What’s the difference between CBD and cannabis?


With the medical use of cannabidiol (CBD) being legalized in many countries, the worldwide attention, and the increasing number of CBD products in the market, come very interesting potential health effects and illness treatments, but also some feelings of disapproval and confusion regarding some very basic definitions.

Aside from requiring more studies and results in some medical areas, the main questions and opposing arguments to the use of medical CBD products, even when presented with scientifically proven health benefits, are based on its association with the use of cannabis, hemp, marijuana, “weed”, or “pot”.

But are those things the same?

What is cannabis?

The first thing we need to be aware of is that cannabis is not one plant, nor is it a drug. Cannabis is actually the name of a group of plants and is divided into up to 4 different types, according to some  scientists: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, Cannabis ruderalis, and Cannabis afghanica (or kafiristanica). Nevertheless, the cannabis family is usually only divided into 2 main strains by most of the scientists: Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. Marijuana and hemp are types of cannabis, usually from different strains (although the cannabis strains are known for cross-breeding among each other).

These strains have differences in terms of structure and biochemical content, and due to some of its compounds, the cannabinoids, using cannabis plants can have certain effects on the human body, ranging from relaxation and sleepiness to hallucinations.

Moreover, it’s also important to note this: researchers defend that it’s not possible to attribute more psychoactive effects to one strain over the others, since it’s impossible to guess their biochemical components merely by looking at them. According to Dr. Ethan Russo, medical director of the company PHYTECS, “one cannot in any way currently guess the biochemical content of a given Cannabis plant based on its height, branching, or leaf morphology”.

What is CBD?

CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of hundreds of biochemically active compounds that belong to the cannabinoid family, the main family of compounds that exists in cannabis plants.

Keeping in mind that there are other compounds that haven’t yet been studied, CBD is, so far, thought to be responsible for many of the beneficial effects usually attributed to cannabis consumption, like reducing pain, increasing feelings of well-being and pleasure, improving sleep, promoting relaxation, and reducing anxiety and stress.

Since it’s not toxic, nor it produces psychoactive effects (like other cannabinoids such as THC), CBD is used as an active ingredient in medicines to treat seizures associated with severe epilepsy, and has been widely studied as a possible treatment for a great variety of conditions, including chronic pain, anxiety, skin conditions, depression, and schizophrenia.


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