A common concern many people have about CBD is uncertainty about whether it will make them feel and act “high,” similar to marijuana. Many are unaware that although cannabidiol (CBD) and marijuana are both sourced from cannabis, they affect the body differently.
How CBD will affect you depends on the specific cannabinoids in your CBD, their source, how they interact with the other organic compounds present, and your unique endocannabinoid system.
The Source of the Buzz: THC vs. CBD
First, it’s helpful to know that CBD is a type of cannabinoid. Cannabinoids are a class of natural chemical compounds that interact with cannabinoid receptors in the body, influencing neurotransmitters. CBD is one at least 113 known phytocannabinoids derived from the cannabis plant. The body also produces cannabinoids in the endocannabinoid system.
CBD does not produce the intoxicating effects that its cousin delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) typically does, because it interacts differently than THC does with the body’s CB receptors.
The psychoactive effects associated with THC result from how it binds to CB1 receptors. By forming an orthosteric bond, at the protein’s active site, similar to how a key fits into a lock, THC thereby “triggers a signaling cascade on a cellular level that inhibits the release of other neurotransmitters (thereby protecting the brain from too much excitation).”
CBD, however, binds to a different location on CB1 receptors, forming an allosteric bond. This bond can be negative or positive, analogous to the action of a dimmer switch on a light fixture, either amplifying or muting the effect, by altering the shape of the binding site.
This difference between the two is particularly significant when THC is co-present with CBD (such as in a full-spectrum CBD product). In this instance, CBD forms a negative allosteric bond which inhibits THC’s ability to “fit the lock,” and suppresses the euphoric “high” associated with marijuana.
In addition to acting differently in the body, the source of CBD also plays a role in its potential psychoactive effects.
Hemp vs. Marijuana
People often assume that cannabis is synonymous with marijuana, but marijuana is only one type of cannabis plant.
Legal CBD in the United States must come from industrial hemp sourced from Cannabis sativa, rather than from Cannabis indica, or marijuana. While both hemp and marijuana contain CBD, in hemp, CBD content is naturally high, whereas THC is low. The inverse is true of marijuana.
By U.S. law, legal hemp must contain less than 0.3% THC by dry weight. Processing technologies make it possible to further remove THC altogether from a CBD product to produce broad-spectrum CBD or CBD isolate.
So, if it doesn't make you feel high, how does it make you feel?
How Does CBD Make You Feel?
How CBD will affect an individual depends in part on their sensitivity level. Genetics, stress, diet, and lifestyle will all influence the overall function of each person's endocannabinoid system and the effectiveness of a CBD product. However, those using CBD report that in general, CBD tends to make them feel relaxed and calm but not sleepy. Some documented possible side-effects include dry mouth and lightheadedness.
It’s also important to note that not all CBD is created equal, nor will it feature the same results for every person. Dosage and frequency will also impact how CBD affects an individual, as will the quality of the CBD. High-quality CBD starts with carefully cultivated hemp. Growing conditions, the specific genetic profile of the plant, and how it is processed affects the overall quality of the CBD and influences its potential effect. Additionally, while the CBD to THC ratio is a significant factor that affects overall efficacy, so too is the terpenoid profile.
What are Terpenes?
Terpenoids, or terpenes, are aromatic oils found in all plants. If you’ve noticed the distinctive smell of marijuana or other plants like basil, sage, and cloves, or enjoyed the unique taste of your favorite beer, terpenes are the organic compounds responsible for their characteristic aromas and flavors. There are over 20,000 identified terpenes in plants and cannabis features more than 200 of them.
Terpenes are very effective at crossing the blood-brain barrier, and they can influence how much CBD and THC enters the brain. Each terpene has different properties, and depending on which are more dominant, produces unique “entourage effects.”
The entourage effect refers to the synergistic interplay between the more than 500 compounds found in cannabis. For example, the terpene, linalool, also present in lavender, features relaxing, mildly sedative properties, which better address conditions like anxiety and depression. Limonene and pinene are more energetic in nature and may have more therapeutic benefit for those who have cancer or chronic pain.
Because of these differences, discerning consumers are beginning to evaluate their CBD products not only for their CBD and THC content but they are also factoring in the specific terpene profile as well to predict better how it will affect them. A reputable supplier will provide independent third-party testing reports which detail the particular cannabinoids and terpenes their product contains.
CBD users will not experience the same “high” marijuana causes because THC is either very low in hemp-derived CBD (as in full-spectrum CBD), or absent altogether (as in broad-spectrum CBD or CBD isolate). However, CBD does have therapeutically significant psychoactive properties, notably when working in concert with other compounds in the hemp plant, such as terpenes.
Consumers and business owners considering offering CBD products to their customers should be well informed to avoid inferior CBD. For the best results, it is essential to ensure that the CBD you buy or sell is from a high-quality source. Additionally, because every person is unique, anyone with questions about how CBD might affect them individually should consult a medical expert.