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So…What is CBD?

Is it THC? NO!                                                                           

Is it Marijuana? NO!                                                            

Is it psychoactive? NO!                                                                       

Will it make you high? NO!                                             


It IS a chemical compound called cannabidiol or, using the official chemical: 2-[(1R,6R)-3-methyl-6-prop-1-en-2-ylcyclohex-2-en-1-yl]-5-pentylbenzene-1,3-diol. (Bleh. -let’s call it CBD)

… however you call it, simply put, CBD is a chemical compound made of the atoms carbon, oxygen and hydrogen…and can be represented by the “Ball and Stick” molecular representation shown hereà

Grey= carbon, red=oxygen, white= hydrogen.


CBD is grouped in a family of compounds called cannabinoids. These compounds interact with receptors and enzymes in the endocannobinoid system, which we’ll cover in another blog.

Now, to be more precise, there are:

phytocannabinoids = plant made cannabinoids (phyto is the Greek word for plant)

endocannabinoids = cannabinoids made in our body (endo is the Greek word for within)

syntheticcannabinoids = cannabinoids made in a lab (sunthetikos is Greek for place together)

There are many Cannabinoids that derive from the various Cannabis sativa plants, at least 113 according to wiki.[i] There appear to be 8 major phytocannabinoids which are biochemically synthesized by the plant. These are: CBGA (Cannabigerolic acid), THCA (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid), CBDA (Cannabidiolic acid), CBCA (Cannabichromenenic acid),CBGVA (Cannabigerovarinic acid), THCVA (Tetrahydrocanabivarinic acid), CBDVA  (Cannabidivarinic acid), CBCVA (Cannabichromevarinic acid). These different compounds interact synergistically in the endocannabinoid system-the so-called entourage effect…another blog for sure on this.

As you probably noticed none of these are CBD, the closest one is CBDA (sometimes called CBDa). That is because the biochemical product in the plant is an acid form which is “decarboxylated” to form CBD. This typically happens by heating.[ii] For example, you could smoke the leaves (sound familiar?). The heating causes decarboxylation which is the reaction shown below. What happens is that the acid group gets released from the CBDA molecule as carbon dioxide (CO2).

CBDA                          CBD

The “CO2” means carbon dioxide is released from the molecule. This whole reaction makes the molecule much more lipophilic “fat-loving” rather than hydrophilic “water-loving.” This is fundamentally important in the way it interacts in our body, both in terms of our endocannabinoid system and in terms of adsorption…you guessed it, another blog to come.

So…from the plant Cannabis sativa, many cannabinoids can be extracted. From the hemp plant sub-species, CBD is the main derivative and its more famous (or infamous) relative THC is present in concentration of less than 0.3% which is not enough to make you high. Another blog on that wonderful hemp plant and its many uses.

…stay tuned.


[i] If you want to dig up Wiki’s original source its Aizpurua-Olaizola et. al., (2016-02-02).  Journal of Natural Products. 79 (2): 324–331.I couldn’t find a free copy, so I’ll take Wiki’s word for it.

[ii] Seems to happen above about 180 ˚F, as all chemical reactions its faster at a higher temperature e.g., 230 ˚F. See Mei Wang et al. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2016; 1(1): 262–271. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5549281/