CBD (cannabidiol) is a therapeutic compound produced by cannabis. Learn everything you need to know about CBD—particularly as it applies to Canadians and the legal Canadian market—here.
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CBD basics: What is cannabidiol and what does it do?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-intoxicating compound found in cannabis and hemp. CBD oils, edibles, and other products are continuing to grow in popularity as ways to manage anxiety, stress, pain, and other symptoms.
We typically associate cannabis with getting stoned, but CBD can be extracted from the plant to make products that come without the high or the smoke.
We typically associate cannabis with getting stoned, but CBD can be extracted from the plant to make products that come without the high or the smoke. The molecule in cannabis that gets us high is called THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), and nowadays, you can turn to cannabis-derived CBD products with little to no THC for clear-headed symptom relief.
It’s not just THC and CBD, either—cannabis produces dozens of potentially therapeutic compounds called cannabinoids. We’re slowly getting to know them as legalization spreads, and so far, they seem pretty friendly to us humans and our many ailments.
How does CBD work in the brain and body?
Each of our bodies has a set of receptors that interacts with cannabis compounds called cannabinoids, like CBD. These receptors, found throughout the body, comprise the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a complex signaling system that ensures our bodies maintain homeostasis.
Put another way, the endocannabinoid system keeps us in balance by directing the communication traffic as CBD interacts with this system, mimicking natural compounds (called endocannabinoids) produced by the body.
In the human body, CBD influences cannabinoid receptor activity and encourages production of the body’s natural endocannabinoids. Interestingly, CBD also affects activity beyond the endocannabinoid system and can also interact with opioid, dopamine, and serotonin receptors. The ability of CBD to interact with so many different systems throughout the body suggests it has the potential to open new frontiers in psychiatry and medicine.
Learn more about the effects of CBD on the brain and body.
CBD and THC
It’s tempting to think of CBD as the “good” or “medicinal” cannabinoid, since it’s non-intoxicating, but the truth is a lot more complicated. The science is just getting started, but CBD and THC can work together in a myriad of ways. Learn more here:
CBD in Canada
The CBD molecule is the same no matter where you go, but regulations and product availability vary quite a bit between Canada and other countries or states. Get the details here:
CBD for specific symptoms: anxiety, pain, and more
After decades of cannabis prohibition, our scientific understanding of how CBD works for specific symptoms and conditions is just getting started.
Although many Canadians safely consume CBD for medical and therapeutic reasons, it’s always best practice to visit your family doctor or a numerous preclinical and case studies have found CBD to be safe and effective in easing symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
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Learn more about CBD and anxiety here and here.
CBD for neuropathic pain
CBD inhibits glutamate release and other inflammatory agents, which makes it neuroprotective and excellent at dulling the prickling, tingling, and burning sensations associated with neuropathy, or neuropathic pain.
Learn more about CBD and neuropathic pain here and here.
CBD for inflammation
CBD is a potent anti-inflammatory, making it a potential treatment for a range of inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, and fibromyalgia, to name a few.
CBD for pain
CBD is often touted as an analgesic, or pain-reliever, but this is a matter of some debate. Many researchers believe that CBD relieves pain by addressing its cause—such as inflammation—rather than treating the pain itself. The best evidence of CBD’s analgesic effects pertains to neuropathic pain specifically.
Learn more about CBD for pain here and here.
CBD for insomnia
Similar to its relationship with pain, CBD’s impact on insomnia is debatable, and there is very little research to support its role in sleep, good or bad. Anecdotally, however, many consumers claim it helps with sleep. More research is needed, but currently it is theorized that CBD promotes sleep by easing factors that disrupt it, like anxiety, or by working in concert with other cannabis ingredients, like the calming terpene myrcene.
Learn more about CBD for sleep here and here.
CBD for seizures
In both children and adults, large doses of CBD and CBD-based medications (Epidiolex) have had remarkable success in reducing overall number of seizures experienced by patients with various forms of epilepsy, including rare and intractable forms such as Dravet Syndrome.
Learn more about CBD for epilepsy here, here, and here.
CBD for addiction and opioid withdrawal
Like many of CBD’s potential applications, research into its effects on addiction and opioid withdrawal is scant, but promising. Compared with placebo, it has been shown to reduce cravings and anxiety in patients recovering from heroin addiction, and to mitigate reward-seeking behaviour.
Learn more about CBD for addiction and opioid withdrawal here, here, and here.
There is no ideal, one-size-fits-all dose with CBD. Your perfect CBD dose depends on a few different factors, including your individual biology, the delivery method, and the specific nature of your symptoms. For example, high doses of CBD (upward of 600mg daily) seem to be more effective for conditions like epilepsy, whereas low doses are potentially effective for anxiety.
Research is beginning to show that there’s a sweet spot when it comes to dosing cannabinoids like CBD: Consume too much or too little, and you may feel limited relief or side effects.
More research is needed to develop specific guidelines around CBD dosing for different medical conditions. Until then, if you’re using CBD oils, edibles, or other products to treat symptoms like anxiety, stress, pain, or insomnia, work with a cannabis-aware doctor who can start you off at a low dose and help you work up to the right amount for your medical needs.
Got questions about CBD in Canada? Click here for answers to your most frequently asked questions about CBD.
With files from Ben Adlin, Ryan Basen, Daniel Betteridge, John Duncan, Emily Earlenbaugh, Nick Jikomes, Jacqueline Havelka, Josh Kaplan, Jeremy Kossen, Katarina Kostovic, Alexa Peters, Bailey Rahn, Devon Scoble, Laura Tennant, and Dustin Sulak.
This post was originally published on December 19, 2019. It was most recently updated on February 14, 2020.