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CBD: Curing the Common Misconceptions

Sorting through the facts about CBD.

CBD is in an ever-evolving area of gray in what has been a traditionally black and white area, regarding the topic of cannabis when it comes to its use and legality. Unfortunately, for a long time, and even to this day, most just lump everything into the same category as marijuana or ‘weed’ for short, this is hardly the case with distinct differences existing between the two. Then there’s hemp… yet another category that stems (pun intended) from the same plant. With so many advocates and proponents of legalization these days, and some states even legalizing medicinal marijuana use, it’s about time some clarity was shed on the topic.

Marijuana vs Hemp

Let’s start here. Chances are you’ve heard these three words at least once, and often interchangeably as most people will assume that they mean the same thing, but that is hardly the case. If we are to understand the differences, it is simply (or lack thereof) a biology lesson. Just like any other living organism on the earth, there are distinct primary biological and taxonomy of the same name. From domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family genus and most specifically, species, it is easy to get things crossed up. For our purposes, I’ve broken down the taxonomy of the cannabis plant for you as follows:

  1. Kingdom Plantae (Plants)
  2. Subkingdom Tracheobionta (Vascular plants)
  3. Superdivision Spermatophyta (Seed plants)
  4. Division Magnoliophyta (Flowering plants)
  5. Class Magnoliopsida (Dicotyledons)
  6. Subclass Hamamelididae
  7. Order Urticales
  8. Family Cannabaceae (Hemp family)
  9. Genus Cannabis L. (Hemp)
  10. Species Cannabis sativa L. (Marijuana)

For the purpose of this article, we’ll be focusing on the last two, Genus Cannabis L (Hemp) and Species Cannabis sativa L. (Marijuana), and the differences before touching on CBD. According to the Codes of the United States, marijuana is technically classified as the specific parts of the plant in reference to the viable seeds, leaves, and flowers of the plant. On the other hand, Cannabis is in reference to the sterilized seeds, stems, stalks, and roots.

As you can imagine, unfortunately marijuana has become the ‘all-inclusive’ term to the cannabis plant as a whole. This is in reference to the flowering portions of the plant that contains cannabinoids that exert both physical and mental effects on the body when ingested. The key difference, however, comes down to the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) component that produces a psychoactive component to the plant vs Cannabidiol, which has no psychoactive effect. Marijuana that is known for its recreational use or ‘high’ contains 0.3 percent or higher THC. Some strains can contain as much as 20 percent THC, and it is also dependent on the method of ingestion.

Though both cannabinoids, THC and CBD have distinct differences. The primary one is whether the cannabinoid will cause a euphoric effect, or “high,” when consumed. THC does, and CBD does not have the “high” effect when consumed.

CBD and THC both interact with the body through the endocannabinoid system, a vital signaling system responsible for regulating a wide array of functions, some of which include:

  • Mood
  • Memory
  • Pain Management
  • Immune Response
  • Stress Management
  • Cell Life Cycle
  • Appetite

The Endocannabinoid System?

Let’s look more closely at CBD. Cannabidiol, known by most simply as CBD is one of 133 known cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Behind THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD is the most abundant cannabinoid found in hemp. Being low in the psychoactive component THC, CBD interacts with the natural system in the body known as the Endocannabinoid system. This system is found in all mammals, and is made up of millions of cannabinoid receptor sites. Before we discuss CBD, we must first understand what the endocannabinoid system is.

Within the endocannabinoid system of the body, there are a variety of mechanisms predominantly responsible for communication within the body to best regulate biological responses including but not limited to:

  • Enzymes responsible for creating and destroying cannabinoids
  • Receptor sites on cells to receive cannabinoids
  • Endocannabinoids themselves (cannabinoid-like compounds that are naturally produced by the human body)

When the body senses a deviation from its state of homeostasis, the endocannabinoid system can be activated, and responds by initiating the synthesizing of endocannabinoids to act as neurotransmitters and include both CB1 and CB2 receptor variants. CB1 are the most prevalent for the central nervous system, and have CNS related modulation effects including, but not limited to:

  • Balance of Immune system
  • Modulation of stress & anxiety
  • Increased Appetite Stimulation
  • Decreased Nausea/gastric distress

CB2 receptors on the other hand are found primarily in the immune system and exert effects primarily regarding:

  • Inflammatory response
  • Mitigating response to tissue damage
  • Healthy response to infections components

Endogenous Cannabinoids

Though the name may imply that they are strictly pertaining to receiving the effects of plant-based cannabinoids or phytocannabinoids, the body is capable of producing its own. These self-produced endocannabinoids include 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) and Anandamide (AEA).

Considered a partial agonist of both CB1 and CB2 receptors, Anandamide isn’t known for triggering a strong physiological response on its own due to it not fitting well inside the receptors. On the other hand, 2-AG is a powerful and full-agonist of both CB1 and CB2 receptors and stimulates a physiological response. Upon the dissipation of the need for elevated endocannabinoid activity, metabolic enzymes break down and degrade both 2-AG and Anadamide.

Exogenous Cannabinoids

Next, we’ll explore the exogenous cannabinoids, specifically the cannabis derived ones THC and CBD. These cannabinoids mimic the characteristics of the aforementioned endocannabinoids, and interact with the CB1 and CB2 receptors, stimulating various physiological responses.

THC, the cannabinoid that most know of is recognized for the psychological ‘high’ that is obtained and elicits a response from both the CB1 and CB2 receptors, directly binding to them and activating them. Interestingly there is a seemingly biased preference for interaction with CB1 receptors as it tends to fit better structurally. This interaction causes the well-known ‘high’, and in many cases, isn’t desired along with falling within legal issues, hence the requirement for having minimal THC content.

CBD on the other hand causes chemical changes via blocking receptors. This is due to the CB1 and CB2 receptors having a low binding affinity with CBD, and therefore acts as an antagonist and prevents binding of other compounds to the receptors.

What is CBD?

Cannabidol, known simply as CBD is the predominant cannabinoid found in the stalks, seeds, and flowers of cannabis plants (both hemp and marijuana). It naturally occurs in significant quantities, and is easily extracted in the form of oil.

Taking a deeper look at how we get CBD from the plants, the Cannabis plant must first synthesize Cannabigerolic acid (CBGa). From here it can be used to synthesize cannabidiolic acid (CBD), or alternatively be used to manipulate the production of tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THC). CBD itself is a product of CBDa being exposed to heat, light, or time causing decarboxylation. The alternative route is the chemical and synthetic production of CBD in a lab, however this form is considered a regulated substance, and possession is illegal.

Benefits of CBD:


Via interference of the cytokines in the body that are responsible for the inflammatory response, CBD can help alleviate inflammation, as well as provide an analgesic effect. It also has been observed that CBD reduces the number of macrophages and inflammatory cells in a given area.


CBD has been shown in research to help alleviate anxiety through a variety of mechanisms. Included are reduced hyperactivity via the limbic system, activation of adenosine receptors and activation of 5-TH-1 receptors. CBD has also shown to be beneficial for those suffering from effective panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder

Chronic Pain

For those affected with chronic pain associated with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, CBD can help reduce pain and inflammation caused by such conditions as well as gout and other inflammatory joint conditions.

Schizophrenia & Psychosis

CBD oil has been shown in various studies to help alleviate schizophrenia and psychosis. This is due to the endogenous cannabinoid which plays a role in increasing Anandamide, thus preventing the over activity of dopamine 2 that leads to such conditions.

Analgesic Pain Relief

CBD has been shown to act as an effective analgesic. The mechanism behind is proposed to be elevated levels of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF). This results in the controlled restriction of blood flow in the affected areas of pain, therefore numbing the pain response.

Cancer Fighting/Prevention

One of the most promising areas that research is uncovering is CBD’s role in cancer. Multiple reports have noted CBD to have benefits including antiproliferative, pro-apoptotic effects that can inhibit the migration of cancer cells as well as preventing adhesion and invasion. CBD is noted as a non-toxic compound and studies show that doses up to 700mg a day for six weeks showed no signs of toxicity in humans. It also is suggested to possesses anti-tumor properties in gliomas, and has been used to treat leukemia with success.

How Much CBD to Use? How can I Take it?

It should be noted that everyone is different when it comes to how much CBD to ingest, but the general rule of thumb is to start on the low end, and gradually increase the dosage as needed to experience its benefits. Genetics, tolerance, and general condition of one’s health will play a large part in deciding how much to use. For specific treatments the following guidelines are suggested as starting points.

  • Epilepsy: 200-300mg/daily
  • Chronic Pain: 2.5-20mg/daily; Increases in effectiveness from continuous use
  • Schizophrenia: 40-1,280mg/daily
  • Glaucoma: 20-40mg

The most common form that you will find CBD oil in, is tincture or concentrated CBD paste. It is important to use it sublingually (under the tongue) to help absorb a portion of it before swallowing it, as some of it will be broken down in the digestive system. Other methods that it can be ingested with include gummies, capsules, softgels, other edibles, or even utilized in the form of CBD vape. Transdermal methods such as lotions, creams, balms, and patches are also a standard practice for a more localized effect.

Can CBD Interact with Other Drugs?

This question comes up a lot when discussing CBD, especially in those with conditions that are currently being treated by pharmaceutical means. Specifically, when it comes to CBD, the concern is with the cytochrome P-450 enzyme system within the liver that is responsible for metabolizing 90 percent of the drugs consumed.

This is important as the key for determining drug safety is often how long the drug stays in the system before being metabolized. Certain substances can make the processing times faster or slower than they would normally function. Specifically with Cannibidol, it has the potential to inhibit this cytochrome P-450 system, reducing its ability to metabolize certain drugs, thus increasing the half-life and overall processing time. This translates into higher than normal levels of drugs, which can lead to side effects or even overdose.

Known drugs that interact with P-450 and can potentially interact include:

  • Antihistamines
  • Steroids
  • Prokinetics
  • Immune Modulators
  • NSAIDs
  • Beta Blockers
  • Anti-psychotics
  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-depressants
  • Anti-epileptics
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Calcium Channel Blockers
  • Angiotension II Blockers

What is the Legal Status of CBD?

Despite what would seem to be an obvious decision to make it available for the masses due to CBD’s multiple benefits and lack of the psychoactive component THC, one would assume that it is perfectly legal in black and white. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case, and the legality of CBD is unclear in many circumstances due to different laws in different states. To point out just how confusing it can be, it’s true the CBD is legal in all 50 states, however there are certain situations, which make it illegal. While there are various factors, the main one comes down to: Is the CBD derived from hemp or marijuana?

As we covered earlier, marijuana and hemp are both members of the cannabis family, and have a lot of similarities. However, the crucial differences is the level of THC the plant produces. Marijuana can contain up to 30 percent THC, while on the other hand, hemp contains no more than 0.3 percent. This is significant as basically, you get a high from marijuana while it would be near impossible to get high on hemp.

In a nutshell, CBD derived from hemp is completely legal in all 50 states, though there is still some negative stigma associated with it as it is often confused with marijuana. On the other hand, CBD derived from marijuana, even in an isolated form is considered a byproduct of marijuana, and is classified accordingly. This creates a situation in which marijuana derived CBD is a mixed bag and creates state specific classifications for legality.

Currently, there are eight states where CBD is legal for recreational use, regardless of origin and they are Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. For medicinal use, there are 46 states (including the aforementioned 8) that CBD form both hemp and marijuana is legal for medicinal use with a prescription. With this being said, though it is legal in these states, there are variances with 17 of them having specific laws regarding the THC levels found in CBD and conditions being treated with the CBD. There are 4 states where marijuana derived CBD is completely illegal and these include Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Bottom line: Check into the specifics of your state when it comes to the source, purchase and use of CBD.

Know More… Grow More

With the information contained in this article, I hope that you’ve gotten a better understanding of what exactly CBD is, how it differs from the well-known ‘high’ associated with THC, and that it reduces some of the negative stigma associated with cannabis and its derivatives. There are numerous benefits to using CBD, and I encourage you to form your own opinions before just assuming it’s an illicit thing to use. As always, knowledge is power, and there is no exception when it comes to the benefits of what CBD can do for you.

marijuana minute
Drew Peters
Drew Peters
Read next: What is Black Cannabis?
Drew Peters

Drew, known by many as 'Vanilla Gorilla' is an expert in nutrition, dietary supplements and training. He has a passion for the sports nutrition industry and is currently Director of Science for one of the largest brands in the world.

See all posts by Drew Peters

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