Cannabidiol (CBD) may be the second most important compound in the cannabis plant, but today, it is arguably the most talked about among the general population. Although slightly less dominant and historically less sought after than its high-inducing counterpart, THC, CBD has become a major trend not only in the cannabis industry, but also in health and wellness, food and even cosmetic products. The general public's growing interest in CBD, combined with mounting evidence of its therapeutic benefits, has piqued our curiosity about this non-toxic cannabinoid and what it can do for us.
Although we still have a long way to go to master the science of CBD and discover its full medicinal potential, we already know how CBD molecules interact with the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS) to produce a range of therapeutic benefits. Below, we explain your body's endocannabinoid system, how it interacts with CBD and the potential benefits we can derive from this interaction.
Your Endocannabinoid System: An Introduction
The first endocannabinoid was discovered by Raphael Mechoulam, along with National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) researchers William Devane and Dr Lumir Hanus, in 1992, making it a relatively new scientific discovery. Although further research is still needed to fully understand the mechanics of SCE, researchers have identified its presence throughout the body, maintaining an internal regulatory balance, or homeostasis, in various bodily functions. ECS is present in immune cells in the bloodstream, in virtually every cell in the brain, in the spinal cord, throughout the cardiovascular system and in our skin.
The brain contains large numbers of highly specialised cells called neurons. Each neuron connects to many others through structures called synapses. These are sites where one neuron communicates with another by releasing chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters.
The sensitivity of a neuron to a specific neurotransmitter depends on whether or not it contains a receptor that "fits" that transmitter, much like an electrical socket connects to a plug.
If a neuron contains receptors that match a particular neurotransmitter, then it can respond directly to that transmitter. Otherwise, it usually cannot. All neurons contain multiple neurotransmitter receptors, allowing them to respond to some neurotransmitters but not to others.
The SCE is made up of three main pillars:
- Endocannabinoids (endogenous cannabinoids, or cannabinoids native to the body), 2.
- The receptors to which endocannabinoids bind.
- The enzymes that break them down to elicit a response in the body. The two most studied cannabinoid receptors inside the body are called CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are mainly found in the central nervous system, where they regulate brain function.
CB2 receptors are most prominent on immune cells throughout the bloodstream. Phytocannabinoids, or cannabinoids from the cannabis plant, can elicit therapeutic responses in the body by binding to these receptors.
How does CBD work with your SEC?
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) allows CBD to help treat a wide range of symptoms. CBD binds to CB1 and CB2 receptors. It also interacts with the body through other biological pathways, and is thought to produce therapeutic effects by activating multiple pathways at once.
CBD also has a complicated relationship with THC, directly related to how the two interact with the SEC. At the molecular level, CBD does the opposite of what THC does. CBD is an inverse agonist of CB1 receptors, while THC is an agonist. When CBD and THC are taken together, CBD has the potential to curbing side effects negative effects of THC by activating a reverse CB1 receptor response.
What are the benefits of CBD?
Regardless of its relationship to THC, CBD has shown great promise in the treatment of a wide variety of symptoms and ailments.
Relief from pain and inflammation: CBD has been shown to reduces pain responses by inhibiting the endocannabinoid system's uptake of anandamide. It also has a variety of anti-inflammatory properties, many of which are triggered by binding to CB2 receptors.
Epilepsy and seizures: The clinical trials have shown CBD to be a highly effective anticonvulsant and antiepileptic, although its exact mechanisms of action remain unclear.
Addiction treatment: Several studies have indicated that CBD can help alleviate the symptoms associated with addiction to opioids, cocaine and tobacco.