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What Is Cannabidiol?

By Ben O'Neill
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Cannabidiol is a cannabinoid and a major component of the cannabis plant, or marijuana plant. By itself, it lacks the psychoactive effects most commonly associated with marijuana use yet still retains many of the medicinal benefits, such as its anti-seizure and anti-inflammatory effects. The legal status of this substance varies from country to country. In the United States, for instance, it and all other phytocannabinoids are classified as Schedule I controlled substances, making possession or ingestion illegal.

There are a number of medical uses for cannabidiol. Extracts act as a potent pain reducer and have been used to treat the chronic pain associated with multiple sclerosis and arthritis. It also functions to reduce the likelihood and severity of seizures, so it has been used as a treatment for epilepsy as well. Studies have shown that this substance might be an effective treatment for the symptoms of the neurological movement disorder dystonia.

Advocates for the use of cannabidiol for medicinal purposes, either when smoked in marijuana or when ingested in extract form, often draw attention to the low occurrence of side effects compared with other available treatments. Additionally, many traditional prescription drugs that are used to treat pain, for instance, have a very high risk of forming chemical dependencies in the user. The cannabidiol found in marijuana has been found to effectively reduce pain levels without these high risks. Detractors note that because it can be found only in an illegal drug, any positive effects are largely irrelevant.

The amount of cannabidiol found in a particular marijuana plant can vary greatly. Marijuana intended for illegal drug use is usually much higher in tetrahydrocannibinol (THC), the main psychoactive component of marijuana that acts to induce a high. Cannabis plants intended for use as hemp, on the other hand, contain a much higher concentration of cannabidiol and only trace amounts of THC. Medical marijuana, while still containing high amounts of THC, can contain as much as 40 percent cannabidiol in extracts.

It has been shown that this substance also serves to directly counteract the anxiety-inducing effects of THC. This means that a strain of marijuana that is high in THC but low in cannabidiol is more likely to induce anxiety and schizophrenia-like symptoms in a user. A strain with higher amounts of cannabidiol, such as those most often associated with medical marijuana, is less likely to produce these symptoms.

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Discussion Comments

By anon1002612 — On Jan 05, 2020

@Post 5: Hopefully, with legalization of medical pot and CBD, the gov will keep big pharma from prohibiting many other natural substances used for healing that you never hear about. Why? Because big pharma cannot patent and they don't want you to learn about cures that are not provided by them! So keep your ears and eyes open to alternatives!

By anon334925 — On May 16, 2013

Is it intrinsically wrong to use something for its psychoactive components? It's well documented that weed and LSD aren't anywhere near the same thing, and even LSD has reported positive cognitive brain function potential. Is being intoxicated by alcohol more or less harmful than being intoxicated by THC? I guess I just don't understand why "getting high" is intrinsically wrong.

By fify — On Feb 08, 2013

The last I checked, the use of cannabidiol for schizophrenia was not yet approved by drug companies. They were still running trials to see if it works and what the side effects are.

Has there been any development on this issue?

By literally45 — On Feb 07, 2013

@cannanewbie-- That's a good question. Scientists have found that cannabidiol inhibits the growth of cancer cells in their studies but I have no idea how long they administered the cannabidiol for or in what doses.

If a doctor decides to try this as a treatment, I think he or she would prescribe a dose and then would do follow up testing to compare the activity of cancer cells to their activity before. That would determine how long the treatment would continue.

By SteamLouis — On Feb 07, 2013

I'm not sure what my opinion is when it comes to medical marijuana. A part of me thinks that the cannabidiol component in this plant is God's gift to those suffering from terrible disease that cause them immense suffering. It's great that there is something that can ease their pain.

At the same time, I can't help but think that people will abuse the system and use medical marijuana for its psychoactive effects rather than to take advantage of the benefits of cannabidiol.

Why doesn't the government make illegal the use of all marijuana products with tetrahydrocannabinol and only allow drugs containing cannabidiol to be used as medical marijuana?

By cannanewbie — On Nov 26, 2012

How long does cannabidiol take to start working against cancer?

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