CBD & THC explained

Updated: Mar 10, 2020

What is CBD and THC?

Cannabidiol, or CBD, and Tetrahydrocannabinol, THC are two ‘cannabinoids’ produced naturally by the Cannabis Sativa plant. There are thousands of cannabinoids; other cannibinoids include CBG and CBN. Cannabinoids have been prized since ancient times, due to their profound therapeutic effects, such as anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

What are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are a group of diverse chemicals which act upon receptors found in the endocannabinoid system within the body. Endocannabinoids are also produced naturally by the body. Molecules such as CBD act upon receptors in the body (like a key fitting into a specific lock), causing a biological response. Phytocannabinoids are cannabinoids produced by the Cannabis Sativa plant, and cause an array of beneficial effects. There are at least 113 unique cannabinoids that have been isolated from the Cannabis Sativa plant, all with impressive theraputic properties.

Role and Function of the Endocannabinoid system

The body maintains regular conditions, temperature and metabolism (homeostasis) in part thanks to its endocannabinoid system. For example, the endocannabinoid system regulates brain activity. Functions include memory, sleep quality, immune response, appetite and social interaction. Effects have also been reported in terms of reduced stress anxiety, stress response, analgesia, energy balance and metabolism. So far, two types of receptors within the body’s endocannabinoid system have been identified: the CB1 receptor and CB2 receptor.

Pharmacology of CBD – for science nerds!

While research is continuous, the following mechanisms of action for cannabidiol (CBD) have been identified:

·CBD’s action on the CB1 and CB2 receptors have been widely researched. CBD has low affinity for the CB2 receptor, and is a negative allosteric modulator of the CB1 receptor.

· CBD is an antagonist of the G protein-coupled receptor 55 (GPCR55), a cannabinoid receptor different to CB1 and CB2 receptors. GPRC55 is found in two areas of the brain: the caudate nucleus and putamen.

· CBD is shown to be the inverse agonist of the G-protein coupled receptor 3, G-protein coupled receptor 6 and G-protein coupled receptor 12.

· CBD is shown to be a partial agonist of the serotonin 1A receptor (5-HT1A receptor)

· CBD is shown to be allosteric modulators of μ- and δ-opioid receptors.

CBD vs THC and does CBD get you high?

CBD cannot get you ‘high’, as cannabis consumption would. THC is the primary cannabinoid found in the Cannabis Sativa plant that produces the ‘high’ intoxication effect, associated with smoking cannabis. THC has low affinity for the CB1 receptors. The CB1 receptors are mostly found in the brain and the nervous system, thus explaining how THC has produce intoxication in individuals. CBD however is shown to be an indirect negative allosteric modulator of the CB1 receptor, meaning it decreases the activity of the CB1 receptor in the body. CBD instead binds to CB2 receptors, which are located primarily in the tissues relating to the immune system (spleen, tonsils and thymus gland), the gastro-intestinal tract and the peripheral nervous system.


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