In 1964, Israeli scientists discovered the therapeutically active substances in cannabis that have come to be called cannabinoids and isolated THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). More than 20 years later, in 1988, researchers identified the human body’s endocannabinoid system. CBD was first discovered by Dr. Roger Adams and his team at the University of Illinois in 1940; however, its structure was not fully elucidated until 1963.
Endocannabinoids are molecules naturally produced in the human body that are closely related to proper functioning of the immune system and nervous system; these are mimicked by the cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Cannabinoids contained in cannabis, referred to as phytocannabinoids, simply imitate endocannabinoids. Cannabinoids fit perfectly into specialized receptors found throughout the nervous and immune systems, and may enhance, or improve upon, the body’s own ability to maintain homeostasis (balance) and health.
Research has led to the identification of specialized cannabinoid receptors in the body. Study of these receptors, called CB1 and CB2, has greatly enhanced the overall knowledge of how cannabinoids may produce profound medical effects. While THC has a strong binding affinity for both CB1 and CB2 receptors, cannabidiol (CBD) has no particular binding affinity. Instead, many of the therapeutic benefits of CBD are created through indirect actions.