The Essential Medicinal Chemistry of Cannabidiol (CBD)

J Med Chem. 2020 Nov 12;63(21):12137-12155. doi: 10.1021/acs.jmedchem.0c00724. Epub 2020 Sep 10.


This Perspective of the published essential medicinal chemistry of cannabidiol (CBD) provides evidence that the popularization of CBD-fortified or CBD-labeled health products and CBD-associated health claims lacks a rigorous scientific foundation. CBD's reputation as a cure-all puts it in the same class as other "natural" panaceas, where valid ethnobotanicals are reduced to single, purportedly active ingredients. Such reductionist approaches oversimplify useful, chemically complex mixtures in an attempt to rationalize the commercial utility of natural compounds and exploit the "natural" label. Literature evidence associates CBD with certain semiubiquitous, broadly screened, primarily plant-based substances of undocumented purity that interfere with bioassays and have a low likelihood of becoming therapeutic agents. Widespread health challenges and pandemic crises such as SARS-CoV-2 create circumstances under which scientists must be particularly vigilant about healing claims that lack solid foundational data. Herein, we offer a critical review of the published medicinal chemistry properties of CBD, as well as precise definitions of CBD-containing substances and products, distilled to reveal the essential factors that impact its development as a therapeutic agent.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cannabidiol / pharmacokinetics
  • Cannabidiol / pharmacology*
  • Cannabidiol / therapeutic use
  • Cannabidiol / toxicity
  • Chemistry, Pharmaceutical
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Placebo Effect


  • Cannabidiol