CBD is short for cannabidiol. It is just one of several different molecules called cannabinoids that are found in the cannabis plant. CBD is not an acronym. Cannabidiol has been shortened to CBD simply because it’s customary for cannabinoids to have a three-letter designation, such as THC for tetrahydrocannabinol, CBG for cannabigerol, CBN for cannabinol and so forth. THC is the more famous member of the cannabinoids family. It’s the one that causes a high, and it’s mostly found in marijuana. We’ll take a quick look at some other common cannabinoids later on.
What Are Cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are active compounds produced by all cannabis plants. They account for most of the health benefits of cannabis. Cannabinoids found in plants are technically called phytocannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids mimic compounds which we call endocannabinoids that are produced naturally by all mammals.
- Phytocannabinoids — Cannabinoids produced by plants
- Endocannabinoids — Cannabinoids produced by the human body
Other cannabinoids found in PCR hemp include cannabichromene (CBC) and cannabigerol (CBG). Cannabichromene (CBC) is the third most common cannabinoid found in cannabis. Like CBD, cannabichromene is non-psychoactive. Cannabigerol (CBG) is produced early on in the hemp’s growth cycle. Both CBD and CBG are believed to have properties similar to those of CBD.
What Do Endocannabinoids Do?
Endocannabinoids, those produced naturally by our bodies, are signaling molecules. They are technically called neurotransmitters. Hormones are a more familiar type of neurotransmitter.
A vast array of neurotransmitters are produced by the nervous system in response to various states of health and also environmental factors. They interact with receptors found on the surface of cells throughout our bodies. Their job is to instruct a cell to adjust its activities. This can include changing how cells react to other neurotransmitters.
In order to illustrate how neurotransmitters work, let’s use an analogy.
The brain doesn’t connect with every cell in your body, just like traffic officers can’t connect directly with every car on the road to be able to instruct individual drivers how to behave in every traffic situation. In order to manage traffic, we implement traffic signals. These include street signs, traffic lights, the lines on the road and so on. Traffic signals inform drivers where they can and cannot travel, when they should stop and when they should go, how fast they are allowed to move and so on.
Some of these signals can sense what’s going on in the environment, such as when a car pulls up to a traffic light. The sensor triggers a controller, causing the light to change, thereby changing the behavior of the drivers approaching that intersection.
In the same way, your body’s nervous system connects to a wide variety of sensors to keep track of every system in your body. The signals from these sensors are decoded by the brain and the nervous system. If it is determined that a system has gone out of balance, the nervous system produces neurotransmitters, which travel through the bloodstream and interact with receptors on cells, instructing them to adjust their behavior.
The Human Endocannabinoid System (ECS)
Now that we understand how neurotransmitters work to adjust our cellular activity, let’s take a look at the role of cannabinoids in particular and their role in maintaining homeostasis — a state of balance, within the body.
The human endocannabinoid system (ECS) has two components. First is the endocannabinoid receptors found on the surface of cells throughout the body. Second is the endocannabinoids themselves that interact with those receptors.
For an example, CBD is known to mimic a signaling molecule called anandamide. Anandamide is responsible for the production and uptake of serotonin. Serotonin is often referred to as the “bliss molecule” because levels of serotonin in the body are directly associated with mood. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter which is responsible for “runner’s high.” Serotonin levels are often low in people suffering from depression and anxiety. Supplementation with CBD has been shown to raise serotonin levels.
The endocannabinoid system is vast and far-reaching. It regulates a wide array of bodily functions, from appetite regulation to sleep patterns, moods, metabolism, immune response, the lifespan of cells and much more. This is the reason that CBD seems to effect such a wide range of conditions.
List of common cannabinoids
Below is a list of the most common cannabinoid molecules found in cannabis and some of the effects they are believed to possess.
- Cannabidiol (CBD) — The second most common cannabinoid produced by the cannabis plant that is non-psychotropic (it doesn’t get you high).
- Delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — The primary psychoactive compound in marijuana that gives users a feeling of euphoria.
- Cannabichromene (CBC) — This third most common cannabinoid, also non-psychoactive, is thought to have anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant and anti-fungal effects.
- Cannabinol (CBN) — Believed to act as an appetite stimulant, antibiotic, anti-asthmatic, pain reliever and sedative.
- Cannabigerol (CBG) — Non-psychoactive and used as an antibiotic, antidepressant and pain reliever.
- Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCv) — Less psychoactive than THC and known to have neuroprotective properties.
- Cannabidivarin (CBDv) — Similar to CBD in its effects.
- Delta(8) THC — Similar to delta(9)-THC, less psychoactive and may have neuroprotective and anti-anxiety properties.
- THCa and CBDa — Compounds found in raw cannabis that are non-psychotropic and used for anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Additional Functions of Cannabinoids
Although cannabinoids are mainly known for the role they play in the human endocannabinoid system, they also function in other ways.
For example, cannabinoids are known to have antioxidant effects. Vitamin C is an example of a common antioxidant.
The process of metabolizing food can produce harmful molecules we refer to as free radicals. These molecules can latch onto molecules in our cells, causing oxidation, the same process that causes metals to rust. Free radicals can harm or kill a cell and damage DNA. Antioxidant molecules such as cannabinoids can latch onto free radicals, rendering them harmless.