The Science of CBD

The Biology

The endocannabinoid system is a biochemical communication system in our bodies that helps regulate everything from nerve function and muscle coordination to immunity and blood circulation. It’s made up of two types of cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, which both promote neural sensitivity and efficacy. CB1 receptors are found in the brain and central nervous system and influence our emotions, mood, appetite, coordination, movement, and pain. CB2 receptors are found primarily in the immune system, but also in peripheral organs and tissues of the muscular and cardiovascular systems.

While our body naturally produces endocannabinoid compounds that react with the CB1 and CB2 receptors and help keep the body balanced, when we experience injury, disease or other deficiency of endocannabinoids, the compounds found in CBD, called phytocannabinoids, can help pick up the slack. But instead of interacting directly with CB1 and CB2 receptors like THC compounds, CBD compounds simply help to stimulate the receptors and get the body to recognize and use more of its natural cannabinoids and neurotransmitters. (Hence, no “high”.)

Full Spectrum CBD vs CBD Isolate

Full Spectrum CBD:

If a product is full spectrum, it means it is created from a whole plant extract. This means that as well as getting a healthy dose of CBD and trace amounts of THC under 0.3%, you can expect the product to include other components such as terpenes, essential vitamins, fatty acids, protein, and more. These additional components deliver synergistic medical benefits encapsulated by the term the entourage effect.

CBD Isolate:

This is 99.9% CBD and doesn’t include any other components. So when it was extracted from hemp, it went through a refining process that removed THC and other components like flavonoids and terpenes. However, it is important to remember that more CBD doesn’t simply mean it’ll have greater effects, it just means that for some people, who specifically want the benefit of CBD alone, that this is a good option for them.

What happens

The magic of CBD in comparison to THC is that it doesn’t act directly with the CB1 and CBD2 receptors. Rather CBD influences them and other receptors in the brain and body indirectly, meaning you don’t get the same psychoactive effects you do with THC.

CBD works in two main ways:

First, it has the ability to turn ‘orphan receptors’ into active or inactive receptors of G-proteins, according to the need of the body.

Second, CBD has been shown to act as a serotonin 5-HT1A receptor partial agonist. An action that is considered to be responsible for its antidepressant, anxiolytic, and neuroprotective effects.


It is important to note that study into the effects of CBD products across a range of conditions remains in their infancy, however, large parts of the clinical community have heralded CBD as a huge forward shift in the way we could treat medical conditions in the future. So, while the indications are unanimously positive, as a responsible retailer we feel it is important to help you understand that this is a young and extremely exciting industry that is gaining further credibility, day in day out.

Conditions that CBD has been used to treat



Controlled studies have shown promising results for CBD in relation to the treatment of cancer patients, with those using a combination of CBD and THC showing relevant improvements in survival compared with placebo. This is especially positive given that in addition to relevant improvements, cannabinoid medicine has generally been well tolerated.

In the same studies, CBD was found to exhibit “pro‐apoptotic and anti‐proliferative actions” in different types of tumors, thus leading researchers to conclude that “evidence is emerging to suggest that CBD is a potent inhibitor of both cancer growth and spread.”

And while these trials are still in the early stages, it is widely believed that we can be optimistic about the benefits and future outlook when it comes to using CBD products in the treatment of cancer.

Potential direct CBD impacts on cancer

Studies of CBD’s direct effects as a treatment option are fewer, yet the research that has been conducted indicates its potential in this arena as well. In January of this year, a study on pancreatic cancer in vitro and in vivo found CBD to help inhibit tumor growth and further invasion, as well as help, cause tumor cell death. That study’s findings were corroborated by another study in February that invoked CBD’s efficacy in palliative care while highlighting its negating effects on tumorigenesis.

As it turns out, the same tumor-limiting results have proven true when looking at specific types of cancer. A 2019 in vitro study found that CBD helped induce cell death in a case of glioblastoma—a.k.a. a very aggressive malignant tumor beginning in the brain or spine. The study also noted that CBD seemed to increase the glioblastoma’s sensitivity to radiation treatment by inhibiting the ATM protein kinase, without causing damage to normal cells.

This study adds to a group of previous studies CBD and cancerous tumors: a 2014 in vivo study found CBD to be helpful in impeding tumor growth in cases of colon cancer; a 2014 review of clinical trials showed similar inhibition of tumoral cells of gliomas (tumors on the brain and spine, less aggressive than glioblastomas); and a study from 2010 indicated the capacity for CBD to reduce cell proliferation in metastatic breast cancer.



Our body’s endocannabinoid system is known as the system of “feel good” molecules that bodies produce when we relax, exercise or get good sleep. The cannabinoid molecules help keep the body in balance in a variety of ways by influencing receptors—not solely cannabinoid receptors, but also others connected to our nervous systems, like brain receptors and their uptake of certain neurotransmitters. Phytocannabinoids, a.k.a. the ones coming from plants as in CBD, also do this when we ingest them. Essentially, they make it so these receptors are more sensitive to the cannabinoid molecules naturally occurring in our body, as well as to other chemical neurotransmitters. The use of CBD products have specifically been found to heavily influence the receptors for serotonin and dopamine—both of which are linked to reduction of anxiety. 

Current evidence indicates that CBD has huge potential as a treatment for multiple anxiety disorders including:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

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The therapeutic benefits of CBD products on epilepsy appear to be mounting.
Medical reviews published in 2017 and 2018 incorporating numerous clinical trials concluded that cannabidiol is an effective treatment for certain types of childhood epilepsy.

An orally administered cannabidiol solution was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in June 2018 as a treatment for two rare forms of childhood epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.

Pain & Inflammation

Pain & Inflammation

CBD’s effect on pain depends on the type of pain: nociceptive, neuropathic or central pain.

1. Nociceptive pain comes from physical injury and damaged tissue and is influenced by the immune system (e.g. chronic pain and inflammation, inflammation from injury, arthritis, IBS, etc.).

2. Neuropathic pain can come from physical injury but is linked to damaged nerves rather than tissue and, therefore, is influenced by the central nervous system (e.g. multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, HIV, shingles).

3. Central pain, on the other hand, is a more generalized category, describing the pain that comes from dysfunction in the nervous system where the cause may be unknown (e.g. fibromyalgia).

How CBD affects nociceptic pain

CBD most readily affects nociceptive pain by recruiting CB2 receptors in the immune system. It blocks the inflammatory signals, or mediators, sent to the brain in order to stop the onset of inflammation after damage, and also switches macrophage repair cells from instigating inflammation to reducing it. CBD further mitigates nociceptive pain by diminishing the pain signals sent to the brain through neurotransmitters and CB1 receptors. Effectively, it amplifies the activity of inhibitory receptors for those neurotransmitters, making fewer pain signals reach the brain so the body doesn’t feel as much of it. A few studies on mice and rats have found very favorable results in CBD’s effect on chronic pain and inflammation.

How CBD affects neuropathic pain

Because neuropathic pain comes from the nervous system and isn’t necessarily localized to an easily targetable area, it’s more difficult to treat. Where CBD has been found to be helpful is in limiting the expression of certain pain and inflammatory mediators (see: CB2 receptors!) that spike when treating neuropathic conditions (e.g. multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, HIV, shingles), coupled with its increased activation of serotonin receptors (CB1!). Higher serotonin levels naturally make us feel better, happier and less acutely aware of or affected by pain.

How CBD affects central pain

Lastly, we have central pain. As the blanket category encompassing many varied types of pain, central pain, and CBD’s impact on it, is the least studied at this point. A 2018 study, however, did find significant positive effects of using cannabis products in patients with fibromyalgia.

Cardiovascular Diseases

Cardiovascular Diseases

Small scale studies have highlighted a “marked improvement” of between 12 to 15 percent across three distinct inflammatory markers for heart disease; homocysteine, c-reactive protein, and EST, all of which could point to a reduced risk of heart disease.

Antipsychotic Effects

Antipsychotic Effects

A 2015 systematic review in Schizophrenia Research indicated that CBD could be helpful in the management of psychotic symptoms in schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. According to researchers, the first small-scale clinical studies were promising – both with regards to the effectiveness and the safety of the practice –, but larger randomized clinical trials are necessary to confirm these benefits.

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Opiate Addiction

Opiate Addiction

More Effective Treatment at Lower Doses:
An independent study by UCSF reported that cannabinoids appear to make opioid treatment more effective at lower doses and with fewer side effects. This is supported by numerous observational studies which suggest that some patients voluntarily decrease the number of opiates they are using—or go off opiates completely—when they use them in conjunction with cannabis.

Reduced Symptoms of Opioid Withdrawal:
Research also suggests that cannabis can help treat the symptoms of opioid withdrawal: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, muscle spasms, anxiety, agitation, restlessness, insomnia, and minor symptoms like a runny nose and sweating.

Reduced Risk of Relapse:
Recent animal studies, have shown that the heroin-seeking behavior of self-administering rats decreased when the animals were given CBD, while Preclinical data further suggests that CBD inhibits the reward-facilitating effect of opiates by disrupting the reconsolidation of cue-induced memories that reinforce addiction.

Mental Focus

Mental Focus

Cannabinoid molecules influence receptors throughout the body, impacting their ability to uptake neurotransmitters. Essentially, CBD has the ability to make these receptors more sensitive and in turn, our responses more acute. 

In relation to focus, CBD appears to have a direct impact on the production and release of serotonin. Seratonin is a neurotransmitter released during sleeping, eating, and digestion, that helps regulate our emotions. Too-low levels of serotonin can result in anxiety and depression, symptoms of which can be poor concentration and the inability to slow down your thoughts or focus on one thing. So when you increase the amount of serotonin being absorbed by the body, as CBD helps to do, you decrease those symptoms—often leading a more settled emotional state and better focus.

Dopamine, on the other hand, is a neurotransmitter linked to pleasure and motivation, what attracts us and holds our attention, and how we can plan and accomplish things. As with serotonin, dopamine shortages can lead to anxiety and depression, but also to a couple of disorders heavily centered on focus: ADHD and ADD—which is where certain research comes in.

While to date there have still been no clinical trials of CBD’s effect on ADHD or ADD on a broad scale, there is significant anecdotal evidence that CBD helps decrease hyperactive behavior and increase focus by way of affecting dopamine reuptake.

Dosing with CBD

Taking a higher dosage of CBD will, in most cases, both increase the effects of CBD and also decrease the amount of time it takes to feel it. However, even with higher dosages, the type of CBD product and how it’s consumed will still be the main determining factor of how long absorption takes.

It’s important to note that dosages differ widely and are not currently regulated by the FDA, but the dosages of certain products—like oils, tinctures, and edibles—tend to be more standardized than others. Be sure to read product labels very closely so you know just how much you’re ingesting. When testing a new dosage, it’s especially important to give yourself ample time to learn how quickly a new dosage affects you and ensure that you are not affected negatively in any way. As we like to say, “start low and go slow.”

How long it takes to feel the effects of CBD will be different for everybody and depends on a number of factors:

  • A person’s body weight and metabolic rate
  • Type of CBD product
  • CBD Dosage
  • Cannabidiol strain and quality

How CBD affects different body types

Each CBD user’s body is a different size and make-up, and the combination of those factors will determine how CBD affects you. Often, it will take more time and higher dosages for people with higher body masses to feel the same effects as people with smaller body masses. However, metabolism also plays a role in CBD absorption. A high metabolic rate—in a person of any size—can mean the body will process CBD faster, reducing the amount of time it takes to feel the effects, whereas a lower metabolic rate increases that time.

CBD Dosing Examples:

Chronic Pain: 2.5-20mg for 25 days

Epilepsy: 200-300mg up to 4.5 months

Huntingtons Disease-related issues: 10mg/kg for 6 weeks

Sleep Disorders: 40-160mg

Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms: 2.5-120mg THC-CBD combo for 2-15 weeks

Glaucoma: 20-40mg (Doses over 40 mg may actually increase eye pressure)