Cannabidiol in medical marijuana: Research vistas and potential opportunities

Pharmacol Res. 2017 Jul;121:213-218. doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2017.05.005. Epub 2017 May 10.


The high and increasing prevalence of medical marijuana consumption in the general population invites the need for quality evidence regarding its safety and efficacy. Herein, we synthesize extant literature pertaining to the phytocannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) and its brain effects. The principle phytocannabinoid Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) and CBD are the major pharmacologically active cannabinoids. The effect of CBD on brain systems as well as on phenomenological measures (e.g. cognitive function) are distinct and in many cases opposite to that of Δ9-THC. Cannabidiol is without euphoriant properties, and exerts antipsychotic, anxiolytic, anti-seizure, as well as anti-inflammatory properties. It is essential to parcellate phytocannabinoids into their constituent moieties as the most abundant cannabinoid have differential effects on physiologic systems in psychopathology measures. Disparate findings and reports related to effects of cannabis consumption reflect differential relative concentration of Δ9-THC and CBD. Existing literature, notwithstanding its deficiencies, provides empirical support for the hypothesis that CBD may exert beneficial effects on brain effector systems/substrates subserving domain-based phenomenology. Interventional studies with purified CBD are warranted with a call to target-engagement proof-of-principle studies using the research domain criteria (RDoC) framework.

Keywords: 1 Cannabidiol (PubChem CID: 644019); Anxiety; Cannabidiol; Cannabis; Cognition; Delta 8-tetrahydrocannabinol (PubChem CID: 2977); Medical marijuana; Mood; Sleep.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Affect / drug effects
  • Anxiety / drug therapy*
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Cannabidiol / pharmacology
  • Cannabidiol / therapeutic use*
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Depression / drug therapy*
  • Dronabinol / pharmacology
  • Dronabinol / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Medical Marijuana / pharmacology
  • Medical Marijuana / therapeutic use*
  • Sleep / drug effects
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / drug therapy*


  • Medical Marijuana
  • Cannabidiol
  • Dronabinol