Must-Know Facts About Cannabidiol (CBD)

CBD, or cannabidiol, is quickly changing the debate surrounding the use of marijuana as a medicine.

Most people have heard of a chemical called THC, which is the ingredient in marijuana that gets users high. But recently, attention has shifted to another compound in marijuana called CBD — and for good reason.

Because while doctors can’t seem to look past certain side effects of THC, CBD doesn’t appear to present that problem. On the other hand, evidence of CBD’s medical benefits continues to grow.

Here are five facts that you should know about this unique compound:

CBD is a key ingredient in cannabis


CBD is one of over 60 compounds found in cannabis that belong to a class of molecules called cannabinoids. Of these compounds, CBD and THC are usually present in the highest concentrations, and are therefore the most recognized and studied.

CBD and THC levels tend to vary among different plants. Marijuana grown for recreational purposes often contains more THC than CBD.

However, by using selective breeding techniques, cannabis breeders have managed to create varieties with high levels of CBD and next to zero levels of THC. These strains are rare but have become more popular in recent years.

CBD is non-psychoactive

cbd 2

Unlike THC, CBD does not cause a high. While this makes CBD a poor choice for recreational users, it gives the chemical a significant advantage as a medicine, since health professionals prefer treatments with minimal side effects.

CBD is non-psychoactive because it does not act on the same pathways as THC. These pathways, called CB1 receptors, are highly concentrated in the brain and are responsible for the mind-altering effects of THC.

A 2011 review published in Current Drug Safety concludes that CBD “does not interfere with several psychomotor and psychological functions.” The authors add that several studies suggest that CBD is “well tolerated and safe” even at high doses.

CBD has a wide range of medical benefits

cbd 3

Although CBD and THC act on different pathways of the body, they seem to have many of the same medical benefits. According to a 2013 review published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, studies have found CBD to possess the following medical properties:

Medical Properties of CBD Effects
Antiemetic Reduces nausea and vomiting
Anticonvulsant Suppresses seizure activity
Antipsychotic Combats psychosis disorders
Anti-inflammatory Combats inflammatory disorders
Anti-oxidant Combats neurodegenerative disorders
Anti-tumoral/Anti-cancer Combats tumor and cancer cells
Anxiolytic/Anti-depressant Combats anxiety and depression disorders

Unfortunately, most of this evidence comes from animals, since very few studies on CBD have been carried out in human patients.

But a pharmaceutical version of CBD was recently developed by a drug company based in the UK. The company, GW Pharmaceuticals, is now funding clinical trials on CBD as a treatment for schizophrenia and certain types of epilepsy.

Likewise, a team of researchers at the California Pacific Medical Center, led by Dr. Sean McAllister, has stated that they hope to begin trials on CBD as a breast cancer therapy.

CBD reduces the negative effects of THC

cbd 4

CBD seems to offer natural protection against the marijuana high. Numerous studiessuggest that CBD acts to reduce the intoxicating effects of THC, such as memory impairment and paranoia.

CBD also appears to counteract the sleep-inducing effects of THC, which may explain why some strains of cannabis are known to increase alertness.

Both CBD and THC have been found to present no risk of lethal overdose. However, to reduce potential side effects, medical users may be better off using cannabis with higher levels of CBD.



Report of a parent survey of cannabidiol-enriched cannabis use in pediatric treatment-resistant epilepsy.

Porter BE, Jacobson C. Epilepsy Behav. 2013 Dec;29(3):574-7.


Cannabidivarin (CBDV) suppresses pentylenetetrazole (PTZ)-induced increases in epilepsy-related gene expression.

Amada N, Yamasaki Y, Williams CM, Whalley BJ. PeerJ. 2013 Nov 21;1:e214.


Cannabidiol exerts anti-convulsant effects in animal models of temporal lobe and partial seizures

Jones NA, Glyn SE, Akiyama S, Hill TD, Hill AJ, Weston SE, Burnett MD, Yamasaki Y, Stephens GJ, Whalley BJ, Williams CM.Seizure. 2012 Jun;21(5):344-52


Phytocannabinoids as novel therapeutic agents in CNS disorders

Hill AJ, Williams CM, Whalley BJ, Stephens GJ. Pharmacol Ther. 2012 Jan;133(1):79-97


Enhancing the activity of cannabidiol and other cannabinoids in vitro through modifications to drug combinations and treatment schedules.

Scott KA, Shah S, Dalgleish AG, Liu WM. Anticancer Res. 2013 Oct;33(10):4373-80.


Cannabidiol as potential anticancer drug.

Massi P, Solinas M, Cinquina V, Parolaro D. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2013 Feb;75(2):303-12


Cannabinoids: a new hope for breast cancer therapy?

Caffarel MM, Andradas C, Pérez-Gómez E, Guzmán M, Sánchez C. Cancer Treat Rev. 2012 Nov;38(7):911-8


Cannabinoids in intestinal inflammation and cancer.

Izzo AA, Camilleri M. Pharmacol Res. 2009 Aug;60(2):117-25.



Cannabinoids and Endocannabinoids in Metabolic Disorders with Focus on Diabetes

Di Marzo V, Piscitelli F, Mechoulam R. Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2011;(203):75-104.


Cannabinoids inhibit insulin receptor signalling in pancreatic β-cells

Kim W, Doyle ME, Liu Z, Lao Q, Shin YK, Carlson OD, Kim HS, Thomas S, Napora JK, Lee EK, Moaddel R, Wang Y, Maudsley S, Martin B, Kulkarni RN, Egan JM. Diabetes. 2011 Apr;60(4):1198-209.


Peripheral effects of the endocannabinoid system in energy homeostasis: adipose tissue, liver and skeletal muscle.

Silvestri C, Ligresti A, Di Marzo V. Rev Endocr Metab Disord. 2011 Sep;12(3):153-62.


Effect of dietary fat on endocannabinoids and related mediators: consequences on energy homeostasis, inflammation and mood.

Banni S, Di Marzo V. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2010 Jan;54(1):82-92.


Cannabis use amongst patients with inflammatory bowel disease.

Lal S, Prasad N, Ryan M, Tangri S, Silverberg MS, Gordon A, Steinhart H. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2011 Oct;23(10):891-6.


Treatment of Crohn’s disease with cannabis: an observational study.

Naftali T, Lev LB, Yablecovitch D, Half E, Konikoff FM. Isr Med Assoc J. 2011 Aug;13(8):455-8.


Impact of cannabis treatment on the quality of life, weight and clinical disease activity in inflammatory bowel disease patients: a pilot prospective study.

Lahat A, Lang A, Ben-Horin S. Digestion. 2012;85(1):1-8.

Cannabidiol, a safe and non-psychotropic ingredient of the marijuana plant Cannabis sativa, is protective in a murine model of colitis.

Borrelli F, Aviello G, Romano B, Orlando P, Capasso R, Maiello F, Guadagno F, Petrosino S, Capasso F, Di Marzo V, Izzo AA. J Mol Med (Berl). 2009 Nov;87(11):1111-21.