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What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (known better as CBD) is one of over 113 cannabinoids that have been discovered so far in the hemp plant. These cannabinoids aren’t a compound unique to hemp, and can be found within a huge array of other plants and animals, including human beings.

Cannabinoids are named like that because they were first discovered in the cannabis plant. The most famous cannabinoid is THC, which is what causes the negative effects most commonly associated with cannabis.

Meanwhile CBD, the second most prominent cannabinoid, does not get you intoxicated.

This is why products with more than 0.2% THC in them are illegal in the UK. 

When CBD enters your body, its main way of interacting with the body is through a network known as the endocannabinoid system. You may never have heard of it, but every single person has one, and it’s an essential part of maintaining balance within your body.

Your body contains many different systems that perform many different functions; your digestive system, your respiratory system, and your reproductive system to name just a few. The role of the endocannabinoid system is like that of a manager. Rather than taking direct action, it ensures that all these numerous whirring cogs are working correctly.

The ‘cannabinoid’ part of the word ‘endocannabinoid’ comes from cannabis, while the ‘endo’ part is short for endogenous. The terms refers specifically to the cannabis-like substances produced naturally inside your body. Since CBD is directly similar to these internally synthesised compounds, the body is able to receive and process it quite easily.

The endocannabinoid system is made up of three core parts: endocannabinoids, a series of receptors around your body, and enzymes that break the endocannabinoids down. These receptors are found throughout all of your major organs, your immune system and your nervous system, ensuring that everything is at a state of balance.

The body has a lot of clever ways of keeping things ‘just so’; if we are too hot then the body triggers sweat to cool us down; if we are dehydrated then the body triggers thirst to tell us to drink; if we need sleep then the body triggers melatonin to make us feel tired. All of these different signals and triggers are detected by your endocannabinoid receptors, which then trigger the release of endocannabinoids.

These receptors can be split into two different categories; CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are found in the central nervous system (the brain and nerves of the spinal cord), while CB2 receptors are found in the peripheral nervous system, the digestive system and cells in the immune system. In each instance they check for differences in temperature, pressure, pH and metabolism.

Using these receptors, the ECS is a major player in a lot of important functions including inflammation, motor control and immune function. The receptors in your digestive system are responsible for appetite and digestion, while the receptors in your brain control mood, memory and sleep. The endocannabinoid system is a very precise one, and each receptor works specifically to monitor and alter a certain bodily function.

Once endocannabinoids have been released in order to return balance, the enzymes (the third part of the system) come along to break down the endocannabinoids. For example, if you are too hot, the endocannabinoids will cool you down to your normal temperature, and then the enzymes will break them down to prevent it from going in the opposite direction (ie, you become too cold).

The reason introducing CBD to our body is so easy is because our endocannabinoid system responds to internally-produced cannabinoids and external cannabinoids very similarly. External cannabinoids, such as CBD, attach themselves to your CB1 and CB2 receptors, acting in the same way as endocannabinoids do.

The two most famous external cannabinoids are THC and CBD. THC is the compound in cannabis that induces the high, and is associated with the negative side effects related to cannabis, such as paranoia and anxiety. It gives users a high by attaching to the CB1 receptor in your brain, and acting in a similar manner to anandamide (noted for its calming effects). However, the body’s enzymes struggle to break down THC, which leads to exacerbated effects.

CBD, on the other hand, doesn’t induce any high. When it’s introduced to the body, instead of acting like anandamide, it stimulates the CB1 and CB2 receptors throughout the body to create more of its own endocannabinoids. Where THC is a highly active outside adulterant, CBD simply encourages the body to produce more of its own natural endocannabinoids. This is part of the reason that CBD is considered safe in the wider health sphere.

Marijuana and hemp are two varieties of the same plant species, cannabis sativa. Hemp seed oil, sometimes referred to as cannabis sativa seed oil, is a predominantly nutrition-based oil that’s high in antioxidants, omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, but contains no CBD. 

CBD can be derived from both the industrial hemp plant (male cannabis crop) and the female marijuana plant. Cannabinoids like CBD are synthesised largely in the trichomes (thin hairlike growths on the flowers) alongside terpenes and flavonoids, though they will still be present in smaller concentrations in other parts of the plant.

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You do not require a prescription to buy this supplement.