What is CBD in cannabis and what does it do?

CBD is a ‘non-psychoactive’ compound, which means it doesn’t make you high as THC does. Unlike THC, CBD does not directly interact with the CB-receptors in our body and brain but instead partly blocks the THC molecules from working on our CB-receptors, making us feel less high than if we only consumed THC.

Besides THC, CBD is by far the most well-known and popular cannabinoid because of its many medicinal benefits. CBD is converted from its precursor CBDA after the flower is exposed to enough UV light or heat.

The medicinal benefits of CBD

Because of the many studies done on CBD, we are reasonably certain of the benefits it has on our health, such as the ability to;

  • Reduce the feeling of nausea
  • Reduce and prevent epileptic seizures
  • Relax our muscles
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Reduce the symptoms of psychosis (like those of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder)
  • Widen our blood vessels
  • Reduce muscle spasms
  • Make sure our body tissues get enough oxygen
  • Protect us from harmful bacteria
  • Reduce the symptoms of the skin disease Psoriasis
  • Reduce the sensation of pain
  • Reduce the feeling of hunger
  • Stimulate bone growth and help heal bones faster
  • Help strengthen our immune system
  • Help protect our body’s cells from damage
  • Help to reduce the growth of cancer cells

Is the use of CBD safe?

Through the many studies done on CBD, we now know that even long-term consumption and high doses of up to 1500 mg per day will give us no negative side-effects.

CBD and the entourage effect

CBD works even better if we combine it with other cannabinoids and terpenes. This boost in efficiency is called the “Entourage Effect” (EE). The EE of CBD is especially effective in combination with the terpenes limonene, linalool, pinene and caryophyllene, by making it more easily absorbed by our bodies.

The scientific research on CBD

CBD (Cannabidiol) is a non-psychoactive phytocannabinoid with multiple medical properties, representing one of the most common cannabinoids in hemp plants and second most prevalent in certain cannabis chemotypes. From a chemical point-of-view, it is structurally similar to THC, and is produced from an acid precursor (CBD-acid or CBDA) through a reaction promoted by heat (decarboxylation).

CBD levels in the cannabis plant

Its content percentage in any given plant is variable, depending on the heating method and the strain: generally balanced/high CBD strains may contain 5 to 20% of CBD and oil-based products generally contain higher levels of both CBD and CBDA than the non-oil products.

The science behind the Cannabidiol

Unlike THC, CBD shows low binding affinity (1) with CB1- and CB2- receptors of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), acting as a “non-competitive antagonist” (2) by binding to these receptors, thus preventing their activation by endocannabinoids. The “unusual” characteristic of CBD is that, in the presence of THC, this compound performs this action even at low concentrations; moreover, this cannabinoid can modulate the adverse effects associated with THC such as anxiety, an abnormally rapid heart rate, hunger, and sedation.

From a pharmacological point of view, CBD has proven to be extremely versatile with a high potential for therapeutic use, including:

  •  Anti-epileptic (3)
  • Anxiolytic (4)
  • Anti-psychotic,
  • Vasorelaxant (5)
  • Antispasmodic
  • Anti-ischemic (6)
  • Antiproliferative (7)
  • Antibacterial
  • Antipsoriatic (8)
  • Analgesic
  • Bone growth-stimulant
  • Immunosuppressive
  • Neuroprotective effects

At high doses it could also be used as treatment of a variety of conditions ranging in addictions, psychiatric disorders to diabetes and nausea. At lower doses its antioxidant (of note, CBD has shown to be more effective than vitamin C and E as a neuroprotective antioxidant), anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective action promotes and maintains health.

Why is CBD save?

With regards to the safety profile, CBD’s consumption doesn’t induce catalepsy (9) and doesn’t adversely affect physiological (heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature), psychological and psychomotor functions. Long-term consumption and high doses of up to 1500 mg per day have shown to be well tolerated and show no signs of adverse side-effects.

How does Cannabidiol effects with other cannabinoids?

CBD’s pharmacological activity is the result of a co-action (entourage effect) with substances known as terpenes. CBD decreases the psychoactivity and other side effects of THC, while enhancing its benefits; the terpenes limonene, linalool, pinene and caryophyllene enhance its effects and make it more efficient and more easily absorbed by our bodies.


  1. Binding affinity: The strength of the binding interaction between a certain compound (in this case CBD) to its ligand/binding partner (CB receptor). In theory a compound with low binding affinity requires high concentration for full activity.
  2. Non-competitive antagonist: a form of antagonism which occurs when the antagonist blocks the production of the response by the agonist at some point after the agonist-receptor interaction, i.e. it interrupts the linkage between receptor and effector.
  3. Anti-epileptic: A substance able to control or prevent epileptic seizures.
  4. Anxiolytic: A substance that relieves anxiety.
  5. Vasorelaxant: Ability of reducing vascular tension.
  6. Anti-ischemic: Ischemia is a restriction in blood supply to tissues, causing a shortage of oxygen that is needed for cellular metabolism (to keep tissue alive).
  7. Antiproliferative: to inhibit cell growth effects on tumor cells. Anti-cancer cell growth.
  8. Antipsoriatic: Directed against psoriasis. Sunlight is antipsoriatic. Psoriasis is a chronic, non-contagious disease characterized by inflamed lesions covered with silvery-white scabs of dead skin.
  9. Catalepsy: A medical condition characterized by a trance or seizure with a loss of sensation and consciousness accompanied by rigidity of the body.


ACDC marijuana strain growing outdoors from Guru Seeds

ACDC is the sativa-dominant phenotype of the CBD-heavy Cannatonic, due to the low amount of THC this strain has minimal psychoactive qualities. Although the strain has a 1:20 ratio of THC:CBD, its effects are surprisingly not followed by intense couch-lock.



Cannatonic strain by Resin SeedsCannatonic high cbd strain growing outdoorsFlower of the high-CBD cannabis strain at Coffeeshop Guru

If you’re looking for a medicinal cannabis strain, Cannatonic by Resin Seeds could be one of the most effective on the market. High in CBD and low in THC, Cannatonic has few psychotropic effects.


Critical Mass CBD

A large flower from Dinafem's high CBD cannabis strain Critical Mass CBD

Even though Critical Mass CBD is predominantly meant for medicinal use, it can still be used recreationally, the strain provides a body-relaxing sensation. Its low THC and high CBD content makes for what Dinafem describes as a ‘controlled’ effect.


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  • Russo E. Medicinal Cannabis Conference 2017. Phytocannabinoids-Cannabis-Terpinoids. Available at:
  • Welty TE et al. Epilepsy Curr. 2014 Sep;14(5):250-2

Post author
Fran Ca
Fran Cà is Coffeeshop Guru's in-house medicinal cannabis expert and all-around science nerd. She scours the latest research papers with pin-point precision to keep you up-to-date on the most recent developments and thrilling discoveries surrounding the awesome power of cannabis.
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