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Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of 100+ naturally occurring cannabinoids— chemical compounds— present in cannabis plants. Cannabidiol is one of the best-known cannabinoids, second only to delta-9 THC. Chemically speaking, cannabidiol and THC aren’t all that different, even though their effects couldn’t be more different. Cannabidiol, unlike THC, isn’t psychoactive and consuming it won’t get you high. So what is cannabidiol and what does it do?
In this post, we’ll talk about
- What cannabidiol is
- How you consume it
- And how it works differently than THC
How Does Cannabidiol Work?
Cannabidiol interacts with our bodies in a number of ways— the main being its effect on our endocannabinoid system— a biological system that itself deserves pages and pages of explanation. But for now, we’ll keep it to a minimum.
Essentially, the endocannabinoid system is a network of receptors that helps us regulate:
Cannabidiol and other phytocannabinoids (phyto- meaning of the plant) both mimic and preserve the endocannabinoids (endo- meaning inside) that our bodies naturally produce. Some believe that consuming phytocannabinoids like CBD can actually help a user’s entire endocannabinoid system run more efficiently.
There is still plenty of research to be conducted on the endocannabinoid system as well as on the phytocannabinoids themselves. But early research suggests that Cannabidiol may be able to help with pain management, nausea, and other symptoms related to inflammation.
How Do You Consume Cannabidiol?
Because of cannabidiol’s legal status and general flexibility, it’s showing up in just about every product one can imagine. While some consumers prefer these relatively new methods, others have found inhalation to be the quickest.
When cannabidiol is smoked or vaped, it and other cannabinoids present, are sent to your lungs and quickly absorbed into the bloodstream; it reaches peak concentration in your bloodstream after just three minutes.
How Does Cannabidiol Differ From THC?
Both CBD and THC share a molecular formula (C₂₁H₃₀O₂), though the way they are arranged makes for a big difference. The tangible difference is their effects on users. While THC-rich cannabis is famous for its intoxicating effects, cannabidiol is non-psychoactive.
THC is also known as a CB1 and CB2 agonist meaning that it directly interacts with those receptors in your endocannabinoid system. CBD doesn’t interact with any receptors in your endocannabinoid system. Instead, researchers believe that CBD facilitates the uptake of beneficial endogenous cannabinoids (endocannabinoids for short).
Does Cannabidiol Interact With THC?
Cannabidiol can actually affect the uptake of THC and can diminish some of the unwanted effects— paranoia, munchies, and nausea. While studies into what we call the “entourage effect,” or the effects brought on by full-spectrum cannabis, are still in their infancy, the horizon of cannabinoid research is broad and exciting for sure.
How Does Your Body Process Cannabidiol?
Like THC, cannabidiol is an external cannabinoid and must also exit the same way. After your body has processed the CBD, it makes its way down to your liver. Your liver breaks down CBD into metabolites that you expel via excrement, urine, and even your hair.
Related: Does CBD Show Up On A Drug Test?
- “Cannabidiol (CBD) Pre-Review Report.” Expert Committee on Drug Dependence, World Health Organization, 10 Nov. 2017,
- Raypole, Crystal. “A Simple Guide to the Endocannabinoid System.” Healthline.com, Red Ventures Company, 17 May 2019,
- Millar, Sophie A., et al. “A Systematic Review on the Pharmacokinetics of Cannabidiol in Humans.” Frontiers in Pharmacology, Frontiers Media SA, Nov. 2018. Crossref, doi:10.3389/fphar2018.01365
- Photos courtesy of Wikimedia user Cacycle