CBD - What it is and its place in the world today
CBD, or cannabidiol, is the second most prevalent active ingredient in cannabis. It was discovered in 1940 by the late Roger Adams, an American organic chemist most famous in chemistry for the Adams' catalyst.
Adams isolated CBD from the hemp plant, which is the same species as the marijuana plant but is mostly used to manufacture fabrics. Adams also isolated CBN (cannabinol), a similar but different molecule that has different effects.
What is CBD?
CBD is one of at least 85 active ingredients in cannabis and is classified as a phytocannabinoid (naturally occurring cannabinoid). It is not considered a narcotic drug, so it is legal to consume under UK law.
What does CBD do to the body?
CBD doesn't get you high because it doesn't have psychoactive effects; the psychoactive effects in cannabis are delivered by tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Instead, CBD has relaxant qualities on the brain, nervous system and body.
CBD interacts with the body in several ways; neuroimaging studies have shown that it induces "significant" changes in brain activity.
Another study found that CBD' shifts' levels of the brain's primary excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters. This study also found that CBD stops the brain mechanisms that contribute to seizures by enhancing the release of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA, which is also linked to anxiety and stress.
CBD's place in the world today
CBD is legal in the UK as long as it contains less than 0.2% THC and so long as the CBD is derived from industrial hemp approved in the UK.
CBD is not classed as a narcotic anywhere in the developed world. It is sold legally in the UK, and the NHS prescribes a CBD oil called Epidiolex.
CBD as a prescription medicine
It's important to point out that the NHS only prescribes CBD oil for a limited range of medical applications, so while it is medically recognised and approved, the official use cases are lower than the number of recreational uses.
Officially, the NHS prescribes Epidiolex for epilepsy, vomiting and nausea caused by cancer treatments, and multiple sclerosis (MS).
Another medicine containing CBD oil prescribed by the NHS is Nabiximols (Sativex) for MS, which is sprayed directly into the mouth.
CBD as an alternative medicine
CBD has found use in hundreds of alternative medicine applications, from treating severe and chronic pain to relieving seizures, tremors and shakes.
CBD is also widely used for anxiety, depression, stress and chronic brain disorders, although research backing up CBD's efficacy as a treatment for these is minimal.
Some people claim CBD transforms their life, alleviating pain in places other painkillers can't touch and improving their mental health. Others try CBD, and it does nothing for them, which is in keeping with cannabis's effects varying from person to person.
CBD products include oils, soft gel capsules, gummies, topical balms, creams and lotions, and massage oils (not to be confused with ingestible CBD oils). To stay on the legal side of things, only buy CBD products from reputable vendors.