What is CBD?

What’s all this about CBD? 

We have recently seen CBD covered in the media, but really what is it? CBD stands for cannabidiol. CBD is a vital constituent of medical marijuana, it is a derivative from the hemp plant, which is a relative of the marijuana plant.  Marijuana has hundreds of components, CBD is one of them, however it alone, does not cause a “high”.

“In humans, CBD, exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential… To date, there is no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.” ( World Health Organization )

Cannabidiol or CBD is one in a multitude of active cannabinoids identified in the cannabis plant. It is a major phytocannabinoid (which is a molecule synthesized by plants), which accounts for up to 40% of the Cannabis plant’s extract, that binds to a wide variety of physiological targets of the endocannabinoid system within the body.

Sounds great-btw, what is the endocannabinoid system?


The endocannabinoid system is a biological system composed of endocannabinoids, which are endogenous lipid-based retrograde neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors, and cannabinoid receptor proteins that are expressed throughout the vertebrate central nervous system.


CBD is currently being researched on exactly what medical results can be derived from it.  It has shown great promise therapeutically and pharmaceutically.  Specifically, it has shown potential as an analgesic, anticonvulsant, muscle relaxant, anxiolytic, antipsychotic,  It has also demonstrated neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity, amongst other uses (Pertwee, 2007). 

Cannabis’ and CBD’s varied receptor outline clarifies its potential application for a wide variety of medical conditions. Cannabis comprises more than 400 diverse chemical compounds, 61 of these are considered cannabinoids, which act upon the endogenous cannabinoid receptors of the body (Sharma,  Murthy  & Bharath, 2012)

Cannabinoid receptors are used endogenously by the body through the endocannabinoid system, which also includes a group of lipid proteins, enzymes and receptors that are involved in countless physiological processes. Through its variation of neurotransmitter release, the endocannabinoid system regulates cognition, pain sensation, appetite, memory, sleep, immune function and mood among many other bodily systems.

Two members of the G protein family joined with cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2 are responsible for these effects. CB1 receptors are found in the central and peripheral nervous systems, with the majority of receptors contained in the hippocampus and amygdala of the brain (Baron, 2015) (Zou & Kumar, 2018).

Physiological effects of using cannabis are logical in the context of its receptor activity as the hippocampus and amygdala are primarily involved with regulation of memory, fear, and emotion. Whereas, CB2 receptors are predominantly found superficially in immune cells, lymphoid tissue and peripheral nerve terminals (Kaur, Ambwani, & Singh, 2016)


The World Health Organization



Alzheimer’s disease

Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiapoptotic in in vitro and in vivo models of Aβ-evoked neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative responses

Interested about this study?  

Parkinson’s disease

Attenuation of the dopaminergic impairment in vivo; neuroprotection; improvement of psychiatric rating and reduction of agitation, nightmare and aggressive behaviour in patients

Multiple sclerosis

Improved signs of EAE in mice, antinflammatory and immunomodulatory properties

Huntington’s disease

Neuroprotective and antioxidant in mice transgenic models; no significant clinically important differences in patients


Analgesic effect in patients with neuropathic pain resistant to other treatments


Attenuation of the behavioural and glial changes in animal models of schizophrenia; anti-psychotic properties on ketamine-induced symptoms


Reduction of muscular tension, restlessness, fatigue, problems in concentration, improvement of social interactions in rodent models of anxiety and stress; reduced social anxiety in patients.


Anti-depressant effect in genetic rodent model of depression.


Antiproliferative and anti-invasive actions in a large range of cancer types; induction of autophagy-mediated cancer cell death; chemo preventive effects.


Suppression of nausea and conditioned gaping in rats

Inflammatory diseases

Anti-inflammatory properties in several in vitro and in vivo models; inhibition of inflammatory cytokines and pathways.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Inhibition of TNF-α in an animal model

Inflammatory bowel and Crohn’s diseases

Inhibition of macrophage recruitment and TNF-α secretion in vivo and ex vivo; reduction in disease activity index in Crohn’s patients.

Cardiovascular diseases

Reduced infarct size through anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in vitro and in vivo

Diabetic complications

Attenuation of fibrosis and myocardial dysfunction





Layman terms or Glossary- whichever you prefer

In vitro – Latin for within the glass- it refers to a technique of performing a procedure in a controlled environment outside a living organism

In vivo (Latin for “within the living”) refers to using a living organism. Animal studies and clinical trials are two forms of In vivo research.


beta amyloid

Apoptosis is a type of cell death in which a series of molecular steps in a cell leads to its death.

Neuroinflammation is inflammation of the nervous tissue it may be initiated in response to a variety of cues, including infection, traumatic brain injury, toxic metabolites or autoimmunity.

Neurodegenerative -characterized by degeneration of the nervous system, especially the neurons in the brain.

Cytokines are a large group of proteins, peptides or glycoproteins that are secreted by specific cells of immune system.  Cytokines are a category of signaling molecules that mediate and regulate immunity, inflammation and hematopoiesis.

Tumor necrosis factor (TNF, Tumor necrosis factor alpha, TNFα) is a cell signaling protein cytokine involved in systemic inflammation and is one of the cytokines that make up the acute phase reaction.

Macrophage recruitment when chemoattractant factors are released by tumor cells, monocytes extravasate, migrate into the tumor and differentiate into mature macrophages. The combination of chemokine receptors or monocytes and chemokines (by tumor cells) plays a central role in monocyte .macrophage recruitment.

Attenuation is a general term that refers to any reduction in the strength of a signal.

Parkinson’s disease is a common neurological disorder characterized by a degeneration of dopamine neurons in the substantia nigra and a loss of dopamine in the putamen.  It is described as a motor disease, but it also produces cognitive behavioral symptoms.

Experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, sometimes experimental allergic encephalomyelitis (EAE) is an animal model of brain inflammation. It is an inflammatory demyelinating disease of the central nervous system (CNS).

 Immunomodulator– a chemical agent (as methotrexate or azathioprine) that modifies the immune response or the functioning of the immune system (as by the stimulation of antibody formation or the inhibition of white blood cell activity) Other Words from immunomodulator. immunomodulatory adjective


An analgesic or painkiller is any member of the group of drugs used to achieve analgesia, relief from pain. Analgesic drugs act in various ways on the peripheral and central nervous systems. They are distinct from anesthetics, which temporarily affect, and in some instances completely eliminate, sensation.

Glia, also called glial cells or neuroglia, are non-neuronal cells in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and the peripheral nervous system. They maintain homeostasis, form myelin, and provide support and protection for neurons.

Antiproliferative: used or tending to inhibit cell growth, antiproliferative effects on tumor cells.


Pertwee RG: The diverse CB1 and CB2 receptor pharmacology of three plant cannabinoids: delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol and delta9-tetrahydrocannabivarin. Br J Pharmacol. 2008 Jan;153(2):199-215. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjp.0707442. Epub 2007 Sep 10. [PubMed:17828291]

Sharma P, Murthy P, Bharath MM: Chemistry, metabolism, and toxicology of cannabis: clinical implications. Iran J Psychiatry. 2012 Fall;7(4):149-56. [PubMed:23408483]

Zou S, Kumar U: Cannabinoid Receptors and the Endocannabinoid System: Signaling and Function in the Central Nervous System. Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Mar 13;19(3). pii: ijms19030833. doi: 10.3390/ijms19030833. [PubMed:29533978]

Baron EP: Comprehensive Review of Medicinal Marijuana, Cannabinoids, and Therapeutic Implications in Medicine and Headache: What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been …. Headache. 2015 Jun;55(6):885-916. doi: 10.1111/head.12570. Epub 2015 May 25. [PubMed:26015168]

Kaur R, Ambwani SR, Singh S: Endocannabinoid System: A Multi-Facet Therapeutic Target. Curr Clin Pharmacol. 2016;11(2):110-7. [PubMed:27086601]



2 thoughts on “What is CBD?

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