Cannabis Plant Science

What is CBD?


What is CBD?

CBD (cannabidiol) is a chemical molecule that comes from the cannabis or hemp plant. It interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system, resulting in certain effects. In Australia, CBD-based products are mainly available after being prescribed by healthcare professionals. A range of medical cannabis products can contain CBD, such as oils and vaporisers.

What does CBD do?

CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system to create physiological effects in the human body. Many medicinal cannabis products are CBD-based. Research around CBD is ongoing to discover potential medicinal applications.

How does CBD interact with the endocannabinoid system?

CBD interacts with cannabinoid receptors to cause somatic changes in the body. The CB1 receptors are primarily located in the brain and central nervous system whereas the CB2 receptors are located in a range of peripheral tissues throughout the body. Different cannabinoids have unique interactions with these receptors. CBD interacts with both the CB1 and CB2 receptors without binding to them. Because of this, it doesn’t create psychoactive effects in the way that THC does.

Is CBD legal in Australia?

CBD products are legal in Australia, but typically they require a prescription. It is important to note that the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has recently down-scheduled CBD products with a low dose to Schedule 3. This means there is potential for over-the-counter CBD products, however there are none currently on the market. This is partly because they must have 98% or more CBD and 1% or less THC, making them difficult to manufacture. For the moment, legally obtaining a CBD-based medical cannabis product in Australia requires a valid prescription from a doctor. For more information about the legality of CBD in Australia, check out our geographical FAQs.

How to get a CBD prescription in Australia

A healthcare provider may prescribe a CBD product to a patient in Australia when they believe it would be beneficial for their treatment. They can apply for a prescription using the appropriate channels. The two primary methods of getting a prescription approved are the Special Access Scheme (SAS) and becoming an authorised prescriber (AP). The SAS involves submitting an approval application for individual prescriptions assigned to specific patients. On the other hand, a doctor who is an authorised prescriber can prescribe CBD products to a range of patients under their care.

What types of products contain CBD?

CBD is a common component in a range of different medicinal cannabis products. It can be administered in different forms depending on what suits a particular patient better. CBD oil, vaporisation, edible products and topical products are the primary options available on the market.

CBD oil

CBD oil is a commonly used form of CBD-based medicinal cannabis. It is made by extracting cannabinoids from a plant and then infusing them into a carrier oil, which helps with absorption. CBD oils have different classifications based on their chemical makeup, such as full spectrum and broad spectrum. It is typically administered sublingually and orally, meaning it gets absorbed through the mucus membrane under the tongue. Learn more by reading our cannabis oil article.

CBD vaporisers

CBD vaporisers are an inhalable method of ingesting CBD. They work by heating up an extract or dry herb into a vapour before inhaling it into the lungs. The CBD is absorbed through the lungs and then enters the bloodstream. To find out more, check out our cannabis vaporisation article.

CBD flower

Some medicinal cannabis cultivars have flowers with a high potency of CBD and a low potency of THC. They have been bred specifically with that purpose in mind. However, these tend to be fairly rare. More often, CBD products will be derived from extract that has carefully isolated CBD whilst minimising the THC present.

What is the cost of CBD in Australia?

The cost of CBD products in Australia is affected by a number of factors including the concentration, the type of product, the dosage and a patient’s health insurance policy. If a CBD product is more concentrated, it will often carry a higher price tag on a total cannabinoid basis in milligrams. Additionally, the type of product may be important as well. Manufacturing costs could be higher for a CBD oil capsule compared to dry herb. The dosage is also important. If someone is assigned a higher dosage, that will mean being comparatively more of a product used for their treatment. And health insurance is another important aspect. Public health insurance like Medicare or the Pharmaceutical benefits scheme, will not include CBD-based treatments. However, there are private health insurers that do cover medicinal cannabis costs among their optional extras. Knowing the finer details of an insurance policy allows more effective calculation of CBD treatment costs.

How is CBD different to THC?

CBD and THC are similar chemicals that have some key differences. While their atomic makeup is the same (21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms and 2 oxygen atoms), their chemical structure is slightly different. THC has an open ring arrangement whereas CBD has a closed ring arrangement. This has a significant impact on how the molecules interact with the receptors in the endocannabinoid system. THC tends to bind to CB1 receptors. This is what is responsible for the psychoactive effects that THC products can have. CBD interacts with the receptors without binding to them, preventing this side-effect.

Want to learn more?

Healthcare professionals can learn more about the nuance of CBD products by accessing the healthcare professionals portal. If you have any questions about medicinal cannabis, contact us today.

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