If you’re interested in using CBD, it’s important to understand why and how it might help you. CBD was discovered back in 1940 and since then there’s been a huge amount of research into how it works. Derived from the hemp plant, CBD replicates the function of a naturally occurring lipid (fat) within the human body. There are two classifications of cannabinoids, endogenous and exogenous cannabinoids. The endogenous cannabinoids are created within your body, while the exogenous cannabinoids are from external sources that act to supplement what your system naturally produces.
When it comes to where they actually fit into your system, you’ll find them across what’s called the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
What is the endocannabinoid system?
The endocannabinoid system is a collection of neurotransmitters and receptors that work together to help regulate a huge number of bodily functions. It works by binding the endocannabinoid to the neurotransmitters. If the ECS isn’t working as it should, either due to poor function or a deficiency, your body can struggle to normalise a number of important functions.
The endogenous cannabinoid your body naturally produces is called anandamide. In the same way you can be deficient in or have problems metabolising minerals like calcium or iron, you can also have low levels of anandamide. Just like how you might take a Vitamin D tablet in winter to supplement for a lack of sunlight, you can take CBD to compensate for low levels of endogenous cannabinoids.
CBD acts in the same way as anandamide and can help support your body’s natural ability to re-normalise several key functions.
People take CBD to support their body with a number of complaints and issues. Some of the more minor examples include tiredness, a general feeling of being “off”, irritability, poor memory and poor sleep. More extreme examples include things like anxiety, depression, motor function issues, appetite loss and pain.
There are two key classifications of cannabinoids and there are also two kinds of receptors, each of which serves a slightly different function. The first group are the CB1 receptors which are found in abundance in the nervous system and the brain. They can also be found to a lesser extent in some of your other organs like the spleen and intestine. Due to their location, they’re largely responsible for normal brain functions like motor control, mood, memory and perception and regulation of pain.
The second kind is the CB2 receptors which are fewer in number than CB1 and can be found in the gut, white blood cells and the spleen. When these receptors are stimulated, they support a healthy immune system, your appetite and relieve inflammation in the body.
How does it work?
The difference between THC and CBD:
CBD and THC are both well-known examples of exogenous cannabinoids. They’re both capable of attaching to and synthesising with your cannabinoid receptors but have different effects. THC is a psychoactive compound. It carries the “high” effect when it attaches to your CB1 receptors in the brain. While it can carry some of the same benefits of CBD, it isn’t legal and impairs mental function when taken in high doses.
An excess of either THC or CBD in the system can cause lethargy and drowsiness. However, CBD is both legal and non-psychoactive. Unlike THC, CBD can also be taken in high doses by humans without negatively impacting normal mental function. You can also supplement with CBD regularly and in higher doses without serious or long term ill-effects.
CBD attaches to cannabinoid receptors in the same way anandamide does. By getting more CBD into your system you can help regulate your body’s cannabinoid levels, allowing it to function more normally. Depending on the dose and which receptors are stimulated, CBD can help alleviate conditions ranging from mood and anxiety disorders and sleep problems to poor appetite, inflammation and pain.
What effect does the endocannabinoid system have?
Supplementing the endocannabinoid system with CBD can help support the normal function of a number of organs and systems. People take CBD for a multitude of conditions and reasons, some of which include:
- Gut health/normal digestive function and healthy appetite. Due to the high number of receptors found in the intestines as well as peripheral organs like the spleen and liver, supplementing with CBD is often used by people with gut health issues. Inflammatory diseases like Crohn’s and IBS can improve with the use of CBD as it targets the source of inflammation. Due to your gut producing a number of your body’s hormones, hormonal health also often improves⁽⁴⁾. CBD has also been found to reduce nausea and vomiting. As such, it’s been used by patients undergoing things like chemotherapy that can result in sickness after treatment⁽²⁾.
- Mood support and reducing anxiety and stress as well as memory function. There’s a high concentration of CB1 receptors found in the brain. When they’re stimulated they can improve the body’s ability to normalise mood and stress levels. This in turn can support better sleep patterns and alleviate some of the symptoms and severity of anxiety and depression ⁽¹⁾.
- Pain relief. CBD has been used historically for pain relief the world over, but is now gaining legitimacy amongst those with pain disorders as well as athletes using it for recovery⁽²⁾. Due to being naturally anti-inflammatory, CBD has been used to help with conditions like joint pain and muscular strain. Taking it sublingually allows it to filter through to both the CB1 and CB2 receptors, reducing swelling, pain, inflammation and speeding up recovery time⁽³⁾.
- Movement disorders including positively affecting things like Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy⁽²⁾. Due to how pervasive the CB1 receptors are throughout the nervous system as well as the sheer number of them, CBD is antispasmodic and can maintain more normal motor function.
- An introduction to the endogenous cannabinoid system - ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- The Endocannabinoid System as an Emerging Target of Pharmacotherapy - ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- Is cannabis an effective treatment for joint pain? - ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- Minireview: Gut Microbiota: The Neglected Endocrine Organ - academic.oup.com
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