What is CBD? | The Complete Beginners Guide 2021

What is CBD

CBD is trending, in fact the data suggests CBD is more popular than Jesus, Kanye West, Taylor Swift and the Beatles right now!

The number of people using CBD in the UK is growing at a remarkable rate. A recent comprehensive study of the UK CBD marketplace revealed there are 1.3 million regular CBD users in the UK, with another 6 million people that have tried it and purple triangle pill in the last year.

It's an incredibly exciting time for the industry. So what exactly is CBD?...

What Is CBD?

Firsty, let's make a few facts clear:

  1. CBD is 100% legal in the UK.
  2. CBD is safe and non-addictive (as confirmed in this report from the World Health Organisation).
  3. CBD will not make you 'high'.

With that covered, let's dive in.

It All Starts With Cannabis

Cannabis, the world's most popular plant with a 6,000 year medical history, is where the story of CBD begins.

Cannabidiol or "CBD" as it's better known, is a naturally occuring compound found in the cannabis plant. First discovered in 1942, it was the second such compound to be found in cannabis (the first being CBN in 1940). Since then, scientists have found 111 more, including the most famous of them all tetrahydrocannabinol, aka "THC".

THC is the cannabis compound that makes us 'high', and we'll talk more on that later.

Because these compounds were first discovered in cannabis, they were given the name cannabinoids. And since that first cannabinoid discovery in 1940, researchers have found cannabinoids in many other biological systems - including human beings. Again, more on that in a bit.

Where Does CBD Come From?

Cannabis is the main category (aka 'genus') of the plant, it has three primary species Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. However, two other classifications have become engrained and adopted by society, you've probably heard of them - "hemp" and "marijuana".

Hemp and marijuana are neither species, strains or legitimate nomenclature of the cannabis plant, instead they're just broad classifications that have become common terms that essentially refer to the THC content of a cannabis plant.

Simply put...

  • Hemp = strains of cannabis that contain 0.3% or less THC content (by dry weight). Hemp is widely grown for industrial use, and has thousands of applications including rope, textiles, plastics, food, paper and CBD.
  • Marijuana = strains of cannabis whose THC content is greater than 0.3% (by dry weight). Marijuana is largely grown for recreational use, i.e. getting 'high'.

As well as having a very low percentage of THC, hemp also contains very high percentages of CBD (much more so than marijuana), so it makes sense that manufacturers of CBD products use hemp as their primary source plant. Not only does hemp ensure more CBD, it also limits THC levels from the very start, which is important from a legal standpoint.

CBD in The Human Body

Despite it's illegal status for much of the 20th century, scientific research into cannabis continued to tick along.

One such study into the effects of cannabinoids on the human body led to the 1988 discovery of cannabinoid receptors in our brains (and subsequently throughout our bodies). And then in 1992, at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Dr. Lumir Hanus along with American researcher Dr. William Devane discovered anandamide - the first finding of an endogenous cannabinoid. In laymans terms, the first cannabinoid to be found inside our bodies.

Yes that's right, our bodies naturally produce cannabinoids too. Incidently, that first find anandamide is now referred to as "the bliss molecule", in reference the the feelings of happiness and mental wellbeing that it stimulates!

To differentiate, cannabinoids found in our bodies are known as endocannabinoids. Whereas those made in cannabis can be referred to as phytocannabinoids.

Our endocannabinoids interact with a huge network of cannabinoid receptors in our brains and throughout our bodies, in what is now known as our Endocannabinoid System (ECS).

And, whilst it's still at the preliminary research stage, it's thought the ECS is responsible for controlling balance in your body (known as homeostasis), suggesting it may be involved in regulating physiological and cognitive processes, appetite, mood, pain-sensation, sleep and memory. (Pretty important then!).

When we introduce phytocannabinoids into our bodies, e.g. CBD, they're able to interact with our ECS just like our very own endocannabinoids. And it's the result of these unique interactions that have people around the world raving about CBD.


Of the 113 cannabinoids produced by cannabis, THC is arguably the most famous due to it's psychoactive ('high') effect. That being said, CBD is hot on it's heels in terms of popularity.

The key difference between THC and CBD plays out via their interactions with our endocannabinoid sytem. Whilst their chemical structures are almost identical, the subtle difference between them has a big effect.

THC is able to perfectly bind with both our "CB1" and "CB2" cannabinoid receptors. And by binding to the CB1 receptor, THC mimics anandamide (remember that one - “the bliss molecule”), and that makes us feel 'high'!

CBD on the other hand, cannot directly bind to CB1 receptors (which is why it doesn't make us high), however it does inhibit the enzyme that is known to break down anandamide (called Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase (FAHH)). By inhibiting FAAH, CBD helps to sustain anandamide levels in your body for longer. You do the math.

Despite CBD's limited ability to perfectly bind with either CB1 or CB2 receptors, it's ability to interact and effect them is what's causing a lot of excitement amongst wellness professionals across the globe.

What's Next For CBD?

Whilst we're only at the very early stages of research, and current legislation regarding the sale of CBD means Handpicked CBD can and does not make any medical claims of CBD's effects; it's certainly an exciting time for this naturally occuring substance.

Hopefully you've found this article on "What is CBD?" helpful. Please if you've any questions feel free to reach out to our team.

And if you're keen to start your CBD journey, then the next thing you'll probably want to know is how to take CBD...

I was introduced to CBD oil by a friend and have now been using it for three months, at 3%, seven drops on the tongue before bed.
It has resulted in a general improvement in sleep quality coupled with much less arthritis pain, and an overall improvement in mobility.
At 77 years of age, I have chronic traumatic arthritis in my spine, right knee, both shoulders and elbows - and have undergone surgery on all of them!
I would have no hesitation in recommending your CBD oil to anyone in a similar situation to mine.
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