How CBD Works
What is CBD?
Cannabinoids are complex chemical compounds that act on receptors in cells. There are 113 different cannabinoids found in the hemp and marijuana plant, however, the two primary cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Both hemp and marijuana are a genus of Cannabis sativa, but with varying differences.
- Marijuana grows with higher percentages of THC (psychoactive; causes a feeling of “high”), and lower percentages of CBD (non-intoxicating).
- Hemp grows with higher percentages of CBD, and lower percentages of THC.
Although THC is easily the most popular cannabinoid due to its psychoactive effects, CBD has gained traction due to its non-intoxicating, therapeutic benefits. According to the World Health Association, CBD is non-addictive, has no withdraw symptoms, and has a great safety profile, so it is no wonder many are turning to CBD for help.
What is the Endocannabinoid System (ECS)?
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) was discovered in 1992 by a small team of scientists who stumbled upon an unknown, molecular signaling system within the mammalian body. The ECS is responsible for regulating a broad range of biological and physiological processes to include appetite, digestion, metabolism, pain-sensation, inflammation, mood, sleep, stress, and memory. However, the primary objective of the ECS is always the same – homeostasis, as it is quite literally the bridge between the body and the mind.
Regardless of whether or not we consume cannabis, everyone has an Endocannabinoid System. The ECS is largely comprised of three core components:
- Endocannabinoids – cannabinoids naturally produced by the mammalian body; activates cannabinoid receptors in cells.
- Cannabinoid Receptors – found throughout the mammalian body; endocannabinoids bind with them, signalling the ECS to take action.
- Metabolic Enzymes – breaks down endocannabinoids once they’ve carried out their function
For example, research has found CBD as an agonist to the 5-HT1A receptor, which is involved in a variety of biological and neurological processes such as anxiety, addiction, appetite, sleep, and pain perception. These findings convey a promising explanation for how cannabidiol might function as an antidepressant, anti-anxiety, or neuroprotectant.
CBD also binds with various TRPV (pronounced “trip”) ion channels, namely TRPV1 receptors, which are responsible for both pain perception and inflammation, as well as activating the receptor GPR55, which has also shown promise in treating both pain and inflammation.
What Does the ECS Do?
- The body is not synthesizing enough endocannabinoids
- The body is not creating enough cannabinoid receptors
- There is an abundance of enzymes that breakdown cannabinoids
- An outside sources such as foods and medications have decreased ECS signaling.
However, as hinted above, the ECS is not just affected by endocannabinoids. It can also synthesize plant-sourced cannabinoids (phytocannabinoids) like THC and CBD. This means if we experience an endocannabinoid deficiency, we can supplement using phytocannabinoids like THC, CBD, CBN, CBG, etc. Moreover, the efficacy of cannabis can increase when consumed with other plant-based molecules like terpenes and flavonoids. Research indicates that cannabinoids have a synergistic relationship with terpenes and flavonoids, meaning their combined therapeutic effect is greater than the sum of their individual parts.
By understanding the purpose of the ECS (which is to maintain homeostasis in the body), and in acknowledging the presence of the ECS across so many systems (to include our nervous and immune systems), one can conceive how cannabis-therapies might actually work. By stimulating and supporting our endocannabinoid system, its entirely possible to find natural, plant-based relief from a multitude of potential conditions.
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