What is CBD
CBD is the acronym for cannabidiol, a member of the extensive family (over 100) of cannabinoids found in the hemp plant. For years, CBD’s health implications were overlooked in favor of its more glamorous cousin, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). In this article, we’ll discuss the differences between CBD and THC and how CBD affects the body.
In recent years, CBD has achieved prominence in the health consciousness of America as its powerful medicinal benefits have become better understood by researchers. CBD is now widely accepted as a potent treatment for many chronic health conditions.
CBD has come a long way from its early days of successfully treating, against the advice of the entire medical and scientific establishment, epilepsy in patients who found no relief from pharmaceutical drugs.
In the body, CBD interacts with the human endocannabinoid system. To better understand the role that CBD plays in health, we’ll explore the latest evidence-based understanding of how CBD affects the body.
CBD Knowledge Nuggets
You can buy hemp seed oil cheaply on Amazon. Hemp seed oil does NOT contain CBD. Click here to see the difference. Hemp Oil vs Hemp Seed Oil
It depends. The 2018 Farm Bill removed industrial hemp from the Schedule 1 list of illegal drugs. Growing the hemp plant is legal but what is done with it is in a gray area.
Hemp vs. Marijuana
To begin, let’s clarify terms.
Years of propaganda, misinformation, the evolution of slang, and other factors have created a confusing set of terms associated with the cannabis plants and its many applications.
“Hemp” refers to plant material from cannabis crops that contains no more than 0.3% THC – meaning it does not cause a “high” in people who consume these products. Historically, hemp has been used across cultures and time to make clothes, rope, and paper.
“Marijuana,” on the other hand, contains more than 0.3% THC. The term originated from an early 1900s campaign to demonize the cannabis plant in the American press. The majority of people in the cannabis industry no longer use the term “marijuana,” preferring “cannabis”.
The Human Endocannabinoid System
CBD exerts powerful activity within the human body due to its interaction with the human endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is a complex network of biological signaling infrastructure that coordinates activity between different systems within the body.
“Endo” is the Latin root for “inside,” meaning that the human body contains its own system of cannabinoids along with receptor sites throughout the body that respond to cannabinoids, either to the compounds that are naturally-occurring in the body or to ones introduced through CBD supplementation.
Endocannabinoid systems have existed in animal life for years, serving important evolutionary functions. In fact, all vertebrates contain endocannabinoid system, which is why CBD can be effective for therapeutic use on pets as well as humans.
The endocannabinoid system is often abbreviated in medical literature to its shorthand, ECS.
Because scientists have only just begun to understand the human endocannabinoid system and all of the functions that it serves, the current knowledge that we have of the ECS is incomplete. What we do know, however, based on clinical study, is that the ECS plays important roles in the following processes:
- Fertility (reproductive and sexual health)
- Cardiovascular performance
- Liver function
- Muscle building
The ECS requires no externally-sourced cannabinoids to carry out its functions because the body produces “endogenous” cannabinoids of its own. However, the therapeutic supplementation of “exogenous” cannabinoids (sourced from outside the body) can dramatically improve the efficacy of the endocannabinoid system’s activity. This is like saying your body’s immune system doesn’t need any help to work correctly, but you can take supplements to make it work better or more efficiently.
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The term “endogenous” cannabinoids, again using the latent prefix “endo” and combined in this word with the Latin phrase “genous,” meaning “origin,” refers to cannabinoids produced in the body naturally that are used in signaling processes when interfaced with the ECS.
Because the study of the ECS is still in its infancy, scientists are unsure of how many endogenous cannabinoids exist in the body or what functions they might serve. To date, we know of two endogenous cannabinoids:
• 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG). This endocannabinoid is made of arachidonic acid and glycerol. Large numbers of 2-AG compounds exist in the nervous system. It serves as the main molecule that interacts with the CB2 endocannabinoid system (more on the CB2 later).
• Anandamide (AEA). “Anandamide” is actually a derivative of the ancient Sanskrit word “ananda” that translates into “joy” or “bliss.” AEA works on the central (brain, heart, lungs) and peripheral (muscles, voluntary movement) nervous systems. It works on the CB1 and CB2 receptor sites of the ECS.
ECS Receptor Sites
The two endogenous endocannabinoids that we’ve identified work by binding to their component parts, receptors on the surface of cells that respond to communications, and, in turn, redirecting cellular activity.
The human ECS is divided into two parts:
• Cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1). AEA is the primary actor on the CB1 system. CB1 receptors are sensitive to both endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids – cannabinoids sourced from plants like cannabis. THC, the molecule responsible for the “high” attributed to marijuana use, works on the CB1 class of receptors. CB1 receptors are found throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems.
• Cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB2). CB2 receptors play an enormous role in the immune system by controlling inflammation. Activation of the CB2 receptors, either naturally through the release of endocannabinoids or through CBD supplementation, has been clinically proven to protect against oxidative stress and tamp down inflammation.
The anti-inflammatory activity of CB2 receptors explains the enormous benefit that chronic pain patients (for example, people with arthritis).
CBD’s immune-modulating effects also hold promise for improving immune responses in the event of pathogenic invasion. For example, the biggest complication associated with the novel coronavirus in infected patients is an out-of-control immune response that results in the flooding of lungs with fluid. Preventing fluid buildup by tweaking the immune response, therefore, is crucial for saving lives.
Studies are currently underway to determine if CBD could serve as a potential treatment for the COVID-19 virus.
Cannabidiol (CBD) products sold commercially are molecularly similar in structure to naturally-occurring “endogenous” cannabinoids found in the human body. Just its endogenous counterparts, therapeutic CBD performs a number of important functions by working within the human cannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is an important cell-signaling system found in the human body with profound health implications.
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