What is Cannabidiol (CBD)?

by | Nov 4, 2019

Written by Jessica McKeil

Jessica McKeil is a cannabis writer and B2B content marketer living in British Columbia, Canada. Her focus on cannabis tech, scientific breakthroughs, and extraction has led to bylines with Cannabis & Tech Today, Terpenes and Testing, Analytical Cannabis, and Grow Mag among others. She is the owner and lead-writer of Sea to Sky Content, which provides content and strategy to the industry’s biggest brands.

Alongside delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), cannabidiol (CBD) is the second most popular cannabinoid. With proven therapeutic value, non-intoxicating effects, and an excellent safety profile, it has massive market potential. CBD already broad appeal among patients, healthcare providers, and the industry at large. Arguably, as a non-intoxicating cannabinoid, it has paved the way for the legalization of cannabis as a whole. It's much more approachable than Δ9-THC and has therefore been able to demonstrate the medicinal value of cannabis and contradict many of the fear-mongering policies of the past. 

This gentle cannabinoid was initially discovered in the first half of the 20th century, but it has only skyrocketed in popularity in the last decade. In the words of one research team, “this compound is one of the most promising candidates for a therapeutic tool in a wide range of disorders.”

What We Know About CBD

Unlike  Δ9-THC and other cannabinoids, CBD has no direct binding relationship with either the CB1 or CB2 endocannabinoid receptors. Although it may still impact their activity, preliminary studies suggest CBD could also activate both serotonergic and vanilloid receptors, antagonizes opioid receptors, and influence the uptake of several naturally occurring hormones like dopamine, anandamide, serotonin, and others.

For as much as is known about the potential medical benefits of CBD, there is much more to find out about its many mechanisms of action. Despite the growing body of research about its therapeutic value, we know little about how it elicits such a diverse range of therapeutic characteristics.

The following represents only a small selection of what is known so far about the therapeutic potential of this non-intoxicating cannabinoid:

  • Anxiolytic effects – Small clinical trials have found CBD alleviates social anxiety in people subjected to public speeches and other simulated experiences of anxiety.
  • Antipsychotic – There is a growing body of clinical study demonstrating the antipsychotic properties of CBD among both non-schizophrenic and schizophrenic subjects.
  • Anti-inflammatory and Analgesic Agent – In study after study, CBD demonstrates a powerful ability to reduce the experience of neuropathic pain, as well as to alleviate painful inflammation. Importantly, many studies explore CBD as a conjunctive therapy to Δ9-THC as a synergistic treatment of pain.
  • Anticonvulsant – CBD became the first cannabis-derived pharmaceutical approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the US in 2018. The anticonvulsant properties of CBD were well established through robust clinical trials leading up to this approval.
  • Antidepressant – In animal models of stress-related depression, this cannabinoid has evidenced antidepressant-like qualities. Administration of CBD to rats promoted antidepressant-like effects similar to conventional medications.

Who is Producing It?

CBD is a booming marketplace, which now contains hundreds, if not thousands, of producers. Recent projections by BDS Analytics and Arcview Market Research predict the collective US CBD market will surpass $20 billion by 2024. Both full-spectrum and CBD isolates are making their way into every conceivable consumer product.

To find a high-quality, premium-grade commercial source for CBD, you must sort through a very crowded market place. A few of the extractors companies doing it right include Mile High Labs and Socati. Both companies rely on technologically advanced extraction techniques to produce a superior product.

As mentioned, GW Pharmaceuticals is also producing CBD under the trade name Epidiolex for the treatment of specific types of intractable epilepsy.

Based on its abundance in cannabis (hemp strains included), and its non-intoxicating properties, CBD has a much broader appeal and far-greater medicinal applications. Out of all the cannabinoids, CBD is one of the best understood – although there is still more research needed.