Did you know the human body (and all animal bodies except for insects’) were actually built to interact with CBD?
CBD is a molecule found in hemp plants that matches one naturally produced by our own bodies, in the endocannabinoid system. In order to understand the benefits of CBD, we first need to look at the role of the Endocannabinoid System.
Overview: What Is The Endocannabinoid System?
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) plays a master regulatory role within the body. It’s responsible for creating balance (homeostasis) and checking if anything is out of kilter, including:
The endocannabinoid system is found in synapses in the brain, central nervous system, organs, and receptors in the skin.
In order for your ECS to work effectively, it needs a steady supply of compounds called cannabinoids. Some cannabinoids are made by your body and are called endocannabinoids. Others are made by plants and are called phytocannabinoids.
When we’re stressed or not getting enough sleep, our bodies' natural cannabinoids get depleted, which can trigger symptoms such as anxiety and problems sleeping. Since CBD has a very similar molecular structure to the active part of our bodies' naturally occurring cannabinoids, we can use them to top up our resources.
The reason most people don’t know about the endocannabinoid system is because it’s a relatively new discovery and there is still much to learn about it. Scientists first learned of the endocannabinoid system in the 80s, when they isolated special cannabinoid receptors in the body.
The very existence of receptors means that our bodies produce a substance for those receptors to use. In 1992, the first such endocannabinoid was discovered. It is mentioned in the same article as the above link. Research is ongoing, but the two endocannabinoids that have been most studied are:
- Arachidonoyl Glycerol (or 2-AG)
Anandamide is named from the Sanskrit word, “Ananda,” which means bliss. It was also the name of Buddha’s first cousin and most prominent and beloved disciple. It is a fatty acid neurotransmitter and was the first endocannabinoid to be discovered.
2-AG is an ester that comes from omega-6-arachidonic acid and glycerol. ScienceDirect says, “It is involved in a wide array of (patho) physiological functions, such as emotion, cognition, energy balance, pain sensation and neuroinflammation.”
The Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system is made up of three parts:
- Endocannabinoids (chemicals that our bodies make)
- Cannabinoid receptors
- Enzymes that break down the endocannabinoid
The endocannabinoids are chemical signals or messages that are sent out at need. Different ones are created to “say” different things.
Receptors pick up and use the signals they receive in the form of endocannabinoids to regulate the various systems throughout the body. Each receptor affects the system it is connected to.
Enzymes dissolve the endocannabinoids so the receptors can pick up new signals.
We have cannabinoid or CB receptors all over our bodies. There are more than 20 kinds of them, but CB1 and CB2 are the most well-known. We have many CB1 receptors in the brain and throughout the nervous system. CB2 receptors are usually involved in areas that deal with immune response. Receptors can also be found in the lungs, heart, liver, skin, and all over the body.
This system functions constantly to maintain homeostasis, or the harmonious balance of the body.
How Cannabinoids Fit In
Cannabinoids are also found in plants, most notably marijuana (high-THC cannabis) and hemp (low-THC cannabis). These cannabinoids are very similar to the endocannabinoids in our bodies, so our bodies process them as if they are endocannabinoids. The receptors pick them up and use them just like they are homemade. This is why using products or plants with cannabinoids in them causes the beneficial effects we enjoy. We are consciously sending molecules to our body to impact our homeostasis, supporting and reinforcing our natural response.
Types Of Cannabinoids
There are many cannabinoids. At least 113 are in the hemp plant.
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the best-known phytocannabinoid. It is the psychotropic one (that makes you high or intoxicated), and the one that is most controversial. It has wellness benefits but potentially negative sides such as a psychoactive effect, as well as powerful but shorter-lived positive impacts than other cannabinoids.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is the next most well-known, the one that is the cause of the new cannabinoid awakening. It provides powerful wellness benefits with virtually no negative side effects.
CBG & CBN
CBG and CBN are only found naturally in small amounts in cannabis plants, and researchers are still learning about their unique benefits. The hemp variety of Cannabis sativa is usually chosen for wellness over the marijuana variety, because it naturally contains an abundance of CBD oil and virtually no THC.
Such an array of cannabinoids accounts for why you sometimes see manufacturers of CBD oil products crafting unique blends of cannabinoids. Some CBD oil products are known as full-spectrum, having extracted the oil from the hemp plant as close to the original composition as possible. Full spectrum products contain THC in small amounts, which makes them subject to strict laws in many countries. Other manufacturers isolate individual cannabinoids to benefit from just the effects of that one molecule.
The science is not complete yet, but it seems some people may have a deficiency in endocannabinoids. A deficiency may account for certain problems like migraines, IBS, and fibromyalgia with no clear cause and poor treatment outcomes. Scientists are working on determining the role that cannabinoids can play in these conditions.
Some people also believe that when we’re stressing our bodies too hard, we’re overworking our endocannabinoid system, creating a benefit when we add external cannabinoids into the equation.
Whether there is a deficiency or not, using cannabinoids found in nature can have a positive impact on the endocannabinoid systems in all of our bodies.
More to Learn
The endocannabinoid system is an important part of why cannabinoids impact our bodies, along with other systems in our skin and cells. In order for organisations like the UK Food Standards Agency and MHRA to approve them, we need to have substantial research on tolerable and effective amounts and potential risks like we have with food and medications that have been approved. The research is being done because the results look promising.
Individuals find positive results when using cannabinoids for enjoyment and wellness purposes, and doctors will sometimes assist patients in using cannabinoids as alternative treatments when traditional treatments have proven ineffective or are too risky.
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