CBD, short for cannabidiol, is one of many powerful cannabinoids found in the hemp, or cannabis plant. Cannabinoids occur naturally in the plant (phyto) or are produced naturally by the body (endo). This system is known to modulate homeostasis and affects appetite, mood, memory, sleep, and immune system functions.
Everybody has an endocannabinoid system, and this system has three basic components. The system includes the endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes that break down the endocannabinoids. They are molecules produced by cells that act similar to THC and other plant cannabinoids. Surprisingly, endocannabinoids are not only found in human bodies, but in all mammals.
Throughout the human body, there are receptors, such as CB1 and CB2, that are found in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells. Endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids like CBD and THC are attracted to these receptors which allows for communication and coordination between different cell types. A functional endocannabinoid system is essential for good health and well being.
Cannabinoids are the primary chemical compounds produced by the cannabis plant. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most well-known, and is the only intoxicating cannabinoid. Of the 100+ non-intoxicating cannabinoids, cannabidiol (CBD) is the most widely known. The term psychoactive can apply to both THC and CBD in terms of having an effect on the brain and nervous system, but only THC will produce a cerebral high. Learn more about the difference between THC and CBD here.
Hemp and cannabis come from the same species of plant, but are classified by the availability of THC in the plant. Cannabis sativa L. has the highest concentration of CBD, while Cannabis indica C. has much higher levels of THC. After centuries of cross breeding, these two Cannabis varieties have become more commonly known as Hemp and Marijuana. Hemp refers to Cannabis that has less than 0.3% THC, while Marijuana refers to Cannabis that has more than 0.3% THC.
As well as cannabinoids that are native to the Hemp plant, there are phytochemicals called terpenes (pronounced tur-peens) that are responsible for the aroma of cannabis. There are 140 different varieties but primarily nine terpenes that provide aromatherapy benefits. The FDA and other agencies have generally recognized terpenes as “safe.” Terpenes act on receptors and neurotransmitters: they act as serotonin uptake inhibitors (similar to antidepressants like Prozac), they enhance norepinephrine activity (similar to tricyclic antidepressants like Elavil), they increase dopamine activity, and they augment GABA (the “downer” neurotransmitter that counters glutamate, the “upper”). However, more specific research is needed for improved accuracy in describing and predicting how terpenes in cannabis can be used medicinally to help treat specific ailments and health conditions.
While they are similar in some ways, there are important differences between hemp (seed) oil and CBD oil. As a consumer, it’s easy to get confused by phrases such as "hemp oil” and “hemp seed oil,” especially when many companies seem to use these terms interchangeably. Some people refer to “hemp oil” when speaking about hemp seed oil, while others use it as shorthand to refer to an oil that carries CBD (cannabidiol) extract. There is so much confusion between these terms and there’s a big difference between the two products!
Hemp seed oil has been pressed and processed from the seeds of the plant, and does not contain any concentration of cannabinoids, including CBD. Oil from hemp seeds is primarily composed of dietary fats, which means it can provide benefits for skin and diet, but does not include the same plant compounds as CBD oil. The powerful phytocannabinoids like cannabidiol are found naturally in the leaves and flowers, also known as “aerial parts” of the hemp plant, not in the seeds.