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What is CBD?

Posted by High Altitude Wellness on

Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, is one of over 100 naturally occurring phytocannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. The cannabis plant is usually characterized as either hemp or marijuana. Hemp is used for making herbal supplements, food, fiber, rope, paper, bricks, oil, natural plastic, and many other items, where marijuana is utilized specifically for its resin. CBD is derived from secretions produced by both varieties and is the second most prevalent cannabinoid in marijuana and the top non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in hemp. It should be noted that CBD oil is different from hemp seed oil and organic hemp oil, as these are derived from hemp seeds (not the resin) and do not contain CBD.

CBD is classified as a C21 terpenophenolic compound and its structure, shown in the diagram below, is comprised of an alkyl side chain, a monoterpene moiety, and a resorcinol ring1-3. CBDa, the acidic precursor to CBD, is produced within the plant when an enzyme called CBDa synthase encounters CBGa8. CBDa is then decarboxylated, resulting in the formation of CBD. 



In terms of effects, CBD does not cause a “high” feeling like THC, otherwise known as delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol. Unlike THC, CBD does not interact strongly with the two classical cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), in fact, evidence supports indirect interaction with these receptors. As a result, CBD does not cause any psychoactive effect. CBD also inhibits the enzymes that break down endocannabinoids, leading to an increase in levels of your body’s naturally-produced cannabinoids, in addition to interactions with other receptor types4-7


  1. Brenneisen, R., Chemistry and Analysis of Phytocannabinoids and Other Cannabis Constituents. In Marijuana and the Cannabinoids, ElSohly, M. A., Ed. Humana Press: Totowa, NJ, 2007; pp 17-49.
  2. Hanus, L. O.; Meyer, S. M.; Munoz, E.; Taglialatela-Scafati, O.; Appendino, G., Phytocannabinoids: a unified critical inventory. Natural product reports 2016, 33 (12), 1357-1392.
  3. Taura, F.; Sirikantaramas, S.; Shoyama, Y.; Shoyama, Y.; Morimoto, S., Phytocannabinoids in Cannabis sativa: recent studies on biosynthetic enzymes. Chemistry & biodiversity 2007, 4 (8), 1649-63.
  4. McPartland, J. M.; Duncan, M.; Di Marzo, V.; Pertwee, R. G., Are cannabidiol and Delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabivarin negative modulators of the endocannabinoid system? A systematic review. British journal of pharmacology 2015, 172 (3), 737-53.
  5. Laprairie, R. B.; Bagher, A. M.; Kelly, M. E.; Denovan-Wright, E. M., Cannabidiol is a negative allosteric modulator of the cannabinoid CB1 receptor. British journal of pharmacology 2015, 172 (20), 4790-805.
  6. Morales, P.; Hurst, D. P.; Reggio, P. H., Molecular Targets of the Phytocannabinoids: A Complex Picture. Progress in the chemistry of organic natural products 2017, 103, 103-131.
  7. Burstein, S., Cannabidiol (CBD) and its analogs: a review of their effects on inflammation. Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry 2015, 23 (7), 1377-85.
  8. Benvenuto, E., Misra, B. B., Stehle, F., Andre, C. M., Hausman, J. F., & Guerriero, G. (2016). Cannabis sativa: The Plant of the Thousand and One Molecules. Front. Plant Sci719.

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