You have likely heard of CBD.  There exists a lot of confusion over exactly what it is and how it works in the body. In this post we will elucidate what this compound is and how it exerts its effects on the human body.




CBD, which stands for cannabidiol, is one of over 80 phytocannabinoids found in the Cannabis sativa plant.  


While most of us think of marijuana when we think of cannabis, both marijuana plants and hemp plants belong to the same genus and species of cannabis plant. The difference between the two has come from generations of breeding. This has led marijuana plants to be high in THC content while hemp plants are high in CBD content, with extremely low levels of THC.


THC is the psychoactive part of the plant which is responsible for the “high” that users get when they smoke marijuana. Unlike THC, CBD does not lead the user to experience any psychoactive effects. This is beneficial for those who are looking for the health benefits of CBD without the altered mental function that accompanies THC.


CBD can be extracted from either marijuana or hemp plants, however it is most commonly obtained from hemp plants. This is due to both the legal issues surrounding marijuana and to the high CBD content found in hemp.  It is also important to note that hemp contains less than .3% THC by weight.  That is 1/30th of a percent.  This allows the consumer to obtain the health benefits of CBD without the unwanted “high” associated with THC.


How CBD Works – The Endocannabinoid System


There are three types of cannabinoids:

• phytocannabinoids

 synthetic cannabinoids

• endocannabinoids


Endocannabinoids are those that our body produces on its own.  Phytocannabinoids are those that come from the Cannabis sativa plant. Synthetic cannabinoids are those that scientists have produced in a lab.


All animals with a vertebrae (a backbone) have what is known as an Endocannabinoid System (ECS), which is made up of endocannabinoids, their receptors, and enzymes involved in the synthesis and breakdown of these endocannabinoids.  

Discovered in the 1990s, the ECS has receptors that can be found throughout the body in the:

• brain

• organs

• glands

• immune tissues and cells

Furthermore, the ECS is involved in pain management, inflammation response, immune system function, memory, mood, and appetite.


The ECS contains CN1 and CN2 receptors, with CN1 receptors found mostly throughout our brains and CN2 receptors found mainly in our immune tissues and cells.


CBD and the ECS


The cannabinoids found in cannabis plants exert their effects in a variety of ways, but mostly through their interaction with the ECS.


When we consume phytocannabinoids, their effects are partly due to their affinity for the CN1 and CN2 receptors. THC has a strong affinity for the CN1 receptors in our brains, which is why marijuana leads to a euphoric high feeling.


CBD, on the other hand, does not have a strong affinity for CN1 receptors. Interestingly, the effects of CBD appear to be largely thanks to its ability to naturally boost the levels of endocannabinoids produced by our bodies.


Who Should Take CBD?


Research into the ECS and CBD is still very new, but there are several published scientific studies suggesting strong benefits associated with CBD supplementation. In fact, the research for certain conditions is so promising that numerous states have approved CBD for the treatment of epilepsy in children.


CBD is taken in a variety of supplemental forms and has been shown to provide relief for those suffering from common symptoms of chronic pain, stress, insomnia, and anxiety.  As with any supplement, consult your healthcare practitioner for dosage instructions and to determine if CBD is appropriate for you.  Please come into Hummingbird Community Acupuncture if you find yourself in the Boulder area to see if CBD is right for you.




  1. Getting High on Endocannabinoid System


  1. Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa Constituent


Joaquina Cante Administrator
Joaquina Cante, L.Ac., Shaman, is a nationally board certified acupuncturist and holistic healthcare practitioner in Boulder, Colorado. Owner of Hummingbird Community Acupuncture, she is a believer in the innate power of each individual to heal and become a better human being.