What is CBD? CBD is a Cannabinoid

What is CBD? CBD is a Cannabinoid

What is CBD? CBD chemical structure

Figure 1: What is CBD? Chemical structure of CBD.

Cannabidiol (CBD), shown in Figure 1 above, is one of many chemicals known as cannabinoids produced by the Cannabis Sativa L. plant. There are 3 types of cannabinoids; phytocannabinoids, endocannabinoids and synthetic cannabinoids.  Phytocannabinoids are chemicals produced by cannabis and rarely other plants. Endocannabinoids are chemicals produced within vertebrate animals (including humans), and synthetic cannabinoids are man-made chemicals produced in labs.

Cannabinoids interact with the receptors of the Endocannabinoid System

All 3 types bind to cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system and have some physiological effect on the body. 1. CBD is one of the best known and most studied phytocannabinoids along with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBN (cannabinol), CBG (cannabigerol) and CBC (cannabichromene). 2. THC and CBN are the phytocannabinoids that cause the intoxicating effects that cannabis is well known for. CBD in contrast does not cause any intoxicating effects.

What is CBD? Where does CBD come from?

CBD and other phytocannabinoids are extracted from plants from the Cannabaceae family. Carolus Linnaeus first gave these plants their scientific name Cannabis Sativa L. in 1753, hence the ‘L.’ often seen after the species name. Another two types of cannabis plant with differing characteristics were later identified; Cannabis Indica in 1785 and Cannabis Ruderalis in 1924. These newer types are sub-species of the original, so all three are collectively known as Cannabis Sativa L., shown in figure 2 below.

Cannabis sativa plant prior to extraction

Figure 1: Cannabis sativa L. plant

Hemp or Cannabis

There seems to be some confusion in naming these plants, with some calling them hemp and others calling them cannabis or marijuana. Technically, all are correct and can be used interchangeably (perhaps the cause of the confusion). Hemp tends to be used when discussing crops with low THC levels for industrial or CBD use, while cannabis is used when discussing crops with higher THC for medicinal or recreational use. Hemp and cannabis are though, the same species.

NEXT: “The Endocannabinoid System. How does CBD work?


1. Russo, E.B., 2016. Beyond cannabis: plants and the endocannabinoid system. Trends in pharmacological sciences, 37(7), pp.594-605.

2. McCreath, S.B. and Delgoda, R., 2017. Pharmacognosy: Fundamentals, applications and strategies. Academic Press.