When we think about cannabidiol (CBD), it’s the medicinal properties of the compound that tend to receive the most attention. But what about the general health benefits that can be derived from CBD, thanks to the modulating effect that it has on the body’s endocannabinoid system?
Prospective doctors are not taught about cannabis at medical school, because it’s not something that’s typically prescribed – indeed, in the United States, cannabis has been federally prohibited since 1937 with the Marihuana Tax Act. Therefore, knowledge of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) – which was only discovered in the early 1990s – is very low, and the effects that it has on the body are not widely understood.
Yet we do know that the ECS is very important for our health from the wide-ranging physical and mental functions it has control over. The ECS regulates appetite, mood, and immune system response to name just three. Furthermore, the concept of Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CECD) has been proposed and expanded on by Dr Ethan Russo. He suggests that conditions such as fibromyalgia and migraines, for which there is no known cause or cure, occur due to a deficiency in various endocannabinoids.
Considering that mainstream scientists and medical experts are essentially clueless about the ECS since cannabis medication historically hasn’t been legal, and that patients with these conditions have experienced impressive results with CBD therapy, it’s a strong argument, and an intriguing lead for researchers attempting to get to the bottom of unusual conditions.
How CBD affects the endocannabinoid system
CBD has an influence on two endocannabinoids when brought into the ECS: anandamide and 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). The cannabinoid works to slow the breakdown of anandamide by inhibiting an enzyme called fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), according to various studies. Anandamide is a compound with a few similarities to the cannabinoid THC – it binds with the CB1 receptor in the ECS and is an antidepressant. Indeed, the word ‘anandamide’ is derived from the Sanskrit for ‘bliss’ or ‘joy’.
CBD stimulates the release of 2-AG, which can link up with both CB1 and CB2 receptors. 2-AG is found in unusually high concentrations in the central nervous system and has displayed cannabinoid neuromodulatory effects in tests. The effects of 2-AG are not fully understood, since it was not isolated until 1995, however we can assume that it has an important regulatory impact on the ECS and the body since it binds with CB1 and CB2.
CBD doesn’t just affect the ECS, however. Research has shown that it binds with a G-protein coupled receptor called the vanilloid receptor 1 (TRPV-1). This receptor controls pain sensation, inflammation and helps to regulate body temperature. Studies from the California Pacific Medical Center have found that CBD can have an inhibitory effect on the ID-1 gene. And we also know that CBD can stimulate serotonin receptors – with serotonin deficiency linked to depression, this may help explain why CBD has an anti-depressant effect.
Health benefits of hemp-derived CBD oil
The industrial hemp plant is a strain of cannabis sativa and is used to make hemp seed oil and hemp-derived CBD products. The former is made, unsurprisingly, from just the seeds of the plant, yet it contains plenty of health benefits that have led many to take it as a dietary supplement. The great news is that hemp-derived CBD oil offers not just the medicinal benefits of CBD, but all these other health benefits too.
For example, the body needs a good mixture of essential fatty acids to function correctly – namely omega-3 and omega-6. However, the average American diet nowadays consists of much more omega-6 than omega-3. Hemp-derived CBD oil is an excellent source of omega-3, a fatty acid which can help to enhance memory, lower blood pressure, soothe the skin, and improve sleep patterns.
CBD as a dietary supplement
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may not permit CBD to be marketed as a dietary supplement for now, but there is a growing body of evidence that suggests regular supplements of the cannabinoid can improve your health, by helping to regulate endocannabinoid tone and restore homeostasis in the body.
Considering that the endocannabinoid system is responsible for controlling how much stress we feel, what our mood is like, how healthy our appetite is, how much pain we experience, how our immune system responds to problems, and more, it’s only logical that we should do what we can to keep a balanced endocannabinoid tone. This is achieved by having the correct production of anandamide and 2-AG, and appropriate activity among cannabinoid receptors. Research has shown that an over expression of CB1 receptors can cause metabolism-related illnesses such as diabetes.
An out-of-balance endocannabinoid system could lead to several health problems that aren’t necessarily linked to a particular condition. For instance, if you are particularly sensitive to pain, this could be due to endocannabinoid system imbalance. Suppression of the CB1 receptor can lead to more pain, while activation of the CB2 receptor has been connected to easing pain and inflammation, as has the vanilloid receptor (TRPV-1).
How could CBD help? The reduction of anandamide breakdown which is facilitated by CBD means that there is more of this endocannabinoid in the body. Since anandamide has been found to bind with the TRPV-1 receptor, we can deduce that supplementing the body with CBD may help to reduce the body’s sensitivity to pain.
Scientists still have plenty more to learn on how compounds like CBD and anandamide influence the body, however research into the endocannabinoid system over the past 20 years is providing us with revolutionary treatments for conditions that we have been clueless to. Dr Russo’s research into Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency has already shown us how illnesses can manifest if these compounds are not present in the concentrations that they should be.
Since CBD is available without requiring a prescription, many are opting to self-medicate with the compound. Research into CBD by the World Health Organization has concluded that the compound has no abuse potential and is therefore a safe treatment for patients to try and remedy their ailments with. And if we’re feeling down (mentally or physically), it’s more than possible that our endocannabinoid system is simply out of balance, and that supplementing it with a dose of CBD edibles or CBD e-liquid could be the answer.
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