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What CBD Stands For… What Is Cannabidiol?


If you’ve been seeing CBD here, there and everywhere lately, you’re not alone. CBD oil is one of the latest products to take the health supplement market by storm, and it’s only getting more popular. But what does CBD stand for?

The three letters ‘CBD’ don’t stand for three words. Instead, they’re a contraction of the longer word cannabidiol. Cannabidiol is one of more than a hundred cannabinoids found in all species of cannabis plants, to a greater or lesser extent. It is the active ingredient in CBD oil, and is sold as a food supplement in the UK and worldwide. The contraction CBD is used because it’s easier to remember.

Below, we explain what CBD/cannabidiol is, why the contraction CBD is used, and what CBD actually does. So, read on!

What Does CBD Stand For?

The letters CBD are everywhere these days! Just a few years ago, CBD oil was a niche product. Today, it’s sold in high street stores and online, and is only becoming more popular.

Unless you’re an aficionado, it’s unlikely that you would know or could tell what CBD stands for. The fact that it’s a three letter acronym might tell you that it’s a three word phrase; and since it’s a cannabis product, you might think that it stands for cannabis-something-something. If that’s what you thought, then you weren’t far off.

As a matter of fact, CBD isn’t an acronym—it’s a contraction, for the term cannabidiol. So, you would have been right in that the term is related to cannabis. But rather than being three words, it’s just one.

If you were to look at the packaging of your CBD oil, it may have stated there that the proper term for CBD is cannabidiol. But not all manufacturers will make it obvious. That’s because CBD is a recognised term, both by the paying public and by scientists.
But what does the word cannabidiol actually mean?

Where Does the Term CBD Come From?

Cannabidiol or CBD is a particular natural chemical found in cannabis plants. That’s where the first part of the term comes from, to signify where CBD is from. And it works: if you’ve ever seen reference to the term ‘cannabidiol’ before, you were probably pretty sure it was some kind of cannabis extract, which it is.

The next important part of the term is the suffix -ol. This is a suffix you’ll see a lot in chemistry, in words like phenol, glycol and menthol. There are two meanings associated with this suffix.

  1. The suffix -ol is used in organic chemistry to form the names of organic compounds containing a hydroxyl group, which are mainly alcohols. The suffix is derived from the term alcohol itself.
  2. It is also used as a suffix in the nonstandard names of many oils. In this sense, it derives from the Latin term oleum, meaning ‘oil’.

As you can see, both ways of using the suffix apply. It’s unclear in which sense CBD was first named, but both definitions of the suffix work anyway. Perhaps that’s why it was used!

Why Is Cannabidiol Called CBD?

The contraction of terms like cannabidiol is common practice in chemistry. Everyone’s familiar with DNA, for example, whereas deoxyribonucleic acid—the longer name for DNA—isn’t so well-known.

The simple reason is that contraction makes each term more memorable. There are more than a hundred related natural compounds which have been identified in cannabis, and there are possibly many more. So, aside from cannabidiol/CBD, you can also find cannabinol, cannabigerol, cannabigerolic acid, tetrahydrocannabinol.

Not only are these a pain to write out, but they’re easy to confuse. If you’ve ever written a complex paper for college or university, you might appreciate why academics use contractions and acronyms so much. When you’re dealing with lots of long words, your eyes can glaze over, whether you’re reading or writing them!

But contractions like CBD, CBN, CBG, CBGA and THC aren’t easy to confuse. They’re short, definite, recognisably different, and reasonably easy to remember.

Just as important is the reaction of the public—because CBD is a publicly sold product. If a product has a name that’s difficult to remember, a customer might not be able to find the product again or remember what it’s called. And on a related note, calling CBD oil CBD erases any preconceived notion a person might have about a product called ‘cannabidiol’, which is clearly derived from cannabis.

So, in short, there are lots of reasons why cannabidiol is called CBD!

Other Names for CBD

Cannabis products tend to have many names. Of course, you’ll be familiar with terms for recreational marijuana, like weed, cannabis, and many others.

But CBD doesn’t have many other names. CBD/cannabidiol is actually the International Non-proprietary Name (INN) used for this product—so while other supplements or medical uses may have brand names, CBD is the term for the chemical compound itself.

And as we explained above, there are lots of related terms that are actually for different chemical compounds. CBN, CBG, CBGA and other named cannabinoids aren’t the same things as CBD and likely don’t have the same effects that CBD does.

You may also see the terms full-spectrum and broad spectrum. These are different kinds of oil available from an online CBD store which contain different amounts of cannabinoids and plant matter. They both contain lots of CBD.

What Does CBD Do?

Cannabidiol, or CBD, has recently come to the fore as a new wonder-product. Advertisers claim that it can do almost anything, including act as cure for many health conditions. But in truth, CBD isn’t legally allowed to be advertised as medicine, only as a food supplement—and it requires more testing before we’ll know for sure that it’s medicinal.

What we do know is that CBD and other cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system. This is a regulatory system in our bodies made up of cannabis-like molecules. These molecules work like neurotransmitters, sending messages from one part of the body to the other.

The endocannabinoid system regulates things like body temperature, but it’s unclear exactly how ingesting CBD affects it. Scientists think that it may encourage the body to produce more endocannabinoids, but again, more research is needed to determine this for sure.

Last Updated on 01/03/2022

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