The science behind why CBD works

What is CBD?

CBD is one of at least a hundred and twenty phyto-cannabinoids found in the cannabis sativa plant constituting around 40 percent of the plant’s active compounds. 

Cannabidiol can be extracted from industrial hemp or synthesized in the lab.  Both hemp and marijuana are versions of the Cannabis Sativa plant.  Now the percentage of CBD in hemp plants by dry weight is lower than the percentage of CBD of some hybrids of medical marijuana plants. 

But once the oil is extracted, the molecular structure of CBD is the same regardless of the source. Now CBD does not have the same mind-altering effects as the main plant compound THC.  In fact, CBD is able to counter the mind-altering effects caused by THC. 


CBD extracts primarily come from the cannabis flower and leaves of the marijuana plant and from the flower leaves and stalks of hemp. Hemp oil comes from the seeds of the hemp plant but cannot offer the same therapeutic benefits as CBD oil.  

This is important: CBD oil and hemp oil are NOT the same and should not be confused. You will not experience the same benefits as hemp oil as you will with CBD oil. 

Please note that depending on the hybrid cannabis provides anywhere from four to thirty five percent of THC while hemp is regulated to contain less than 0.3 percent THC.  

Cannabinoids as medicine

In 1999, the US Department of Health and Human Services obtained a patent for the neuroprotective effects of cannabinoids to protect the brain from neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and other forms of dementia.

CBD is anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-anxiety and provides anti-tumor properties among others.

CBD has been shown to have potential in the treatment of depression, neuro inflammation, epilepsy, oxidative stress, vomiting in nausea, anxiety, and schizophrenia. 

CBD was first isolated in pure form in 1940 simultaneously from American hemp and Egyptian hashish. Since then much of the research has been conducted on THC compared to CBD likely because THC produces the mind altering effects and CBD does not alter your mind.

In fact, clinical studies and reports by ordinary neuro-hackers show that CBD can help prevent the psychotic-like effects induced by high doses of THC. Cannabis is native of Central and South southern Asia and has been used for millennia to produce hemp fiber for bowstrings, clothing, rope, livestock feed medicine, religious ceremonies, and recreation. 

CBD science is catching up

People were using cannabis to get stoned thousands of years ago but it has only been in the last few years that scientists have begun to piece together how and what cannabis does to your brain.  Endocannabinoid is short for endogenous cannabinoid.

Endogenous means that it’s native to our bodies. The endocannabinoid system or ECS is a group of receptors located throughout your brain and body and consists of signaling molecules in their receptors.

The EECS is involved in various processes including appetite, mood, memory, pain sensation, stress response, energy balance, metabolism, and even female reproduction. 

The Endocannabinoid System

Now the two primary endocannabinoid receptors are cb1 and cb2. Cb1 receptors are found primarily in the brain and central nervous system. It is the main molecular target of the endocannabinoid and anandamide which is produced in your body and the THC you get from cannabis. 

The other main endocannabinoid is 2 AG which is also produced in your body and CBD which you get from cannabis. Both 2 AG and CBD are active at both the CB1 and CB2 receptors but CBD cannot directly bind with the CB1 receptor like THC can.  CB2 receptors are mainly expressed in immune cells in your body.

The overall function of the ECS is to maintain balance of the nervous system. Normally we think of neurotransmitters as moving in the direction of synaptic firing. In other words it’s moving from the sending neuron to the receiving neuron to produce some action. 

Endocannabinoids, on the other hand, are unique because they act more like retrograde neurotransmitters. They act in the opposite direction of synaptic flow. Endocannabinoids and the synapse temporarily reduced the amount of neurotransmitter released from the sending neuron meaning the receiving neuron exerts control over the amount of neurotransmitter that it receives.

Now let’s circle back to cannabis. CBD and THC are collectively known as cannabinoids and both interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors in your body and brain. THC can talk directly to the CB1 receptor but not see CBD. 

Instead, CBD increases the activity of the native endocannabinoid system by increasing cannabinoid receptor density and by inhibiting FAA which is our fatty acid amide hydrolase which increases levels of endocannabinoids like the Bliss molecule anandamide.

CBD is also an agonist of the 5HTA serotonin receptor. So the combination of increasing anandamide in serotonin activity likely provides the anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects of CBD.  

CBD can relieve anxiety

CBD oil is anti-anxiety. Human and animal studies show that CBD works as an anxiolytic. The first human study was published in 1982 on the interaction between CBD and THC. The study worked with eight healthy volunteers with a mean age of 27 years. 

The participants had not used cannabis in the previous 15 days. In this double-blind procedure, the volunteers received CBD, THC, CBD + C + THC, diazepam,  or a placebo in different sequences in days. 

The results show that the increased anxiety following the administration of THC was significantly reduced with the simultaneous administration of CBD. That is the combination of THC and CBD.

Several other studies with humans have since been conducted to determine how CBD produces this anti-anxiety effect.  The consensus appears to be that CBD alters blood flow in specific areas of the brain. One study had healthy volunteers using 400 milligrams of CBD or a placebo in a double-blind trial. 

The researchers concluded that CBD significantly reduced anxiety. The study found that CBD increases activity in the left parahippocampal gyrus and decreased activity in the left amygdala hippocampus complex including the fusiform gyrus.This pattern of spec results is what is normally associated with the anxiolytic action. 

CBD can help with depression

Second, CBD oil is antidepressant. Reviews of many who regularly use CBD oil report its antidepressant effects. Studies have shown that CBD inhibits 5h t18 serotonin receptor activity which would raise levels of serotonin and provide an improvement in mood.  But there is also speculation among the scientific community that CBD also provides its antidepressant effects by increasing levels of endocannabinoids like anandamide likely by inhibiting their breakdown.

Other studies have shown that CBD facilitates other actions in the brain both in humans and animals that could contribute to an improvement in mood including modifying the function of several receptors such as cb1 and cb2, GPR 55,  TRPV1 and 5h t1a receptors.

CBD also inhibits FAAH,  the enzyme which increases levels of the bliss molecule anandamide and inhibits the adenosine transporter which would increase levels of adenosine. This all possibly contributes to a better mood and a decrease in depression.