Cannabidiol (CBD) What We Know and What We Don't: The Science Behind CBD
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a chemical compound in cannabis that has significant wellness benefits, but does not make people feel "stoned" and can counteract the psychoactive effects of THC. The fact that CBD-rich cannabis doesn't get you high makes it an appealing treatment option for patients seeking anti-inflammatory, antianxiety, anti-spasm relief without the lethargy or dysphoria caused by other drugs.
Long used as part of Ayurvedic medicine in India, CBD oil made from hemp extract was introduced to Western society during World War II when soldiers came home with post-traumatic stress disorder and found they could be calmed down by smoking marijuana. Nowadays, we know the endocannabinoid system is responsible for maintaining internal balance in the body, and scientists are beginning to understand how CBD has this soothing effect.
A Difficult Delivery
The discovery of the endocannabinoid system was made difficult in part because of marijuana's long-standing prohibition. "Marijuana has been illegal for so long and people have been scared to study it," says Dr. Perry Solomon, Chief Medical Officer of HelloMD. "Now we are finding that cannabis is a complex plant with many compounds that have potential clinical applications."
Key players in the human body's endocannabinoid system include cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2), which are found on cells throughout the body. CB1 receptors are concentrated in the brain, lungs, liver, kidneys, immune system, and reproductive organs. By contrast, CB2 receptors are located in cells that respond to pain, inflammation, and injury. Research has revealed that many illnesses can cause symptoms by triggering CB1 and/or CB2 receptors to become over-activated. Although scientists are still sorting out the details, it is thought that CBD helps mediate the body's response both directly and indirectly:
Directly by being an inverse agonist at CB1 receptors. In other words, it flips the normal response on its head to produce a soothing effect.
Indirectly, by inhibiting enzymes that normally activate cannabinoid receptors and metabolizing endocannabinoids, so they stay in the body longer.
A lot of research is going on right now to understand exactly how CBD works and in what ways it potentially helps ease pain, anxiety, and other issues. Scientists are conducting studies using animal models such as rodents to see if they can isolate certain effects of CBD based on dosage or breed differences. Other researchers are studying the impact of cannabidiol on gut health because the human microbiome has its own endocannabinoid system which is influenced by CBD.
"Unfortunately, there are still people who argue that cannabis has no medicinal value at all," adds Dr. Solomon. "But now we can see how it works throughout the body and why it's helpful for so many conditions."
Relief with No High
One of the most compelling things about CBD oil is that it has the potential to ease pain and reduce anxiety with no mind-altering side effects. "CBD compounds are not habit-forming or toxic to healthy cells, unlike other anti-inflammatory drugs," says Dr. Malik Burnett, Co-Founder of GreenLight Medicines, a California-based company that aims to provide the finest quality evidence-based medicinal cannabis products.
"CBD works on so many levels within our bodies, including sending messages through our immune system and central nervous system. It's one of the most exciting substances in my practice right now."
Currently, CBD is easier for patients to access than THC because it does not produce a psychoactive high. However, the CBD market is still in its early stages and products can vary widely in quality and dosage. "I always recommend patients do their homework before purchasing any CBD products," says Burnett. "Some companies are using poor-quality hemp extract or adding unnecessary chemicals to their products."
CBD oil has the potential to become one of the most popular and well-known forms of cannabis-based medicine. It is non-addictive, helps mediate a wide variety of health concerns, and has no psychoactive side effects. With more research underway, CBD will likely continue to be shown to have even more benefits.
While CBD oil is the most well-known and popular form of cannabidiol, it's only one of many possible molecules in cannabis that could have therapeutic potential. "There are over 100 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, and each one has a slightly different effect on the body," says Dr. Solomon. "THC is the one that's most well-known for causing the psychoactive high, but CBD is non-intoxicating and has been shown to be helpful for a wide variety of conditions."
Between Two Worlds
When she first entered the hemp-derived cannabinoids market, Michele Ross was faced with a choice. As a neuroscientist who had long studied the endocannabinoid system, "I knew all about CBD and THC," she says. But now that she was an entrepreneur launching her own business, it wasn't so simple.
"On one hand, I wanted to educate people about the benefits of all the cannabinoids. But on the other hand, I knew that I needed to focus on CBD because that's where the market is right now."
Ross decided to go with her gut and focus on CBD products. "CBD is in a weird place between two worlds," she says. "It is still illegal according to the federal level, but at the same time, it's used in products that are legal on a state-by-state basis. There are also pharmaceutical companies working with CBD to treat epilepsy and other conditions."
Ross set out on her journey of building awareness for CBD oil by traveling all around the country conducting workshops and talks. This November, the company she co-founded with Dr. Dina and Jason Cranford, Neurosciences Institute, will have a presence at Paris' Cannatech Expo. "In the United States, cannatech has been around for a while now," says Ross. "But in Europe, as far as I know, this is one of the first medical cannabis and CBD conferences."
Cannatech, which was founded in 2014, is now an internationally-known event that focuses on bringing together industry professionals from around the world. "In France, there are now more than 160 different CBD companies," says Ross. "The market for hemp-derived cannabinoids is exploding all over Europe as well."
People are hungry to learn more about CBD oil and how it can help them, but Ross is quick to point out that it isn't for everyone. "CBD works best in conjunction with the endocannabinoid system," she says. "We all have cannabinoid receptors present in our bodies, but some people's systems are working better than others. So for some people, CBD alone might be the right fit. But other people may need to take additional steps to get their endocannabinoids working appropriately."
Dr. Dina agrees that CBD oil isn't a universal cure-all. "We have seen great results with our patients," she says, "but it's important to remember that CBD is not a silver bullet. It's one piece of the puzzle...."
Stuck in The Weeds
Cannabis has been around for centuries, and people have been using it to treat a variety of health concerns. But up until recently, much of the cannabis research has been focused on the psychoactive compound THC. "THC has always been the focus of cannabis research because it's the molecule that causes the high," says Burnett. "But CBD is non-intoxicating and has been shown to be helpful for a wide variety of conditions."
Other cannabinoids that are being studied include THCV, which has been shown to help reduce anxiety and control blood sugar levels, and CBC, which has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. "The cannabis plant is a complex and fascinating molecule," says Burnett. "As we continue to study it, we're finding that it has the potential to help with a wide variety of health concerns."
The future looks bright for CBD oil, and Ross is hopeful that more people will start to see the benefits of this amazing molecule. "CBD is a natural product that has been shown to have many health benefits," she says. "I'm excited to see what will happen as more people take an interest in it."
CBD oil has shown promising results for many different health concerns. But as more people take an interest in this incredible molecule, what will happen next? Only time will tell, but one thing is certain – CBD oil isn't going anywhere. Ready to give CBD a try today? Shop our wide variety of natural CBD products.