CBD (Cannabidiol): Benefits, Side Effects & More

Cannabidiol (CBD) Header

This post is part of a series on cannabis compounds. For more information and a listing of all other cannabinoids, see our Cannabis Compounds overview.

When it comes to the cannabis industry, there is no doubt that Cannabidiol, commonly known simply as CBD, is the shining star. Unlike THC, this compound is non-psychoactive meaning it does not produce the 'high' associated with marijuana use.

This rise in popularity of cannabidiol is thanks in part to a 2013 CNN documentary entitled 'Weed'. In the film, Dr. Sanjay Gupta helps tell the story of Charlotte Figi, a 3-year-old girl who suffers from a rare form of childhood epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome. This film brought millions to tears as it showcased the power of hemp-derived CBD oil. The substance alone has been responsible for reducing Charlotte's seizures from 300 a week to less than 3 a month.

This documentary helped provide contrast between recreational and medicinal cannabis while bringing CBD to light. A swell of public support followed including many state-supported hemp laws. As the industry progresses, the long-restricted hemp plant is slowly being lifted out of prohibition as the CBD-rich plant extract is supported by a growing body of research pointing to significant therapeutic benefits.

CBD Molecule

Activity: Non-psychoactive
Formula: C21H30O2 
Molecular Mass: 314.2246 g/mol 
Melting Point: 80 °C (176 °F) 
Boiling Point: 180 °C (356 °F) 

Synthesis of CBD

Like many other primary cannabinoids found in cannabis, including both marijuana and hemp, CBD begins its lifecycle as CBGA. This acid-form phytocannabinoid naturally occurs in cannabis. As the plant matures, CBGA is synthesized into CBDA. This 'raw' cannabinoid is the direct precursor to CBD. When exposed to heat via a process called decarboxylation, CBDA loses a carbon atom and is synthesized into CBD.

Shifting from natural biosynthesis to 'synthetic' laboratory synthesis, a 2002 patent presented methods of converting CBD to Δ 8-THC or Δ9-THC.

What Are the Medical Benefits of CBD?

Many have touted CBD as a 'miracle drug' due to its wide-ranging therapeutic effects. Though it is always dangerous to call any substance a 'cure-all', the research on cannabidiol continues to point to its effectiveness in providing wide-ranging, sometimes significant, medical benefits.

Unlike THC-rich marijuana-based medicines, hemp-derived CBD extracts contain only trace amounts of THC. This fact reduces the potential side effects associated with THC and removes the conscious-altering psychoactive properties. This makes CBD-rich extracts a viable medicine for use in treating those young and old - which has been essential as the compound helps treat childhood-specific conditions as well as diseases commonly found in elderly patients.

According to current research, cannabidiol contains the following therapeutic effects:

  • Anticonvulsant (prevents or reduces the severity of seizures, epileptic fits, or other convulsions)
  • Antiemetic (reduces vomiting and nausea)
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antipsychotic (manage psychosis including delusions, hallucinations, paranoia or disordered thought)
  • Antioxidant (neutralize damaging oxidizing agents in the bloodstream)
  • Antidepressant (used to treat depression)
  • Anxiolytic (used to reduce anxiety)
  • Analgesia (relief from pain)
  • Anti-tumor (used to inhibit the growth of tumors)
  • Anti-cancer (inhibits cancer cell migration, adhesion, and invasion)
  • Neuroprotective (reduces damage to the brain and nervous system, encourages the growth of new neurons)
  • Improved Sleep Quality & Duration

What Health Conditions Could CBD Treat?

The wide range of therapeutic uses of cannabidiol has led to a wealth of scientific and clinical research from around the world. Research into CBD and other cannabinoids' effectiveness is ongoing and preliminary results are encouraging. In 2018 the FDA approved the first CBD medicine for the treatment of childhood epilepsy. As time passes, cannabis prohibition comes to an end, and further research is performed, cannabinoids like CBD will surely continue to be used to treat other diseases and conditions.

Currently, research points to cannabidiol's potential use in treating:

  • Alzheimer's
  • Anxiety
  • Arthritis
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Cancer
  • Chronic Pain
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Insomnia
  • MS
  • Parkinson's
  • PTSD
  • Schizophrenia

For a more in-depth look at these conditions and effects, see our article outlining the benefits of cannabidiol.

What Are the Side Effects of CBD?

To support widespread use of any drug, especially when used by people of all ages, the side effects must be manageable. In the case of CBD, this is absolutely the case. When taken in even extremely high doses, the compound has resulted in only minor side effects including dry mouth, low blood pressure, lightheadedness, and drowsiness.

While the long-term effects of using the compound are unknown, current clinical trials have come to the following conclusions:

  • Doses of up to 300 mg daily have been used safely for up to 6 months.
  • Doses of 1200-1500 mg daily have been used safely for up to 1 month.

For additional information and supporting research see our side effects article.

Where Can You Find CBD?

This cannabinoid's non-psychoactive profile and legal means of cultivation via industrial hemp make it widely available, even during the ongoing marijuana prohibition. CBD products extracted from hemp containing less than 0.3% THC by dry weight are available online for sale and can be shipped across the USA without issue.

As a consumer, you'll find a wide range of options ranging from single-molecule-CBD isolate to full-spectrum whole plant oil extract to hemp flower. The market continues to grow as new and established brands bring unique products to the market.

In addition to hemp-derived products, the medical marijuana industry has widened its focus to include significant levels of CBD in many strains. Some strains even offer ratios as high as 30:1 (CBD to THC). The result is that today CBD is widely available across the USA and throughout many parts of the world.

Originally Published: September 18, 2018 | Last Updated: October 24, 2018

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