Understanding CBD, Cannabinoids and Cannabidiol

Cannabinoids, Cannabidiol and CBD

Cannabis is most commonly known for its psychoactive effects – and perhaps its most high profile effect is ‘the high’ users get.  But there’s an increasingly growing body of research that shows cannabis may have positive effects in some areas of medical health, and because of this licensed medical marijuana is, in certain cases, administered by doctors.

But rarely does a chemical compound have single effect.  Take nicotine as one example.  It’s a stimulant that can improve concentration, yet can also restrict your blood vessels and increase blood pressure if taken in too large doses. It's a similar story with caffeine.

The same notion of positive and negative is true of cannabis.

How Cannabis Affects You - Cannabinoids

Chemical compounds found in cannabis, called cannabinoids, affect the receptors of the brain and it’s these cannabinoids that are responsible for the effects experienced by cannabis users. 

It is not clear exactly how many cannabinoids are in cannabis, but they are unique to the Cannabis Sativa plant.

Cannabinoids affect users because of the way they interact with specific receptors in the brain, and two receptors that react with cannabinoids have been found – CB1 and CB2.  Some substances that occur naturally in the brain have also been found to bind to the CB1 receptors.  Collectively these substances and the CB receptors are known as the Endogenous Cannabinoid System.

Much research around cannabis, and the effects of cannabinoids, has focussed on the potential health benefits.  The type of reaction depends on which area of the brain the reaction occurs but most reactions often occur in these areas:

  • Limbic - the area of the brain which affects memory and cognition and movement
  • Mesolimbic – this area is associated with the sensation of reward
  • Other areas of the brain that deal with pain


There are different sub-classes of cannabinoid, each reaction dependent on how active they are in the strain.   And each class of cannabinoid acts differently on the brain’s receptors depending on how active it is in the strain of plant.




Two major cannabinoids are Cannabidiol (CBD) and Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabiniol (Δ9-THC).

CBD is a major part of cannabis and often makes up around 40% of the resin.  THC causes the psychoactive effects, the ‘high’ cannabis users experience. 

Plants with more CBD tend to reduce the THC effects and research has indicated that CBD can also reduce anxiety.

While CBD is found to reduce the effects of THC, when THC is exposed to the air it oxidizes and turns to CBN, a much weaker psychoactive cannabinoid.  Thus cannabis loses its potency when it’s left out in the air.

So medical research looks to taking advantage of the positive effects of cannabis cannabinoids, and removing the negative effects.

The key lay in managing the positive CBD and the negative THC elements.  The result is CBD products – which exploit the positive effects of the CBD cannabinoid, and reduce to an almost zero-level the levels of the THC cannabinoid.