CBD and its Benefits to the Endocannabinoid System
A 2019 study conducted by the University of California and John Hopkins University found that Google searches related to CBD increased by 126% between 2016-2017, 160% in 2018, and 118% last year.
This spike in curiosity comes as no surprise, as over 30 U.S states have relaxed marijuana laws in one form or another over the last decade. In April of 2019, there were over 6 million CBD-related searches recorded by Google, with many of these searches entered by people interested in finding out more about the mechanisms behind CBD and how it interacts with the human body.
It all comes down to the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a complex biological system discovered by scientists researching THC in the 1990s.
In this guide, we will discuss CBD, the endocannabinoid system, and how the two work in synergy to restore homeostasis (balance) to our immune and central nervous systems.
Using the latest research and studies, we’ll offer a comprehensive guide that will help you to understand the science behind CBD and the endocannabinoid system fully.
What is CBD?
CBD is an abbreviation of cannabidiol, which is one of two prevalent active ingredients derived from the hemp plant. Although CBD is an essential ingredient in medical marijuana, it’s extracted from hemp as opposed to marijuana plants. Yet, it can be found in both species.
CBD is not to be confused with THC, which is the other prevalent cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. THC is responsible for the ‘high’ that marijuana users experience. Unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive; it will not provide a ‘high’ for users and has no potential for abuse, dependence, or addiction. At the time of writing, there are no reports of public health-related problems linked to the consumption of CBD.
Thousands of CBD advocates all over the world praise the compound for the wealth of medical benefits that it provides. In 2018, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approved ‘Epidolex’, a cannabis-derived treatment that can help improve symptoms of two severe forms of epilepsy. This was a landmark approval for the CBD industry, as cannabidiol is the main active ingredient in this prescription medication.
Although the FDA does not currently regulate the safety and purity of CBD on a national scale, CBD is widely considered to be safe, as long as products are sourced from a 3rd party lab-verified seller.
What is the Endocannabinoid System?
Firstly, we’ll break down the word ‘endocannabinoid.’
‘Cannabinoid’ is taken from ‘cannabis,’ and ‘endo’ is a shortened form of ‘endogenous,’ which refers to a substance that is naturally produced inside the human body.
Therefore, ‘endocannabinoid’ literally means cannabis-like substances that naturally occur inside the human body.
The first evidence of the existence of the ECS started to filter through during the late 1960s as researchers studied the effects of cannabis on the human body. This research was spurred on by an increase of recreational cannabis use throughout western countries throughout the 60s and 70s. Although, historically, medicinal cannabis use has been dated back as far as 5,000 years ago.
During the period of research in the 1960s and 70s, scientists first isolated phytochemicals from the cannabis plant. These chemicals, known as phytocannabinoids, had a profound effect on an intricate web of enzymes, receptors, and biochemical pathways that work together throughout the human body, collectively known as the ‘endocannabinoid system’.
What’s interesting is, through more profound research over the last sixty years, scientists have found that almost all species of the animal kingdom have endocannabinoid systems. This information proves that the ECS probably evolved over 600 million years ago.
A wealth of scientific research has revealed the importance of the endocannabinoid system for the efficient functioning of the immune, endocrine, and brain tissues in humans. It’s also apparent that the ECS has a critical role in regulating hormone secretion relating to stress response and reproductive functions.
CB1 and CB2 Receptors
The ECS is present in both the central and peripheral nervous systems and is comprised of receptors called CB1 and CB2. CB1 and CB2 receptors are the designated targets of the ECS system, working in synergy with endocannabinoids to help achieve balance throughout or bodies.
You can think of CB1 and CB2 receptors as tiny docks that endocannabinoids attach to and stimulate as CBD products are used. These receptors are present across all the major systems inside the human body, including our brains, bones, skin, connective tissues, organs, and nervous system.
CB1 Receptors Explained
The majority of CB1 receptors present in the human body can be found across the brain and spinal cord. They play a considerable role in motor control, appetite stimulation, pain perception, memory, cognition, and emotion.
The CB1 network has a significant impact on the way that humans behave, as it helps to mediate our natural reward system, actions, and motivation. Scientists are still working to gain a deeper understanding of how the CB1 network functions. However, it could help to reveal essential information around our psychology.
This is because CB1 is directly linked to our reward pathway system, which means that it could be the key to understanding addiction, anxiety, depression, and other psychological issues that affect millions of people worldwide.
CB2 Receptors Explained
CB2 receptors are present throughout the peripheral nervous system. They are predominantly associated with response to inflammation and the efficient functioning of the immune system. When these receptors are activated, they assist with essential repairs within the body while helping to reduce symptoms associated with pain and inflammation.
Research has already been conducted to pinpoint ways to precisely target CB2 receptors, as it’s believed that this could pave the way to innovative treatments for pain relief. These treatments could offer a CBD/cannabis derived alternative to dangerous opioid-based drugs, which are currently causing widespread misery and addiction throughout the world.
When CBD or THC binds to the CB2 receptor, they activate analgesic and anti-inflammatory responses, essentially helping the body to relieve pain. Therefore, it’s apparent that CBD products may work in harmony with CB2 receptors, assisting with pain management for neuropathic and chronic conditions, as well as relieving a range of inflammatory diseases and conditions such as arthritis.
What are Endocannabinoids?
Endocannabinoids (eCBs) work as messengers for the endocannabinoid system. They work similarly to dopamine and serotonin, which are chemical messengers that help to regulate our mood, located throughout our nervous system.
eCBs are lipid-based neurotransmitters, meaning they are synthesized directly from fats. The human body utilized various enzymes to turn these fatty substances into 2-AG and Anandamide (Explained below).
It’s worth noting that consuming more essential fatty acids and omega-3s can help the body to increase the natural production of eCBs. This is because these fatty acids work as vital building blocks for endocannabinoids.
Two essential eCBs regularly circulate through the human body. These are 2–Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) and Anandamide, both of which are built from fats or oils.
Anandamide and 2-AG Explained.
Anandamide is an endocannabinoid that interacts with CB1 receptors in our central nervous systems and CB2 receptors throughout our peripheral nervous systems. Otherwise known as the ‘bliss molecule’, Anandamide is primarily a neurotransmitter, working similarly to our endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine.
It’s a potent anti-depressant, helping to enhance our mood while stimulating appetite and reducing our sensitivity to pain. Additionally, this endocannabinoid has been known to improve immune system response, as it stimulates receptors present in our white blood cells.
2-AG has been linked to protecting people from seizures, especially in severe forms of epilepsy. It’s also believed to help protect and maintain the cardiovascular system while helping to balance out our emotional state of mind.
Anandamide works in conjunction with 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) to influence the immune system, stopping hyperactivity and reducing inflammation. Endocannabinoids, enzymes, and cannabinoid receptors all work together as part of the endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system is stimulated and altered when CBD is consumed, confirming the therapeutic potential of regular CBD use. When CBD is consumed, it inhibits an enzyme called the FAAH enzyme, helping Anandamide to remain active for longer, and increasing the potency of this essential eCBs.
For example, the low mood associated with depression can be caused by a lack of Anandamide. When CBD is ingested, Anandamide can help to treat this chemical imbalance. Similarly, as increased levels of Anandamide stimulate hunger, CBD products may help people living with conditions that decrease the appetite or cause weight loss.
CBD is well-known for providing powerful anti-inflammatory effects. These effects take place thanks to the stimulation of CB2 receptors and the promotion of Anandamide and 2-AG, which influence white blood cells and help the body to achieve a natural form of balance. For this reason, inflammatory conditions may be relieved by regular CBD consumption.
The Effects of CBD on the Endocannabinoid System
While it’s clear that THC has an impact directly on our CB1 and CB2 receptors, CBD is more indirect in its actions.
CBD works by activating TRPV1 receptors, which help to regulate pain, inflammation, and body temperature. CBD also inhibits Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase (FAAH), increasing levels of Anandamide, and assisting users in feeling increased pleasure and motivation.
CBD has a profound effect on stimulating and regulating the endocannabinoid system, as well as being beneficial to other areas of the human body. When we consider the widespread legalization of medical marijuana, it’s worth noting that CBD often inhibits the adverse side effects associated with THC. Therefore, when both THC and CBD are administered together, the results are often more beneficial than supplementing with one or the other.
When CBD stimulates the endocannabinoid system, it promotes homeostasis throughout the body. As homeostasis is achieved, symptoms of inflammation are often relieved, and the sensation of pain can be reduced.
Some scientists support a theory that certain people suffer from Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CECD). This condition is diagnosed via low levels of endocannabinoids in the body and may contribute to the development of several severe conditions.
In a comparative paper published in 2016, information revealed that people with low levels of endocannabinoids are more susceptible to conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, and migraine.
These conditions are often treatment-resistant and appear to have no definite underlying cause. However, ECS targeting via CBD and THC consumption could help to treat them if CECD plays a part in their development.
Frequently Asked Questions
I Want To Try CBD. How Does CBD Work?
CBD works by stimulating and activating the endocannabinoid system, a complex system that works to regulate the balance of organ systems throughout the entire body. The majority of ECS receptors are found in the brain and the immune system.
The ECS contains a range of significant biological functions including:
- Immune response
- Cognitive performance
- Stress management
When CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system, it increases the number of endocannabinoids that occur naturally in the body, helping the body achieve and maintain balance.
Can CBD kill viruses?
Yes, CBD could potentially kill off some bacteria and viruses. CBD, or cannabidiol, has been praised globally for the significant health benefits that it offers. Now, recent research has shown that CBD is effective at killing strong bacteria in laboratory conditions. This includes bacteria responsible for severe infections such as MRSA and staph. CBD can be just as effective as popular antibiotics when it comes to killing some forms of bacteria.
Scientists from the University of Queensland recently presented findings suggesting that CBD could be used in developing pioneering treatments against gram-positive superbugs and bacterial infections that are currently resistant to conventional antibiotics.
Dr Mark Blaskovich from the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience & Centre for Superbug Solutions stated in a 2019 press release.
“Given cannabidiols documented anti-inflammatory effects, existing safety data in humans, and potential for varied delivery routes, it is a promising new antibiotic worth further investigation.”
“The combination of inherent antimicrobial activity and potential to reduce damage caused by the inflammatory response to infections is particularly attractive.”
CBD studies have shown the compound to be extremely well-tolerated in humans, with minimal risk for dependency or abuse, according to the World Health Organization. This recent study proves that CBD is a mostly unexplored area in modern science, with so much potential to protect humans and fight against potentially fatal infections.
This information reinforces the need for more in-depth studies to be planned using human participants.
How Should I Approach CBD if my Doctor Doesn’t Know About it?
Low and slow is the best way to approach CBD products and dosing if you are not taking supplements under the advice of a medical professional. CBD dosages can be difficult to calculate, especially for first-time users. One reason for this is that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is yet to establish formal nutritional guidelines for CBD supplements.
There is no current Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for CBD oil and other products. Although many companies offer serving suggestions for their products, these are unofficial guidelines, and everybody has different physiology and metabolic rates.
We recommend starting with relatively low doses of CBD, depending on why you are taking CBD, your weight, and the strength of the product that you are using. As we are not doctors, we cannot give you medical or legal advice.
Therefore, if you are currently taking any prescription medications, we recommend seeking advice from a medical professional before you start to take any CBD products.
Don’t forget to start low and go slow. It is possible to overdose on CBD. While this will not prove fatal, it could cause excessive drowsiness, nausea, diarrhea, lethargy, and gastrointestinal upset.
Although the amounts of CBD required to bring on these adverse effects differ from person to person, by starting low and slowly increase your dose, you can monitor the effects of CBD and reduce/increase the dosage accordingly.
Can CBD Products Detoxify the Body?
Yes, CBD could be used to help people destroy and eliminate toxins from their bodies as part of a detox regimen. Many existing detox procedures, such as diets, exercise routines, and cleanses, give our bodies a break from the excessive toxins that we are exposed to as part of our daily lives.
Scientific studies have proven that CBD works as a potent antioxidant, leading researchers to believe that it can help to fight oxidative neurological disorders. CBD oil is more advantageous than smoothies and fad-diets, as studies have shown that CBD can reduce cell deaths. Due to CBD hemp oil’s protective effects on the body, researchers think that can detoxify our cells to a much higher degree.
CBD oil helps to reduce levels of inflammation all over the human body. The anti-inflammatory properties work by elevating an endocannabinoid called 2- AG. CBD oils help by indirectly stimulating the CB2 receptors present in our endocannabinoid systems, mediating the immune systems’ functionality. The stimulation of these receptors is proven to reduce the production of attack-cells while allowing the body to heal naturally.
For those who decide to take CBD oil supplements for detox purposes, any method can achieve great results. Topical CBD balms and tinctures help to remove toxins from the skin. Vaping CBD can help to flush your entire body with the antioxidant properties of CBD, and CBD capsules and oils can help to release CBD into the bloodstream, helping to regulate the immune system, relax the mind, and generally enhance your overall sense of wellbeing.
Whether you want to detox from processed foods, quit smoking, or manage levels of hormones in your body, CBD has been successful in many scientific experiments and reports for helping to aid the detoxification process.
That said, CBD is still in relatively early stages of research, so it should be used as a medium to enhance wellness as opposed to a treatment for any existing conditions. Once the body is free of all the toxic chemicals, CBD users report feeling stress- free, more healthy, and have fewer cravings for unhealthy snacks.
When is it unsuitable to take CBD?
There are a few conditions/situations that deserve special consideration before you start taking CBD supplements.
You Currently Take Prescription Drugs
The body processes pharmaceutical drugs in many different ways. CBD products can occupy the cytochrome enzymes that your body requires to process some medications. If you take CBD alongside these medications, the medicines could become less effective.
Therefore, if you are currently taking prescription drugs, especially warfarin, epilepsy medication, HIV-antivirals, or chemotherapy, discuss CBD with your doctor before you start to take any CBD products.
You Have Liver Complications
Although this caution is only speculative, those suffering from liver conditions or problems may want to be careful with their CBD intake. When the epilepsy medication Epidiolex was being trialed, many people experienced increased liver enzymes. This could be down to the fact that many patients tested were already taking a range of pharmaceutical medications for their epilepsy.
However, for people that have existing liver problems, it’s worth keeping track of your liver enzymes as you start to take any CBD supplements. Epidiolex manufacturers suggest that anyone with liver impairments should increase their CBD dosage gradually; this helps to err on the side of caution.
You Have Low Blood Pressure
CBD has been proven in various studies to lower people’s blood pressure levels. This is concerning for people that already have low levels of blood pressure. CBD appears to be more effective at reducing blood pressure during times of stress, which is one of its most attractive attributes to many users.
However, CBD can also temporarily decrease resting blood pressure levels. If you suffer from hypertension, make sure you monitor your blood pressure daily when you start to take CBD products or increase your dosage. Start low and go slow with any CBD products, increasing your dosage in tune with your blood pressure and the way you are feeling.
You are Trying to Conceive
Although this is not proven, there is some evidence to suggest that frequent marijuana use could decease fertility levels. These suggestions are primarily linked to THC consumption.
However, we recommend that you discuss CBD supplementation with your physician if you are having difficulty conceiving or are currently undergoing fertility treatment.
CBD plays a pivotal role in over 60 molecular pathways located throughout our bodies. These include immune system receptors, TRP receptors, serotonin receptors, and others. Due to its versatility, thousands of health-conscious users throughout the world are advocates of the health benefits CBD provides.
The range of positive effects that CBD can provide is partially down to its direct interaction with the endocannabinoid system. However, this action is mostly indirect, with CBDs primary function evident as the magnification of anandamides’ impact of the body.
The stimulation of the CB1 and CB2 receptors, which is directly influenced by CBD consumption, may help to relieve a wide range of conditions. It’s also clear that regular CBD supplementation could be beneficial to maintaining a healthy immune system, cardiovascular system, and protect the brain from neurological degeneration.