Pretty much everything that happens in the cannabis plant occurs because of biosynthesis. Biosynthesis is the combination of chemical compounds to form new chemical compounds.
In the case of the cannabis plant, the important chemicals to remember are:
• Geranyl pyrophosphate (GPP or sometimes GDP).
• Olivetolic acid (OLA).
These two chemicals are the building blocks—the parent molecules, if you will—of all 113 cannabinoids. 1 When they combine, it’s pretty cool!
A cannabinoid is a chemical compound that interacts with the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 in your brain. Cannabinoid receptors, located throughout the body, are part of the endocannabinoid system, which is involved in a variety of physiological processes including appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory. Cannabinoid receptors are of a class of cell membrane receptors in the G protein-coupled receptor superfamily. 4
THC is the most well-known cannabinoid because of its psychoactive effects. But other cannabinoids like CBD, CBC, and CBG are gaining in popularity thanks to their powerful medicinal effects. 1 CBD is the second most abundant compound in hemp, typically representing up to 40% of its extracts. 3 While THC is the most abundant cannabinoid 3, CBD does not have the same psychoactivity as THC, and may affect the actions of THC. 4
CBD is actually unrelated to the chemical chain that results in THC. They share some characteristics but are created via different paths. 3 THC and CBD are just two compounds from a family of around 113 bi- and tri-cyclic compounds cannabinoid compounds found naturally in cannabis. Both CBD and THC share the exact same molecular formula, C21H30O2, containing twenty-one atoms of carbon, thirty of hydrogen and two of oxygen. Their molecular mass is practically identical with THC and CBD having masses of 314.469 g/mol 314.464 g/mol, respectively. The biosynthesis of THC and CBD in cannabis also follows a very similar pathway. Structurally, however, there is one important difference. Where THC contains a cyclic ring, CBD contains a hydroxyl group. It is this seemingly small difference in molecular structure that gives the two compounds entirely different pharmacological properties. 2
Through its interactions with the CB1 receptor, CBD is thought to regulate the psychotropic effects of THC by inhibiting its ability to bind to and stimulate the receptor. Which is why people don’t feel as “high” when using CBD-rich cannabis compared to when they consume products high in THC. CBD is able to reduce some of the negative effects of THC by decreasing anxiety, paranoia and the short-term memory impairment often experienced when consuming cannabis. Evidence suggests that a CBD-rich product with little THC can in fact convey therapeutic benefits without having a euphoric or dysphoric effect. 2
Numerous people are reporting success in using CBD to reach a desired state of calm and relaxation. Strictly as a chemical substance, CBD also has strong antioxidant properties, a fact that so far has been largely ignored by the broader food supplements industry. As each person is different, and because CBD’s effects are still under study, we strongly encourage you to do your own research before incorporating CBD to your daily life.
Again, unlike THC, CBD is considered a legal cannabinoid and is safe to consume in any amount and concentration. 3