Along with its better-known counterpart, THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical that produces the marijuana high), CBD is one of more than 400 compounds found in the oils of cannabis plant species, which include marijuana and hemp. Unlike THC, CBD will not make you high. That said, this doesn’t mean CBD is not at all psychoactive, as many assert, says Jahan Marcu, Ph.D., director of experimental pharmacology and behavior at the International Research Center on Cannabis and Mental Health in New York City: “CBD does change cognition. It affects mood, which is why people take it for anxiety. And some find that it makes them more alert.”
Basically, cannabis is an umbrella term that includes both hemp and marijuana plants. Cannabis sativa is actually the scientific name of the cannabis plant (Cannabis = genus; sativa = species), and hemp and marijuana are just two different “varieties” of it (i.e. you could refer to both marijuana and hemp plants as “cannabis” plants, but you would not, for instance, refer to a “marijuana” plant as a “hemp” plant). Hopefully that’s not too confusing.
From anecdotal evidence in humans and from animal studies, CBD appears to affect the way we experience pain, inflammation, and anxiety. “Scientists have identified a number of receptors in the nervous system where CBD acts,” says Orrin Devinsky, MD, professor of neurology, neurosurgery, and psychiatry at NYU Langone. “It’s established that CBD has anti-inflammatory properties and can increase activity at some serotonin [the feel-good neurotransmitter] receptors.”
Extracting CBD from the hemp plant is just one part of the process for making CBD hemp oil. Extracted CBD oil is less than palatable. If the consumer’s desire is to make CBD oil part of their everyday routine, producers try to make the oil at least a little bit tasty. Also, consumers require a choice when it comes to the product’s potency, or the strength of the CBD oil-based product. Producers then need to dilute the raw CBD oil to accommodate their needs.
“What is CBD oil” may be your first question, but the real question we have to answer is, “What does CBD oil do?” CBD interacts with the body through the endogenous cannabinoid system (ECS) or endocannabinoid system. First discovered in the late 1980’s, the endocannabinoid system regulates the body’s homeostasis, or general state of balance, impacting such functions as mood, sleep, appetite, hormone regulation, and pain and immune response. Like an acrobat on a highwire, as the environment around us impacts our normal balance, the endocannabinoid system “corrects” by mediating our body’s reaction to keep us level.
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