By now, you probably have heard of cannabidiol – more commonly known as CBD – and might be wondering what all the hype is about. The truth is that CBD, a naturally-occurring compound, possesses tremendous therapeutic value and is helping countless people worldwide manage a wide range of health and wellness challenges.
The hype is well-deserved. It’s about time more people became aware of this incredible substance.
Cannabidiol – or “CBD” – is one of over 100 compounds found in cannabis sativa plants (including hemp) that belong to a class of naturally occurring, biologically active chemical constituents called cannabinoids.
Here are five fascinating facts about CBD.
CBD is a unique compound that has truly remarkable properties.
1. We are hard-wired for CBD because we have receptors throughout our bodies that respond to cannabinoids.
This biochemical communication system is called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). All humans – and many animals – have this system. It is one of the largest homeostatic systems in the body, with elements throughout the brain and in every major organ. Endo refers to endogenous, which means originating within the body. Cannabinoid refers to the group of compounds that activate the ECS.
With our systems being hard-wired for CBD use because we have receptors throughout our bodies that respond to cannabinoids.
The ECS is responsible for the physical and psychological effects of cannabis.
Just how important is the endocannabinoid system? Project CBD tells us:
The endocannabinoid system plays a crucial role in regulating a broad range of physiological processes that affect our everyday experience – our mood, our energy level, our intestinal fortitude, immune activity, blood pressure, bone density, glucose metabolism, how we experience pain, stress, hunger, and more.
What happens if the endocannabinoid system doesn’t function properly? What are the consequences of a chronically deficient or overactive endocannabinoid system?
In a word, disease.
Cutting-edge science has shown that the endocannabinoid system is dysregulated in nearly all pathological conditions.
CBD influences a wide range of receptor systems in the brain and body – not just cannabinoid receptors, but many others. It indirectly influences cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) by signaling through those receptors. CBD appears to direct the body to use more of its own naturally-produced cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) and can increase levels of them by inhibiting the enzymes that break them down.
To learn more about the endocannabinoid system, here’s a detailed infographic you can view or download: Get to Know the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). To take a virtual tour of the ECS, click here: Introducing the Scope and Importance of the ECS.
2. Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency may contribute to or cause many health conditions.
Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency is a condition where an individual has a lower amount of endogenous cannabinoids than needed to promote health and well-being. Scientific research has shown that changes in ECS activity may correlate with a wide range of disease states.
In an interview with Project CBD, Dr. Ethan Russo, a board-certified neurologist and psychopharmacology researcher, said it is possible that many chronic diseases may be caused by clinical endocannabinoid deficiency. In an interview, he explained what a deficiency of endocannabinoid function might look like:
If you don’t have enough endocannabinoids you have pain where there shouldn’t be pain. You would be sick, meaning nauseated. You would have a lowered seizure threshold. And just a whole litany of other problems. It occurred to me that a number of very common diseases seem to fit a pattern that would be consistent with an endocannabinoid deficiency, specially these are migraine, irritable bowel syndrome, and fibromyalgia. They have some things in common. They’re all hyper-algesic syndromes, meaning that there’s seems to be pain out of proportion to what should be going on, in other words you can look at the tissues they look okay, but there’s biochemically something that’s driving the pain.
Here’s another intriguing excerpt from that interview:
Something I haven’t mentioned is that in its own right cannabidiol is an endocannabinoid modulator, in other words, when given chronically it actually increases the gain of system, which is, at its core, a homeostatic regulator. To explain that: homeostasis is a state of balance. Many diseases interfere with a balance in a given system and if we can bring that balance back to where it should be there’ll be improvement in the overall condition. This is one reason that cannabidiol is such a versatile medicine because so many disorders operate on that kind of level. So, if there’s too much activity in a system homeostasis requires that it be brought back down. If there’s too little, it’s got to come up. And that’s what cannabidiol can do as a promoter of endocannabinoid tone, we call it.
Dr. Russo has been researching medicinal cannabis for a long time, and has published many studies, including these: Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Reconsidered: Current Research Supports the Theory in Migraine, Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel, and Other Treatment-Resistant Syndromes and Cannabis Therapeutics and the Future of Neurology.
3. CBD has biphasic and triphasic effects.
With CBD, more is not always better, and sometimes “less is more”. CBD dosage can be tricky for this reason. CBD can be effective at a wide range of dosages. That’s why there isn’t a standard dosage for CBD products. What works for you may not work for your sibling or your neighbor, for example. It can take some experimentation with various dosages to find your own “sweet spot.” A popular saying among CBD advocates is “start low, go slow” for this reason.
Cannabis compounds have biphasic properties, which means that low and high doses of CBD can produce opposite effects. Small doses of cannabis tend to stimulate, and large doses can have a more sedating effect. If you are taking CBD to improve sleep, keep in mind that lower doses (15 mg, in one study) can increase wakefulness, and higher doses (160 mg or more) have been linked to more time sleeping.
Triphasic or multiphasic, because we see that it can go up and down and up and down. Each direction is a phase, right. So if I start sub-therapeutic and someone gets benefit, that’s one phase. If they go up even higher and they lose benefit, that’s another phase. But then often, when they really crank the dose up high, that benefit will return. Sometimes when it returns, it returns with side effects or the benefits may be a little bit different than they were at the low doses. And there’s probably a phase at ultra-low doses, where people can take such a small amount and get benefit down there as well.
4. CBD is a neurotransmitter modulator.
As we mentioned earlier, the endocannabinoid system includes two cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2. They are normally activated by endocannabinoid neurotransmitters anandamide and 2-AG, but these receptors also respond to CBD.
CBD is also a “neurotransmitter modulator” that inhibits reuptake of Serotonin, Dopamine, and GABA neurotransmitters. This increases neurotransmitter availability within post-synaptic neurons to enhance serotonergic activity, nerve-impulse transmission, and cell-to-cell communication. Neurotransmitter balance plays a key role in the regulation of normal body functions, including mood balance, emotional outlook, sleep/wake cycle, and memory function.
5. CBD is non-intoxicating.
CBD can make you feel more relaxed due to its anti-anxiety properties, but it is not intoxicating.
Unlike marijuana, hemp does NOT produce a “high”. This is because hemp plants contain very little of a compound called tetrahydrocannabidiol (THC, often referred to as “the high causer”). THC has psychoactive properties – that is what causes the “high” feeling the plant can produce.
THC has powerful medicinal properties too, but most CBD products made from hemp contain barely a trace of the compound – may contain less than 0.3% THC. Some CBD products (typically called isolates) do not contain any THC at all.
There is a lot of research that supports the benefits of CBD and more studies are being done.
While the medicinal properties of cannabis plants have been long known, research has really been accelerating in recent years due to increasing interest in natural remedies, and laws surrounding the plant becoming more relaxed.
“Extensive preclinical research—much of it sponsored by the U.S. government—indicates that CBD has potent anti-tumoral, antioxidant, anti-spasmodic, anti-psychotic, anti-convulsive, and neuroprotective properties. CBD directly activates serotonin receptors, causing an anti-anxiety effect, as well,” writes Project CBD.
CBD is safe, non-intoxicating, and non-addictive, and can be used by people of all ages. It is usually well-tolerated, but it can interfere with certain medications. Please consult with your healthcare provider if you are taking prescription drugs and would like to take CBD.
Even your pets can benefit from CBD, but be sure to use a product that is specifically designed for animals, and check with your vet first, especially if your animal companion is taking any medication.
Have you tried CBD yet?
If so, what has your experience been like so far? Please share your thoughts in the comments.