experience these effects because of where each receptor is located. Cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) is tied to the central nervous system. Cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB2) is in the peripheral nervous system.
CBD has a slightly different relationship to your endocannabinoid system.
While we're still learning about the full extent of the ECS, researchers believe that CBD doesn’t bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors, although it does still influence them. Still, its negligible binding ability is partly why it doesn’t produce the same effects as THC.
HOW DO YOU USE CBD?
As fascinating as the science behind CBD is, you may be wondering how people use it anyway. CBD extract is an extremely versatile compound. Not only does this give product makers a range of options, but it also offers consumers interesting ways to take it.
Before we get into some of the products available to you, let’s look at the different delivery methods and some considerations for each. Broadly speaking, there are three popular reasons to use CBD: for skincare, body care, and general wellness reasons.
Oral administration is just a fancy term for applying something to the mouth. The products used orally are dropped, sprayed, or dissolved in the mouth, and they are often quick and convenient to apply for that reason. Some consumers prefer this method of applying CBD for the convenience, as these products are often easy grab-and-go items that can be placed in easily accessible places around the home, and consumers prefer the portability and ease of placing these in a purse, travel bag, next to the nightstand, wherever you need it!
CBD products taken by oral application include:
- & More!
Of course, there are quite a few CBD products that you can ingest normally. Edibles are the most common and they can offer a fun delivery method, but there are some trade-offs.
Research suggests ingesting CBD subjects it to the “first pass effect” – a process that can reduce its potency. A recent study on the effect explored how a drug ingested orally loses its concentration as it moves through metabolizing sites like the liver before it reaches the site of action.
Simply put, a substance breaks down as it moves through the body, so it isn’t as effective by the time it reaches its destination. Ingested CBD first has to pass through the liver and digestive tract before it reaches the bloodstream.
This is often what creates the delay between when you ingest an edible and when you feel it. You may only end up processing about 20 to 30 percent of the CBD too. Even with all that, CBD edibles continue to sell well, and some of the most popular edibles out there include: