The Endocannabinoid System
Before delving into the potential ways CBD can be used and the effects it can have modulating the body’s responses to pain and other issues, it is necessary to discuss the way the CBD compound act on the body. Taking some time to familiarize yourself with the endocannabinoid system, its structure, and processes will be infinitely helpful in understanding the many uses of CBD.
What is the Endocannabinoid System?
The first step to understanding CBD and its effects on the body is to look at the endogenous cannabinoid system, more commonly known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS.) This term refers to the system of receptors located throughout the body that show a physiological response to cannabinoids; “endo” and “phyto.” Endocannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds within our bodies. Phytocannabinoids are derived naturally from plants.
Cannabinoids bind to receptors within our ECS and impact the homeostatic state of our health and well-being. Studying the ECS can help us understand and describe the ways in which cannabis acts on the human body at a cellular level.
Specifically, the body contains various receptors that interact with cannabinoids. Two of the most common receptors found within our ECS are known as the CB1 and CB2 receptors. When these receptors are activated by cannabinoids, we see an impact on such physiological processes as pain modulation, anti-inflammation, and immune system responses.
So what do these receptors do? A key fact about endocannabinoid receptors is that they are not only present throughout the body, they are also believed to be more numerous than any other receptor system. Because they’re so prolific, they impact a wide variety of functions. CB1 receptors, which are most abundant in the central nervous system, can have a tremendous impact on such factors as stress and anxiety. CB2 receptors, meanwhile, are more concentrated in the immune system and govern the body’s immune responses.
The Role of Cannabis on the Endocannabinoid System
We have already spoken of the endogenous—naturally occurring within the body—compounds that have an impact on the endocannabinoid system. When we begin to discuss cannabis, however, we are talking about a “phyto” compound. Phytocannabinoids come from outside the body and its naturally occurring processes, like cannabis.
The endocannabinoid system is specifically acted upon by phytocannabinoid compounds found within cannabis and other plants. The most well-known and often discussed of these are THC and CBD, and each has powerful effects on the endocannabinoid system.
CBD and the Endocannabinoid System
CBD is activating our ECS’s to maintain our bodies normal function. Whether it is pain, inflammation, stress, cancer, fibromyalgia, psoriasis, acne, or depression, CBD works naturally with our ECS to keep our body systems functioning how they should to keep us healthy.
One of the most effective uses of CBD in conjunction with the endocannabinoid system is as an analgesic. CBD also has anti-inflammatory effects, as previously discussed. As a result, those dealing with chronic pain often find CBD a helpful way to manage pain.
But what about more severe ailments? Surprisingly, CBD has even shown to have a powerful effect combating cancer. The anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effects of CBD can interfere with such processes as tumor growth, cancer cell migration, and cancer metastasization. Although CBD should certainly not be mistaken for a cure or substituted for traditional cancer treatments, patients may find these effects useful.
It is an interesting fact that while tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has been considered a risk factor for the development of psychological disorders, CBD carries no such risk, and indeed, no psychotomimetic effects. In fact, tests have actually identified antipsychotic properties in CBD. While this phenomenon requires further investigation, it has promising implications for those suffering from mental illness.
On a similar note, we have already discussed the anti-anxiety effects that may be achieved when the body’s endocannabinoids (specifically, the CB1 receptors) are triggered. Because CBD does not produce a psychoactive effect, where THC does, it is an effective way of stimulating those receptors without producing an anxiety-inducing state.
Though endocannabinoids are naturally occurring in the body, in some cases the endocannabinoid system will produce too few of them. This is known as endocannabinoid deficiency, and it is a phenomenon that is only just beginning to be explored. However, signs already point to a wealth of knowledge to be gained, and a tremendous opportunity for CBD to play a role.
The idea of ill effects on the body caused by endocannabinoid deficiency was first proposed by Dr. Ethan Russo, certified neurologist and Medical Director at Phytecs biotechnology company. Dr. Russo postulated that, just as other neurotransmitter systems in the body have pathological conditions that can be attributed to their deficiency, a deficiency in endocannabinoids could contribute to or exacerbate a number of conditions.
According to Dr. Russo, an endocannabinoid deficiency is most likely to contribute directly to hyperalgesic effects—in other words, to pain. Consequently, endocannabinoid deficiency has been linked to such physiological responses as migraines and fibromyalgia. These painful conditions and many others can make it difficult to lead a normal, happy life.
One of the most promising ways to reduce symptoms associated with endocannabinoid deficiency is through the use of CBD.