The Incredible Science Behind CBD

Updated on July 3, 2020

When the scientific facts change, it’s important that society changes its ways too. For many years, the consensus among politicians and medical experts has been that cannabis causes more harm than good, but new research and understanding about the plant’s complex nature has presented us with an undeniable truth: cannabis has enormous, and unique medicinal value. Patients who were once helpless with untreatable epileptic conditions are now enjoying life to the full, many of them seizure-free, thanks largely to the properties of cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive cannabinoid which triggers a calming effect in the brain.

But CBD isn’t just for epilepsy, or indeed any specific illness – the cannabinoid has an even more important job. CBD helps to regulate the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Haven’t heard of it? You’re not alone. In the grander picture of medical science, cannabinoid science is in its infancy. Researchers have had a base knowledge of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD and other cannabinoids since mid-way through the 20th century, but it was only in the 1990s that they discovered the ECS, a regulator of the immune system, mood, pain sensation, appetite, bone formation, cognition, memory and much more. Cannabinoids, therefore, have the potential to treat a myriad of conditions.

The body also generates its own endocannabinoids – these lipid-based neurotransmitters are agonists of cannabinoid receptors, and also appear to impact g-protein coupled receptors outside of the ECS. The effects that endocannabinoids and cannabinoids have in the body’s other systems has barely been studied, but their occurrence suggests these compounds are vital for balanced physical and mental health. Cannabis contains hundreds of other chemicals, too – some of these are terpenes, some of which have health benefits but are best-known for their strong aroma.

But none of these compounds are more widely accepted than CBD. While many have been deterred from using cannabis as a treatment because of the stigma that remains over psychoactive THC, there’s no such psychological barrier with CBD. No psychoactive effects mean no short-term memory loss, cognitive impairment or loss of touch with reality. But enough about what CBD doesn’t do, let’s find out about its benefits.

An introduction to CBD

The CBD cannabinoid is found in various concentrations of cannabis sativa and cannabis indica strains and is also present in lower quantities in hemp. It’s possible that cannabinoids could be in other plants that haven’t yet been researched, but they certainly aren’t as common as terpenes.

Chemical balance in the body’s systems is essential for homeostasis and all-round good health. We become ill when this balance is lost. When this happens, we are prescribed drugs to treat us. For example, SSRI antidepressant drugs block the reabsorption, or reuptake of serotonin so more is available in the brain. Serotonin is associated with happiness, hence why it is a target for antidepressants.

Interestingly, CBD may influence the serotonin system, but its main chemical responsibility is to ensure the body has enough anandamide and 2-AG to bind with receptors. An anandamide deficiency would disrupt CB1 receptor mechanisms, possibly causing low mood, motivation and an increased pain perception. In this case, CBD would prop up anandamide levels to counter-act this imbalance. CBD also adjusts messages sent through receptors by endocannabinoids and cannabinoids by affecting their binding affinity. CBD is being keenly studied as an anti-psychotic drug which may treat psychosis and schizophrenia. This medication would work by CBD suppressing the binding affinity of the CB1 receptor.

The role of the endocannabinoid system

Cannabinoid receptors are expressed all over the body, which explains the wide range of therapeutic uses for CBD and cannabis as a whole. CB1 receptors are mostly contained within the central nervous system, while immune system-regulating CB2 receptors are found mainly in the peripheral nervous system.

Those with a well-regulated ECS enjoy a balanced mood, a strong immune system, a healthy appetite and a good sleeping pattern, low stress levels and sturdy bones. However, when the ECS is not regulated, the potential for pain, depression, fatigue, high stress and excessive inflammation increases. Some scientists believe that a small percentage of the population suffers from endocannabinoid deficiency, and that this is the underlying root cause for fibromyalgia and migraines, two illnesses with a bizarre set of symptoms which are difficult to treat effectively.

Exercise is one natural way of increasing anandamide concentrations. When we workout, this neurotransmitter floods into the brain, enhancing our mood as it binds with CB1 receptors. This is the mechanism behind the peculiar, but very pleasant “runner’s high.”

How CBD affects the endocannabinoid system

As an antagonist of both cannabinoid receptors, CBD’s impact on the endocannabinoid system is not immediately clear. The cannabinoid is also an antagonist of the GPR55 receptor, which some scientists have mooted as the body’s third cannabinoid receptor.

Studies have shown that CBD blocks the cellular uptake of anandamide by targeting fatty-acid binding proteins. Anandamide is degraded by the catabolic enzyme fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), but by interfering with this process and stopping the transportation of anandamide to this enzyme, CBD essentially keeps more of the endocannabinoid in the body, so that it can interact with cannabinoid receptors and regulate the ECS. Anandamide is an antidepressant, and some patients with depression who have had no success with pharmaceutical drugs are finding CBD products beneficial at tackling low mood and motivation via this process.

However, CBD’s medicinal properties do not appear to be reserved for the ECS. The cannabinoid may impact opioid receptors which could help with treating addiction, and the pain relief from CBD could be the result of anandamide interactions with the vanilloid receptor. Some of CBD’s anxiolytic properties come from enhancing the binding affinity of GABA receptors, but the cannabinoid’s effect as a partial agonist of the 5HT1-A receptor also looks to be important.

CBD is not just being viewed as a treatment option for conditions with no cure, but also as a medicine for illnesses where the available drugs cause severe side effects. The United States is currently going through an opioid epidemic, which is partly the result of chronic pain patients becoming addicted to opioid-based drugs such as Tramadol, Vicodin, and OxyContin. The anti-inflammatory properties of CBD could also be useful, given that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), the first-choice medication for inflammation, cause stomach pains, and ulcers in some patients. 

Embracing vaping

For several years, vaporizing was mostly viewed as a way for non-smokers to kick the habit and protect their lungs. However, in the cannabis and CBD industry, vaping is not just popular for that, but because of the super-fast onset of effects. Instead of having to wait an hour for relief or to decide whether a stronger dose is needed, as can happen with edibles, the therapeutic effects from CBD vape oil and e-liquid is noticeable in just a couple of minutes, and users can work out more easily when they have taken enough. For those conscious about taking a specific dose, the standardized release provided by CBD cartridges is recommended – the same amount of vapor, and CBD is administered with every draw.

Vaping connoisseurs are likely to prefer a refillable device, however, as these allow for vape modifications to tailor the experience to the user’s requirements. A few high-tech vaporizers will even connect via Bluetooth to a mobile device, offering even more layers of customization.

World Health Organization adjusts CBD stance

The World Health Organization (WHO) is an agency of the United Nations, which has historically been completely opposed to the legalization of cannabis. However, the WHO reviewed CBD and other prohibited substances in 2017, when the Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) convened. The committee determined that CBD has no abuse potential, although made no explicit medicinal claims about the substance.

This article was written for educational and informational purposes. Please do not stop taking prescription medication for CBD, without the approval of a medical professional.

The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.

1 thought on “The Incredible Science Behind CBD”

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