CBD (cannabidiol) is one of over 100 cannabinoids found in cannabis and hemp. It is one of many cannabinoids that are largely non-psychoactive.
THC on the other hand is one of the cannabis plants psychoactive cannabinoids.
CBD products are required by law to contain < 0.2% THC in the UK, which is orders of magnitude below the concentrations required to produce a high.
CBD and Feeling Good
The high users experience from cannabis is because of THC, which produces psychoactive effects through activating the CB1 receptor in the brain.
CB1 influences consciousness and mood via the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin which make you feel rewarded and happy. This is what gives rise to a mildly psychedelic experience when you are high.
Unlike THC, CBD has little attraction to the CB1 receptor, does not activate it, and sometimes blocks it. This means there is no significant distortion of your consciousness or mood.
However, CBD does have some very subtle mood boosting and stabilising effects, which is partly responsible for the feeling of wellbeing that it provides.
CBD inhibits an enzyme (FAAH) that breaks down your bodies natural feel good cannabinoid, Anandamide (also known as the bliss molecule). Inhibiting FAAH means there’s more Anandamide available to bliss out on.
Anandamide produces ‘bliss’ through activating the CB1 receptor in the brain. But, because its production and availability is tightly regulated in the body, it has no where near the same potency as THC.
Boosting anandamide produces a sense of wellbeing in much the same way as exercise does. Ever heard of the runners high? Well thats anandamide at work.
So unlike THC, CBD provides a sense of wellbeing indirectly, via altering the availability of your bodies own feel good chemical Anandamide.
CBD and Happiness
If CBD is non-psychoactive, how can you feel a change in mood and a sense of calm, then?
Well, CBD may be just a little psychoactive, but not via the same mechanism or degree as THC is.
Happiness can be largely influenced by Serotonin; a chemical messenger (neurotransmitter) that runs throughout the brain and nervous system. It is most famously known as the happy chemical, due to its ability to regulate mood, anxiety and depression.
Unlike THC, which regulates the release of serotonin via CB1 activation; CBD directly binds a specific serotonin receptor (5-HT1) to regulate nervous system activity.
In this way, CBD may subtly boost mood without getting you high.