The non-psychoactive component of Cannabis Sativa, cannabidiol (CBD), has centered the attention of a large body of research in the last years. Recent clinical trials have led to the FDA approval of CBD for the treatment of children with drug-resistant epilepsy. Even though it is not yet in clinical … As the industry matures and as increasingly savvy consumers begin to demand higher quality at a lower cost, the future of cannabinoid manufacture lies not in natural plants but in chemical synthesis Synthesising CBD It’s perhaps unsurprising that we’ve reached a point where the many different cannabinoids found in the hemp plant can be synthesised in a lab. Horticultural advances over the past few decades have also seen an increasing prevalence of GMOs and the use of artificial lighting in greenhouses. But how doe
Synthetic and Natural Derivatives of Cannabidiol
The non-psychoactive component of Cannabis Sativa, cannabidiol (CBD), has centered the attention of a large body of research in the last years. Recent clinical trials have led to the FDA approval of CBD for the treatment of children with drug-resistant epilepsy. Even though it is not yet in clinical phases, its use in sleep-wake pathological alterations has been widely demonstrated.Despite the outstanding current knowledge on CBD therapeutic effects in numerous in vitro and in vivo disease models, diverse questions still arise from its molecular pharmacology. CBD has been shown to modulate a wide variety of targets including the cannabinoid receptors, orphan GPCRs such as GPR55 and GPR18, serotonin, adenosine, and opioid receptors as well as ligand-gated ion channels among others. Its pharmacology is rather puzzling and needs to be further explored in the disease context.Also, the metabolism and interactions of this phytocannabinoid with other commercialized drugs need to be further considered to elucidate its clinical potential for the treatment of specific pathologies.Besides CBD, natural and synthetic derivatives of this chemotype have also been reported exhibiting diverse functional profiles and providing a deeper understanding of the potential of this scaffold.In this chapter, we analyze the knowledge gained so far on CBD and its analogs specially focusing on its molecular targets and metabolic implications. Phytogenic and synthetic CBD derivatives may provide novel approaches to improve the therapeutic prospects offered by this promising chemotype.
Keywords: Cannabidiol; Cannabidiol analog; Cannabidiol derivative; Cannabinoid; Sleep; Synthetic cannabidiol.
Devinsky O, Cilio MR, Cross H, Fernandez-Ruiz J, French J, Hill C, Katz R, Di Marzo V, Jutras-Aswad D, Notcutt WG, Martinez-Orgado J, Robson PJ, Rohrback BG, Thiele E, Whalley B, Friedman D. Devinsky O, et al. Epilepsia. 2014 Jun;55(6):791-802. doi: 10.1111/epi.12631. Epub 2014 May 22. Epilepsia. 2014. PMID: 24854329 Free PMC article. Review.
Etemad L, Karimi G, Alavi MS, Roohbakhsh A. Etemad L, et al. Life Sci. 2022 Jul 1;300:120582. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2022.120582. Epub 2022 Apr 26. Life Sci. 2022. PMID: 35483477 Review.
Gaston TE, Szaflarski JP. Gaston TE, et al. Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep. 2018 Sep 8;18(11):73. doi: 10.1007/s11910-018-0882-y. Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep. 2018. PMID: 30194563 Review.
Lago-Fernandez A, Redondo V, Hernandez-Folgado L, Figuerola-Asencio L, Jagerovic N. Lago-Fernandez A, et al. Methods Enzymol. 2017;593:237-257. doi: 10.1016/bs.mie.2017.05.006. Epub 2017 Jul 3. Methods Enzymol. 2017. PMID: 28750806 Review.
Dávila EM, Patricio F, Rebolledo-Bustillo M, Garcia-Gomez D, Hernandez JCG, Sanchez-Gaytan BL, Limón ID, Perez-Aguilar JM. Dávila EM, et al. Front Pharmacol. 2022 Aug 9;13:945935. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2022.945935. eCollection 2022. Front Pharmacol. 2022. PMID: 36016551 Free PMC article.
Landucci E, Mazzantini C, Lana D, Giovannini MG, Pellegrini-Giampietro DE. Landucci E, et al. Toxics. 2022 Jan 21;10(2):48. doi: 10.3390/toxics10020048. Toxics. 2022. PMID: 35202235 Free PMC article.
What’s the Deal with Synthetic CBD?
As scientists, you’ll likely be aware that your morning vitamin C tablet does not originate from a lemon grove on some sunny Sicilian hillside. But what about consumers? Do they know that their “natural” supplements come from a chemical plant and not an actual plant? And, if it’s efficacious, safe, and cheap, do they care? The industrialized reality is that many naturally-occurring chemical compounds, including ascorbic acid, can be produced far more efficiently (and at potentially lower cost) than their natural equivalents.
And few (naturally-occurring) compounds have generated as much interest – or shown as much therapeutic promise – as the cannabinoid CBD. So it should come as no surprise that CBD is the next “supplement” set to be overtaken by a synthetic revolution.
Some surveys estimate that one in three people in the US have tried CBD and up to six million people in the UK are self-medicating with CBD products to help with diverse problems, including anxiety, insomnia. and chronic pain. And yet the quality and content of cannabis-based products are often unknown – and some products are even illegal or potentially dangerous. Why? Because plant-derived products are impure by their very nature, containing contaminants, such as pesticides, and other (unwanted) cannabinoids, such as THC, and even unnatural cannabinoid degradents, depending on the extraction process.
Growing Cannabis at scale is more an agricultural than a scientific endeavor; small environmental variations can lead to large differences in plant quality, purity, and cannabinoid yield – this is not news to the industry. Cannabis is also particularly effective at absorbing lead, cadmium, and nickel from the soil, which is great for environmental remediation, but certainly not when it comes to selling food and cosmetic products.
Synthesis is currently the only way to meet strict (albeit unenforced) European requirements on cosmetics ingredients (which do not permit origin material that is illegal in any member state) or to meet specific institutional requirements, such as those from the World Anti-Doping Agency (which prohibits all cannabinoids except CBD, in any amount).
Referred as bio-identical or nature identical, depending on the market, synthetic CBD is now the dominant base material against which naturally occurring CBD purity is tested.
Following these trends, and as quality and safety regulations for the CBD industry are further developed and implemented for the consumer market, synthetic CBD is becoming an increasingly appealing alternative. I’d like to reiterate an important point: high-quality synthetic CBD is chemically identical to naturally-occurring CBD. Referred as bio-identical or nature identical, depending on the market, synthetic CBD is now the dominant base material against which naturally occurring CBD purity is tested.
Why the need for reiteration? Unfortunately, synthetic cannabinoids have garnered a great deal of bad press thanks to synthetic analogues (think: “spice”!) that act upon the same receptor but do not occur in nature. Thankfully, (known) cannabinoid analogues are illegal, but their existence has given the synthetic CBD sector somewhat of a marketing headache.
But where does synthetic CBD come from? Well, in the case of biotechnology company PureForm Global, the starting base material is actually a citrus terpene, while high-flying Cellular Goods are touting future commercialization of CBD via a biosynthetic route (a form of fermentation).
Though pathways in CBD synthesis vary and other cannabinoids (including THC) can be accidentally produced, a number of manufacturers are now producing CBD without any detectable unwanted cannabinoids. Such purity is better for consumers (especially those subject to professional testing) and for formulators, who can put greater amounts of CBD in products without risk of exceeding the assumed limit of 1 mg per container.
For many people, words like “plant/herbal extract” and “natural origin” sound better or safer – for humans and the environment – than “chemical synthesis.” But the synthetic route – at least for CBD – actually uses fewer chemicals than solvent and gas extraction, making it more eco friendly. There is also no need for fertilizers or pesticides – and thus no risk of residues. And there is no risk of dangerous, potentially cancer causing mycotoxins, which is an ongoing challenge for cannabis growers everywhere. All good for humans. In addition to being purer, each batch is consistent, free from pesticides, and traceable.
Right now, despite the advantages of synthetic CBD, the vast majority of products contain plant-derived CBD – and, especially for those stated to be “broad spectrum,” these are highly likely to contain THC in trace or greater amounts (not to mention the other known and unknown impurities). In my view, if we’re thinking about CBD as a health and wellness product, this needs to change.
My view is clearly shared by the EU, who have already rejected multiple Novel Food applications from hemp growers (the application deadline for CBD brands looking to gain Novel Food certification was March 31, 2021). And though products with an application submitted were allowed to remain on sale from April 1, who knows how many of these products will meet the Food Standard Authority’s (FSA) strict requirements? It is Biosportart’s view that synthetic producers of CBD that follow clear manufacturing and testing protocols, such as PureForm Global, have a serious upper hand when it comes to achieving full Novel Food status from the FSA.
As we begin to understand the benefits and side effects of individual cannabinoids, the industry must evolve and mature.
Don’t get me wrong, Cannabis sativa is an amazing plant. It has co-evolved with mammals for millions of years and contains a whole suite of interesting, interacting chemicals – the full potential of which we are just beginning to understand. Indeed, we are only now emerging from what could be described as the “dark ages” of Cannabis; for so many years, social stigma and a strict legal environment have prevented the plant’s incredible benefits from being extracted, researched, and applied.
But as we begin to understand the benefits and side effects of individual cannabinoids, the industry must evolve and mature. In my view, CBD synthesis solves many challenges and provides the means to achieve purity, consistency, and yields at a scale that allows adoption of CBD for a wider variety of consumer and medical applications, unlocking just one beneficial aspect of this incredible plant.
Receive content, products, events as well as relevant industry updates from The Cannabis Scientist and its sponsors.
Synthetic CBD vs Natural CBD
It’s perhaps unsurprising that we’ve reached a point where the many different cannabinoids found in the hemp plant can be synthesised in a lab. Horticultural advances over the past few decades have also seen an increasing prevalence of GMOs and the use of artificial lighting in greenhouses.
But how does synthetic CBD compare to the real thing? When you buy cannabidiol, you should be sure of what you’re buying, and what the differences are. Thankfully, all of our full CBD product range comes with a promise that they’re all natural.
What is CBD?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of over 100 different cannabinoids found in plants from the Cannabis genus. It’s commonly discussed in opposition to THC, the primary psychoactive substance in Cannabis—THC gets you high, whilst CBD doesn’t.
For our purposes it’s significant that cannabinoids like CBD don’t just occur in the Cannabis plant. In fact, our body produces its own internal cannabinoids, known as endocannabinoids. The fact that cannabinoids are present in various biological systems and aren’t unique to hemp plants is significant.
Essentially, if we know that cannabinoids can be synthesised in our body and in plants, then it raises the question of whether we can synthesise them ourselves. In fact, the first total synthesis of a cannabinoid (THC) was achieved way back in 1965.
You can read our full introductory guide on CBD before you make your decision to buy CBD.
Recreational synthetic cannabinoids
Synthetic cannabinoids first hit the spotlight in the realm of legal highs. In this instance, the cannabinoids produced were altered versions of existing Cannabis compounds so as to work around banned substance lists. It’s important to note that none of the CBD products we sell will ever get you high.
Since these products (with names like Spice and Black Mamba) were largely untested, the side effects were often far more severe than their natural counterparts. Despite this, because they were only made illegal in the UK in 2016, for a time they were actually much easier to get a hold of than marijuana.
Where synthetic CBD differs is that it’s an emulation of an existing cannabinoid rather than an alteration. Furthermore, where legal highs were being produced with little regulation, most synthetic CBD production is occurring in accordance with health and safety practices.
Avoiding potentially harmful synthetic cannabinoids is why we’re transparent about what our oils contain. You can view our CBD batch reports page here.
Medical synthetic cannabinoids
Not all cannabinoids are synthesised in order to replicate the psychoactive properties of marijuana. For example, one of the most renowned synthetic cannabinoids currently is an equivalent of THC is called Nabilone.
Nabilone has been through rigorous testing, and was approved by the FDA way back in 2006. This goes to show that when the proper process is followed synthetic cannabinoids are being created for positive reasons.
The question remains whether naturally occurring cannabinoids and synthetic cannabinoids interact with the body in a different manner. At Vitality CBD we always advocate the natural choice in our CBD products, but let’s investigate why.
Synthetic CBD vs. natural CBD
You’ll sometimes see CBD isolates referred to as ‘synthetic’, though this is incorrect since isolates can be created from both natural and synthetic sources. In essence, all CBD synthetics are isolates, but not all isolates are synthetic.
Synthetic CBD is an Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) that is chemically identical to the naturally produced hemp-derived CBD. The form it takes, as with most isolates, is a crystalline powder that is then typically mixed with a carrier oil.
What makes synthetic CBD significant is the fact that it acts as a direct analog of the original iteration of cannabidiol. This includes CBD-like compounds that are also found in the hemp plant, including CBDA (cannabidiolic acid) and CBD-C4 (nor-cannabidiol).
The benefits of CBD
Since synthetic cannabidiol is cheaper to produce, we’re no doubt going to see a rapidly expanding portion of the market made up of synthesised CBD products. As a community, we need to make sure we’re asking the right questions about what that means, whether for positive or negative.
At Vitality CBD, our faith in the properties of hemp, and our belief in our fusion of natural practices with scientific process is our guiding mentality. At the same time we’re always open to new pathways to reaching our goal—it’s just about starting a conversation.
Learn more about CBD
Understanding how synthetic CBD is distinct is a matter of understanding how the hemp plant works in and of itself. Check out our pieces on terpenes and flavonoids, as well as our overall breakdown of the different types of CBD.
We also have category pages that cover each of our product ranges, including CBD e-liquids, CBD oils, CBD cosmetics, and CBD edibles.
If you have any unresolved questions about synthetic CBD, or some information you’d like to share with us, our experienced team are always on hand to field any questions. You can reach out to us on our contact page.
You may have seen full spectrum CBD, broad spectrum CBD and pure CBD when you have been looking at CBD. So what do these common pieces of terminology mean?
In a comprehensive survey on the current state of the UK CBD marketplace, the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis has revealed some remarkably high user figures across the board.
Find out more about cannabidiol, more commonly known as CBD. Discover the uses and history of these incredibly popular new wellness ingredient.