What is CBD and How does it work?

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a naturally occurring compound found in the resinous flower of cannabis, a plant with a rich history as a natural medicine going back thousands of years. In the modern era, the therapeutic properties of CBD are being rigorously tested and confirmed by scientists and doctors around the world. More than a simple health fad, increasing evidence and literature supports CBD as a legitimate medicine in a number of health areas.

safe and non-addictive substance, CBD is one of more than a hundred phytocannabinoids, which are unique to cannabis and endow the plant with its robust therapeutic profile.

CBD is closely related to another important medicinally active phytocannabinoid: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound that causes the high that cannabis is famous for.  Both CBD and THC have significant therapeutic qualities making them valuable as potential remedies. However, unlike THC, CBD does not make a person feel ‘high’ or intoxicated. This is because CBD and THC act in different ways on different receptors in the brain and body.

Many people want the health benefits of cannabis without the high – or with less of a high. The fact that CBD is therapeutically potent as well as non-intoxicating, and easy to take as a CBD oil, vape or capsule, makes it an appealing treatment option for a number of ailments.

How does it work?

 CBD interacts with our bodies in a variety of ways. One of the main way’s cannabinoids impact us is by mimicking and augmenting the effects of the compounds in our bodies called “endogenous cannabinoids” – named because of their similarity to the compounds found in the cannabis plant. These endocannabinoids are part of a regulatory system called the endocannabinoid system.

The discovery of the endocannabinoid system has significantly advanced our understanding of health and disease. It has major implications for nearly every area of medical science and helps to explain how and why CBD is such a versatile compound.

The endocannabinoid system plays a crucial role in regulating a broad range of physiological processes including our mood, energy level, our intestinal health, immune system health, blood pressure, bone density, glucose metabolism, pain regulation, stress, hunger, and more.

World-class science investigation has shown that the endocannabinoid system is dysregulated in nearly all pathological conditions. It therefore stands to reason that “modulating endocannabinoid system activity may have therapeutic potential in almost all diseases affecting humans,” as scientists with the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), suggested in a 2014  publication.

By modulating the endocannabinoid system and enhancing endocannabinoid tone, CBD can slow – or in some cases stop – disease progression.

 The Science

 These claims of health benefits mean little without evidence so here we break down the real science demonstrating the beneficial effects of CBD. Any underlined text takes you directly to high-quality, peer-reviewed research papers so you can see the evidence for yourself. While CBD has been studied in numerous conditions in a pre-clinical setting, some disorders and diseases have seen the majority of research focus as shown below.


 Inflammation is the body’s response to injury. It works to heal wounds, but it can also play a role in some chronic diseases. It is the body’s way of signalling the immune system to heal and repair damaged tissue, as well as defend itself against foreign invaders, such as viruses and bacteria. In short inflammation is your body trying to defend itself and is a critical process in this defence BUT inflammation is painful and can become dysregulated. Some inflammation is temporary such as that following an injury or sore muscles after a workout, but some inflammation can be chronic like that seen in various forms of arthritis.

CBD has been found to have numerous health benefits. One of the primary uses is combating inflammation. Many use it in the form of oil for help with inflammation. Multiple studies have been conducted on CBD as an anti-inflammatory, and several athletes swear by it. If you’re still unsure, you might want to check out some of these studies for yourself.

As CBD has significant anti-inflammatory properties it lends itself well to helping inflammation in a number of contexts:

  • Inflamed injuries
  • Muscle soreness
  • Chronic inflammation i.e. arthritis

On top of more common inflammatory problems like above, increasing in vitro data suggests CBD may be an effective anti-inflammatory therapy for a wide range of rarer auto-immune and auto-inflammatory disorders so watch this space for human clinical trials. 


Anxiety disorders are characterized by excessive nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worry that is out of proportion to the actual danger faced. OCD, PTSD, panic disorder and phobias are considered forms of anxiety disorders but the most common form ‘generalised anxiety disorder’ is what most of us would consider ‘anxiety’. Symptoms include nervousness, tension, panic, a sense of doom, increased heart rate, sweating, fatigue, and/or trouble concentrating. Almost one in three adults in the US and UK experience an anxiety disorder at some time in their lives, thus it is a common mental health issue.

 Existing preclinical evidence strongly supports CBD as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive–compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder when administered acutely. It is thought that CBD alters the activity in certain limbic and paralimbic brain areas associated with anxious behaviours. Overall, current evidence indicates CBD has considerable potential as a treatment for multiple anxiety disorders.

As the scientific evidence for effectively using CBD to combat anxiety increases, people are already taking advantage of our products in a variety of tense or anxiety-inducing situations:

  • Public speaking
  • Reducing general social anxiety
  • Minimising OCD compulsions
  • Helping to lessen the effects of PTSD

The Future

Aside from proven anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory effects there is mounting body of in vitro and in vivo evidence suggesting CBD may be a valuable therapeutic agent for a wide range of serious diseases and disorders including but not limited to:

Interested in other hemp-derived molecules?

Check out our What is THC? article and our What is CBG? article.

I have written a short but more in depth article about CBD and the wider Endocannabinoid System here.

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