CBD or Cannabidiol is an organic compound that belongs to the cannabis plant. Scientists have done extensive research on the therapeutic benefits of the cannabis plant and one cannabinoid, in particular, has taken the spotlight — Cannabidiol (CBD).
The human body already has an endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is responsible for performing various vital functions, and many studies have surfaced on how CBD plays a role in this system.
CBD has been found to improve the lives of many individuals who wanted a natural way to treat symptoms associated with a variety of health conditions, including pain and inflammation, seizures, cancer, anxiety and sleep disorders. But many of us still have questions about nature’s cure-all. What is it? And does it really work?
The History of CBD
We can’t think about CBD without correlating it with cannabis. Cannabis goes by many names that include weed, hemp or the more derogatory name, marijuana. Although some may assume these terms are given to three completely different types of plants, they are actually all the same exact plant and they all can produce CBD, depending on how it’s cultivated.
CBD has recently become popular in the pharmaceutical realm as an innovative supplement, but CBD goes back much further than we assume. This seemingly new chemical compound has been around for more than half a century.
It all started in 1940 when a Harvard graduate by the name of Roger Adams extracted CBD from the cannabis plant. At that time he wasn’t really aware of what he had accomplished until years later when Adams, along with the help of other scientists, realized what they have done and started conducting research on the benefits of CBD.
More recent history begins in 1964 when a doctor named Walter S. Loewe composed the first CBD test on lab animals, which proved that CBD doesn’t possess any mind-altering effects found in another cannabinoid known as THC. During that year, another doctor by the name of Raphael Mechoulam discovered CBD’s three-dimensional structure and because of this, he is often credited as the scientist who discovered CBD.
Additional research continued in the 1960s on monkeys and, finally, the first CBD oil created for therapeutic use was released by the British Pharmacopoeia. During the following decades, the research continued. And, in 1980, Dr. Mechoulam made yet another major discovery in CBD history when he conducted a study that showed how CBD could be an important factor in treating epilepsy.
Now today, the negative stigma associated with CBD and cannabis is starting to disappear as more people are beginning to see what this chemical compound actually is and what it is capable of.
What Is CBD?
Cannabidiol or CBD is a naturally occurring cannabinoid constituent of cannabis. Cannabinoids are a class of unique chemical compounds found in cannabis. These are the chemicals that give the cannabis plant its medicinal properties. They activate the naturally occurring cannabinoid receptors and endocannabinoids found in the human body’s ECS, particularly in the brain, and they are responsible for important biological and physiological functions.
The cannabis plant produces as many as 113 different cannabinoids. Among the variety of cannabinoids, CBD and THC are the most prevalent ones that many of us are familiar with today. These cannabinoids are created and stored within the trichomes or crystals of cannabis, giving the plant its glossy and sparkly appearance.
Even though THC and CBD are the most recognized cannabinoids, there are many other cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant that offer a variety of health benefits. These cannabinoids include cannabichromene (CBC), cannabinol (CBN) and cannabigerol (CBG).
CBD is known as a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, meaning it doesn’t have the same mind-altering properties as THC. As a matter of fact, CBD is known to reduce the psychoactive effects of THC, making it an appealing option for individuals looking for relief from pain and other symptoms without experiencing the “high.”
But how exactly does CBD provide the various medicinal benefits to the body? Before you understand how this organic compound works, you must first know a little bit about the endocannabinoid system and what role it plays in the body.
Getting To Know Your Endocannabinoid System (ECS)
Your endocannabinoid system is a system within your body that consists of cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors called endocannabinoids that are naturally produced by the human body.
The cannabinoids produced from the cannabis plant share similar properties and effects as the naturally occurring ones because they communicate with the same pathways that signal to the brain and body through the cannabinoid receptors.
Think of cannabinoid receptors and cannabinoids as you would a lock and key, respectively. The cannabinoids bind to the cannabinoid receptors just like a key fits perfectly into a lock. The unlocking of the receptor causes changes in how cells function, resulting in different effects in the body.
There are two different types of cannabinoid receptors:
CB1: These receptors are primarily found in the brain and are responsible for the psychoactive effects associated with THC in cannabis.
CB2: These receptors are found in most parts of the body and are responsible for a variety of biological functions associated with the immune system.
But what does all this have to do with how CBD works in the body?
How Does CBD Work?
When any form or cannabis enters your body, CBD activates the endocannabinoid system by influencing CB2 cannabinoid receptors. Unlike THC, CBD offers health benefits without the high because CBD doesn’t attach to CB1 receptors.
The process of CBD binding to the cannabinoid receptors is an interesting concept because it doesn’t directly bind to CB1 or CB2 receptors at all but instead releases its medicinal effects through indirect chemical reactions within the body and brain receptors as well.
The brain receptors that CBD influences are known as the following:
- Vanilloid receptor: moderates inflammation, pain perception and body temperature
- Adenosine receptor: responsible for anti-inflammatory properties
- 5-HT serotonin receptor: involves multiple biological and neurological processes, which include anxiety, addiction, appetite, pain perception, nausea, sleep and vomiting.
Because of this process, CBD has been proven to have extremely effective health benefits that heal a plethora of ailments ranging from protecting the brain and treating cancer to even getting rid of acne.
What’s So Special About CBD Anyway?
As a natural remedy for many ailments, what isn’t special about CBD? It has been used for many years to help relieve a variety of health conditions. Scientists are still researching CBD and conducting studies that prove its beneficial capabilities.
Research-Based Benefits of CBD
So far, it has been discovered that CBD may be beneficial for treating insomnia, arthritis, diabetes and epileptic seizures as well as many other illnesses, including the following conditions.
CBD and Pain Management: The effects of CBD on your brain’s vanilloid receptors and 5-HT serotonin receptors have the ability to help manage pain by reducing inflammation and interacting with neurotransmitters. Studies have also shown that CBD can offer benefits when taken after chemotherapy treatments.
One study, in particular, gave 30 people with multiple sclerosis a medication with CBD, which resulted in significant improvements in pain, walking and muscle spasms, as opposed to the group of participants who took placebos.
CBD Can Help Relieve Anxiety: CBD can be able to help one manage their anxiety by changing the way your brain’s receptors respond to serotonin, which is a chemical linked to mental health. One study has concluded that a dose of 600 milligrams of CBD has helped people overcome their social anxiety related to public speaking.
Another study conducted on animals revealed that CBD has the ability to relieve anxiety by:
- Reducing stress
- Inducing sleep in cases of insomnia
- Improving symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD)
- Decreasing the physiological effects associated with anxiety such as an increased heart rate
CBD May Have Neuroprotective Properties: Even though research is still somewhat limited at the time, CBD has been shown to effectively treat symptoms related to epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease. CBD has also been shown to reduce the advancement of Alzheimer’s disease.
One study found that CBD oil notably reduced seizure activity in children with a complex childhood epilepsy disorder called Dravet syndrome as opposed to the children who were given a placebo.
CBD Can Protect Cardiovascular Health: Recent research has linked CBD with several benefits for the heart and circulatory system. Though more studies conducted on humans are needed, CBD may benefit heart health in several ways, including reducing blood pressure and preventing heart damage.
One study treated 10 healthy men with one dose of 600 milligrams of CBD oil and found it reduced resting blood pressure, as opposed to the placebo.
During that same study, the researchers also gave the men stress tests that would normally increase blood pressure. Surprisingly, the single dose of CBD led the men to experience a smaller blood pressure rise than normal in response to these tests.
In addition, several animal studies have shown that CBD may help reduce the inflammation and cell death associated with heart disease due to its powerful antioxidant and stress-reducing properties.
CBD May Help Reduce Cancer-Related Symptoms: CBD may help reduce symptoms related to cancer and side effects related to cancer treatment, like nausea, vomiting and pain. CBD may also help reduce chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, which are among the most common chemotherapy-related side effects for those with cancer.
Some test-tube and animal studies have even shown that CBD may have anticancer properties. For example, one test-tube study found that concentrated CBD induced cell death in human breast cancer cells.
Other Benefits of CBD:
CBD has been studied for its role in treating a variety of health issues other than those mentioned above.
Though more studies are needed, CBD is thought to provide the following health benefits:
- Antipsychotic effects: Studies prove that CBD may help people with schizophrenia and other mental disorders by reducing psychotic symptoms.
- Diabetes prevention: One study showed that treatment with CBD reduced the incidence of diabetes by 56 percent and significantly reduced inflammation in diabetic mice.
- Substance abuse treatment: CBD has been shown to modify receptors in the brain related to drug addiction. In rats, CBD has been shown to reduce morphine dependence and heroin-seeking behavior.
- Anti-tumor effects: In test-tube and animal studies, CBD has shown anti-tumor effects. In animals, it has been shown to prevent the spread of breast, prostate, brain, colon and lung cancer.
- Anti-acne properties: Scientific studies have shown that CBD oil may help treat acne due to its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to reduce sebum production. One test-tube study found that CBD oil stopped sebaceous gland cells from secreting excessive sebum (oil), promoted anti-inflammatory actions and prevented the activation of “pro-acne” agents like inflammatory cytokines that can contribute to acne.
CBD has been studied for many years because of the potential role it could play in naturally treating many common health issues, including anxiety, depression, acne and heart disease. Research on the potential health benefits of CBD are still being conducted, but many researchers are sure that more therapeutic uses for this natural remedy are sure to be brought to light.
Even though there is still much to be learned about the efficacy and safety of CBD, results from recent studies show that CBD may provide a safe and effective natural alternative treatment for many health issues.
Furthermore, by becoming knowledgeable about the basic cannabis chemistry and the effect CBD has on the body, cannabis may be seen in a new light as this plant and its constituents can be a natural and effective remedy for patients suffering from a wide range of ailments.