By now you’ve likely heard about cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is often at the heart of discussions about medicinal cannabis. Both CBD and THC are compounds in cannabis, but it’s CBD which is earning a lot of attention these days. Rightfully so, because it’s a valuable molecule with many therapeutic properties – all without the high.
A lot of CBD’s potential is due to its relationship with the systems within our bodies, but how does it interact with them? Furthermore, why doesn’t it trigger a high, like that experienced from a dose of THC? If so many people are using CBD oil for medicinal purposes, what are they using it for?
If these questions have been floating around on the back burner of your mind – it’s about time you get to the bottom of them. Let this post serve as your crash course on CBD, your Cannabidiol 101.
Let’s begin with the basics. Cannabidiol is a compound found in the cannabis plant. You can source it from cannabis or hemp; both are technically different versions of the same species, just with slightly different characteristics. Cannabis has larger flowers, and contains higher concentrations of cannabinoids, while hemp is taller, grown for hemp oil, fiber, and seeds.
CBD and THC are compounds known as cannabinoids. Cannabis, at the last count, contains at least 113 different cannabinoids. Different strains have different combinations, but both CBD and THC are considered two of the primary ones.
All cannabinoids, at least in theory, can influence human physiology through something called the endocannabinoid system. While you likely learned about the immune system and the gastrointestinal system in school, the endocannabinoid system is a relatively new discovery.
The endocannabinoid system is a series of receptors and chemical communications spread throughout your body from head to toe. Certain areas have higher concentrations of the two receptors, CB1 and CB2. For example, your immune system contains tons of CB2 receptors, while your brain has higher levels of CB1 receptors.
This system manages many aspects of our body’s inner workings – pain modulation, memory formation, appetite, mood, immune response, and inflammation. Essentially it strives to maintain a constant state of homeostasis – or balance. If an external (or internal stressor) targets your mind or body, the endocannabinoid system goes into action.
For example, if an invading pathogen enters into your body, it’s your endocannabinoid system which helps direct your inflammatory response. The brain releases a command (an endocannabinoid), which travels through the body to the receptor site. The endocannabinoid tells the cells what to do.
Cannabinoids, like CBD, mimic our natural cannabinoids. For example, THC directly interacts with the CB1 receptors in our brain, forming a secure connection and triggering the associated high. On the other hand, CBD doesn’t establish a direct link and doesn’t trigger a high. Instead, it’s labeled a receptor antagonist. It tends to influence receptors by turning down the reaction, reducing overactivation.
Each cannabinoid operates slightly differently within the human body, each for unique therapeutic potential. While THC may be useful for specific medical applications, CBD applies to others. In combination, they are sometimes even more powerful. The research is still trying to sort of the fascinating and powerful relationships each of these compounds has.
Perhaps one of the main therapeutic applications of CBD is its ability to soothe inflammation. Some experts strongly believe in theinflammatory theory of disease, which is the idea that the majority of chronic diseases today have a component of inflammation. It may also explain CBD targets such a wide variety of illness and disease, through its effect on inflammation.
In our immune system, each of the immune cells contains endocannabinoid receptors. These receptors receive communications which trigger their activation. Sometimes, the immune cells are never turn off – leading to chronic cases of inflammation. CBD was recently discovered to suppress these overactive flare-ups.
There is also research demonstrating CBD reduces the blood levels of proinflammatory cytokines. Among other jobs, cytokines are the neurological messengers which turn on the inflammatory response. In a study on lab mice treated with CBD, researchers discovered lower levels of these proinflammatory compounds, which lead to lower systemic inflammation. Which means the inflammatory response is reduced.
There is a growing wave of research into cannabis and the ailments it could benefit. In recent years, the research into CBD has reached a crescendo. While most of these studies are still in the preliminary phases, CBD has a few recent wins under its belt. These wins include a seal of approval from the World Health Organization, approval by the Food and Drug Administration in the US for use in the treatment of intractable childhood epilepsy, and many exciting clinical trials.
According to the latest updates, CBD is widely considered safe to use and well tolerated. If there are side effects – they are rare and mild. It’s why many people are using CBD already because it’s so safe to use and is an effective alternative to many conventional pharmaceuticals. As per an industry-sponsored survey, the most popular reasons for CBD use today are for anxiety, insomnia, joint pain and inflammation, chronic pain, and arthritis.
If we only focus on the above list, there is scientific evidence supporting each of these applications. There is the study from 2011 which demonstrated that CBD significantly improved anxiety levels in simulated public speaking for people with social anxiety disorder. Or the many studies which show CBD improves sleep patterns (for example in patients with PTSD and Parkinson’s Disease). It may also impact insomnia through a reduction of stress and anxiety.
Other studies support CBD as an anti-inflammatory agent, as mentioned above. Which is likely why people are already using it for the treatment of joint pain and joint inflammation. Early animals studies have already shown the potential of externally applied CBD topicals as an effective treatment for the pain and inflammation linked to arthritis.
Science is playing a bit of catch up to real-life uses of CBD. So many people are already relying on CBD for its therapeutic potential, researchers are now trying to determine why it’s so effective. People have long said it works, and now we are starting to find out why.
Canada might be one of the easiest places to find medical cannabis these days, including CBD oil. Whether you are a medical cannabis patient or purchasing from the recreational side, legal CBD oil is available in every province. Canada has legal cannabis now, and therefore legal CBD oil. Finding legal CBD oil is easier than ever before, no matter where you live in this country.
It is still relatively early days for CBD, but already there are signals it’s got a role to place in health and wellness. From its anti-inflammatory characteristics to its anti-anxiety properties to its anti-seizure capability and beyond, CBD-rich medicinal cannabis has a lot of potentials. As more clinical trials get underway, we are likely going to see very exciting things from this cannabis compound.