What is CBD? Part 1.

What is CBD? Debunking some of the myths.

Cannabidiol, otherwise known by the common abbreviation, CBD, is a term that gets a lot of press these days. Despite the constant chatter, many people are confused about what CBD is. Is it marijuana*? What do you use it for? Does it make you “high”? Is it legal? How and where do you get it? This is the first in a series of posts attempting to answer many of these basic questions.

CBD is just one of a large group of compounds produced by the cannabis plant, collectively known as cannabinoids. Currently, there are over 100 known cannabinoids produced by the plant. CBD is the second most abundant of these compounds, after the more well-known THC. CBD has gained much notoriety in recent years. This is largely due, in part, to news headlines highlighting its profound effect on medical patients, especially children with severe seizure disorders. In 2013, CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon and professor, gained national attention with his 4-part documentary entitled “Weed”. In this series, he investigated the use of medical marijuana* and highlights the story of a young girl named Charlotte, who’s uncontrollable seizures were vastly improved by using a CBD-rich strain of cannabis medicine. Dr. Gupta’s efforts to investigate the potential of cannabis as medicine led him to drastically change his views on cannabis and pronounce that “we have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States, and I apologize for my own role in that.”

This documentary series is available for viewing online or you can click here:


Since that time, CBD has become a mainstream topic of discussion. Unfortunately, this has led to questions and some misconceptions about its use.

First, traditionally, those who chose to utilize cannabis for recreational purposes largely disregarded CBD and chose products high in THC, the cannabinoid most known for its intoxicating effects. This has led to the common misconception that THC is the ‘recreational’ component and CBD is the ‘medicinal’ component of cannabis. This concept is incorrect on many levels but suffice it to say that both compounds have powerful medicinal benefits.

Second, CBD is commonly referred to as being “non-psychoactive” because users do not experience the ‘high” commonly associated with THC. This statement, however, is somewhat misleading. While CBD does not have the intoxicating effects commonly associated with cannabis in general (effects largely due to THC), it may be a mistake to call it ‘non-psychoactive’ because it can have mild mind-altering effects, such as mood improvement and inducing a sense of calmness. Perhaps, a better term to describe the effects of CBD may be “non-intoxicating”.

Third, CBD is perfectly safe because it has “no side effects”. While CBD is generally regarded as having a wide margin of safety, it is not a ‘cure-all’. Any medication, whether it is doctor-prescribed, herbal or over the counter has the potential to cause undesirable effects. Each individual (human or animal) has their own unique response to cannabis. In addition, CBD can affect the metabolism of other medications in the body. So, while CBD can be a powerful aid in fighting inflammation, anxiety and seizures, as well as numerous other conditions, it is not for every individual.

Finally, CBD is “legal in all 50 states”. This statement is commonly used to market CBD products, but it is not exactly true and there is much confusion on this subject. This concept is so complicated, that it will be the sole focus of the next part of this series.

So, in conclusion, when you hear or read about CBD, due your own research and avoid the many myths surrounding this powerful, versatile compound.

Coming next: Part 2: Is CBD legal?

Author’s note: * The term ‘marijuana’ is largely regarded by those in the cannabis industry as a controversial word that was created to mislead the general public in the early 1900’s. Its derogatory connotation was used to fuel the racially-charged, negative stigma surrounding cannabis use. When used by this author, it is done reluctantly and to either 1) highlight the general negative perception shown by some towards cannabis or 2) as a direct reflection of use by another source.

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