Natural vs. Synthetic CBD: What's the Difference?

The rise in the popularity of CBD brings an increase in various CBD products that individuals can take.

It can be confusing to distinguish the difference between natural and synthetic CBD. Read on to find out more about the difference between the two and the benefits of each type.

What Is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a naturally occurring compound found in cannabis. While cannabis contains around over 100 different cannabinoids, like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and minor cannabinoids, like CBN and CBG, CBD is probably the most well known.

Each cannabinoid has its own features, therapeutic properties, chemical structure, and benefits. CBD is well-known for its versatility and well-tolerated nature, and because of this, it is often isolated and made into CBD-based oils, tinctures, topical creams, and edibles. 

All cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to produce therapeutic effects. CBD is no different. The ECS is a complex cell signalling system found within all mammals that consist of endocannabinoids and receptors. These receptors are on the brain, on body tissues, and within the nervous system. The ECS is responsible for regulating many body processes, so when CBD interacts with these receptors, effects are experienced.

What Is Natural CBD?

Before being included in a product, different forms of CBD must go through a specific process of manufacturing and refinement. Natural CBD comes from the cannabis plant (either hemp or marijuana) and is extracted in one of a number of different ways, including ethanol, oil, or CO2 extraction. After the CBD has been successfully extracted, additional processing can be done. 

With most extraction methods other cannabinoids are present in the initial extract - these may be retained (full spectrum), selectively removed (broad spectrum) or totally removed (isolate) to produce different forms of CBD suitable for different uses.

The Benefits

Natural forms of CBD can provide wide-ranging benefits that span our mental and physical health.

Pain

Chronic pain is one of the most popular reasons for CBD use. CBD not only changes how the brain perceives pain throughout the body but can also decrease inflammation levels. During high inflammation levels, swelling can push against nerve endings, which send pain signals to the brain. CBD has long been associated with its anti-inflammatory properties.

CBD can also interact with receptors in your brain and nervous system to decrease pain perception. Because of this, CBD has emerged as an effective natural alternative to traditional painkillers without any of the nasty side effects.

Sleep

CBD has emerged as a possible treatment to decrease symptoms of insomnia and sleeplessness. As mentioned earlier, CBD can interact with the ECS and receptors in the brain to promote calm feelings, slow a racing heartbeat, and even slightly decrease blood pressure. All of this can reduce stress and therefore encourage sleep.

Anxiety

CBD can interact with the ECS receptors in the brain and nervous system to promote relaxation. This also comes without adverse side effects often seen in traditional medication.

Anxiety and depression often walk hand in hand. While CBD itself doesn't directly increase serotonin levels in the body, it can also interact with serotonin receptors to improve serotonin uptake and expression. This means more of the happy hormone, resulting in elevated mood levels, which can improve focus and concentration.

What Is Synthetic CBD?

While natural CBD is produced from hemp or cannabis plants, synthetic varieties of CBD are produced either by chemical synthesis using ingredients like limonene, or by biological synthesis using modified yeast or other bacteria. 

High-quality synthetic CBD and natural CBD are considered to be chemically identical to each other, with studies confirming that both types of CBD have identical chemical structures. Synthetic CBD is an appealing alternative for industries requiring strict legal regulations and requirements, like the cosmetic industry. While natural CBD is popular amongst users for its wide-ranging effects, the production of synthetic CBD is a valuable asset for a wide range of consumer applications requiring high yield and consistency. 

Natural vs. Synthetic CBD

Natural and synthetic cannabinoids, including CBD, are not very different from each other. However, there are some key differences.

Generally, synthetic CBD is produced to contain more specific yielding pure CBD molecules, while natural CBD extracts often come with other naturally occurring compounds, like cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.

Because of their composition, which includes other compounds, cannabinoids and terpenes can also bind to one or more cannabinoid receptors. This can therefore alter the therapeutic effect of natural CBD.

Regarding their affinity, synthetic CBD is often designed to have a high affinity for receptors, resulting in lasting effects. In comparison, natural CBD is considered to be more gentle, with a moderate affinity for receptors. This affinity can also be short-lasting and overpowered by other compounds or modulators.

Finally, natural CBD is a popular option as the other naturally occurring compounds can work together to create the entourage effect. This phenomenon amplifies the effects of the individual compounds to create a potent experience for the user.  

The Bottom Line

Both natural and synthetic CBD provide therapeutic effects for the user and can be purchased for use in many countries.

Choosing high-quality CBD products from a reputable company is essential, and checking in with your health professional before starting use is recommended.