What is CBD?
CBD is one of the most prevalent chemical compounds in the cannabis plant. Unlike the more famous molecule, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD is completely non-psychoactive. So, don’t expect to get “high” from this organic chemical. CBD is all relaxation without intoxication. While CBD still influences your body. However, consuming CBD by itself isn’t going to send you on the cerebral adventure associated with THC. For decades, medical professionals and the public overlooked CBD because psychoactive cannabis took center stage. Now, the medical potential of CBD has taken cannabis to mainstream audiences. Preclinical trials over the past four decades have found that the cannabinoid shows promise as an:
CBD is often used by patients in the form of an oil, but can also come in the form of edibles as well as vape liquids. Patients with more chronic conditions such as cancer and epilepsy often use medical cannabis oil extracted from high-CBD varieties of cannabis.
How does CBD work?
Most predominant inside the resin glands (trichomes) of the female cannabis plant, CBD is one of over 80 chemical compounds known as cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are agonists that bind to special receptors on your cells, called cannabinoid receptors. Certain receptors are heavily concentrated in the central nervous system while others are found in almost every organ of the body. Cannabinoid receptors are even found in the skin, digestive tract, and even in the reproductive organs. You can think of agonists as keys and cannabinoid receptors as locks. By consuming cannabis, you are taking in agonists that interact with different locks on cells in the body. Together, these cell receptors make up a larger endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a vast network of cell receptor proteins with many functions. Some describe the ECS as the greatest neurotransmitter system in the body. It lends a hand in seemingly just about everything, including:
Four primary purposes of the ECS include neuroprotection, stress recovery, immune balance, and homeostatic regulation. The last one is a fancy way of referring to a system that creates optimum energy balance in the body. Somehow, CBD seems to tap into this balancing system to produce its therapeutic effects. CBD is able to interact with cells in our bodies because the molecule has a similar composition to similar chemicals that the human body produces naturally, called endocannabinoids. Endo means inside and cannabinoid refers to action on cannabinoid receptors. In contrast, the cannabinoids in the cannabis plant are technically called phytocannabinoids. It’s not often that a plant compound can make headlines over and over again. However, CBD is a phytocannabinoid with some serious life-saving potential. In fact, CBD has only gained mainstream attention quite recently, after the family of one brave little girl decided to throw caution to the wind and speak out about medical cannabis.
The beginning of the CBD movement
Before she was five years old, Charlotte Figi stopped laughing. While the average child laughs around 300 times a day, Charlotte temporarily lost her ability to communicate due to a rare and severe form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome.
Dravet syndrome affects roughly 1 in 30,000 infants around the globe. Though most Dravet patients begin their lives as healthy children, development quickly begins to regress after the first few months. Intense seizures overtake children as young as three months old. These seizures cause them to lose consciousness and convulse for up to a few hours at a time. After years of rushed trips to the emergency room, the Figi’s were desperate. Between unexpected complications, experimental medications, being told that they’ve reached “the end of the line”, they had experienced it all. When there were seemingly out of options, the family finally made a life changing decision. What they didn’t know was that their choice would ultimately spur a social movement and, more importantly, bring their daughter back to life. The Figi’s decided to treat their daughter with cannabidiol (CBD), one of the primary compounds found in the marijuana plant.
CBD: Underappreciated for too long
When Paige and Matt Figi first began their search for non-psychoactive cannabis in Colorado, they fell upon some tough luck. Since the 1980s, marijuana breeders have had one major goal: creating the most potent, psychoactive cannabis out there. The competition is tough. After nearly three decades of rising demands for psychoactive cannabis, it’s not uncommon to walk into a dispensary today and find cannabis with THC content over 20%. By comparison, cannabis in the 70s contained an average of 6 to 8%. Focusing on THC content alone meant growers overlooked CBD during the hybridization process, making access nearly impossible for anyone hoping to experiment with CBD as medicine.
Before making the final decision to try CBD as a treatment, Charlotte was having 300 grand mal seizures a week, one every 15 minutes. After adding CBD oil to her daily routine? CBD kept Charlotte’s seizures at bay for an entire week. The Figi’s were astonished. I didn’t hear her laugh for six months. I didn’t hear her voice at all, just her crying. I can’t imagine that I would be watching her making these gains that she’s making, doing the things that she’s doing (without the medical marijuana). I don’t take it for granted. Every day is a blessing. – Paige Figi
CNN first aired Charlotte’s story in 2013. Since then, CBD has been making headlines all over the world. Families have even begun to relocate to Denver to find medical cannabis for their sick children. These families make up a group of migrants termed “medical cannabis refugees.” The audacity of the Figi family has spurred real policy change. States that once seemed centuries away from changing their cannabis laws have introduced pro-CBD legislative initiatives, with the encouragement of Paige Figi.