Cannabis is a widely understudied and misunderstood plant. It has been deemed unsafe and therefore illegal by the US government, and has only recently begun to be accepted by individual state legislations. While many have heard of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is known for its psychoactive properties, there is another well-researched compound in cannabis that has been found to have several medicinal properties: cannabidiol.
What is CBD
Otherwise known as CBD, cannabidiol can derive from either the cannabis plant or hemp (Sacred Leaf uses industrial hemp). Hemp is the least processed form of the cannabis plant, and it contains a maximum of 0.3% THC by definition.
CBD is one of 113 cannabinoids found in cannabis. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that bind to two kinds of receptors in the human body, known as CB1 and CB2 receptors. These make up what is known as the endocannabinoid system.
The human body naturally produces many endocannabinoids that bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors, which are found on the surface of many cells. When bound, certain responses are activated – such as cognitive functioning and neurological pain management.
Cannabinoids found in cannabis, also known as phytocannabinoids, also bind to these receptors, and when they do they mimic or counteract the effects of some endocannabinoids. Most phytocannabinoids in the cannabis plant have been found to contain some medicinal value.
In fact, US Patent no. 6,630,507 claims that cannabinoids act as “antioxidants and neuroprotectants,” and the patent is owned by the United States of America as represented by the Department of Health and Human Services. In other words, the US government recognizes that “nonpsychoactive cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol, are particularly advantageous to use because they avoid toxicity that is encountered with psychoactive cannabinoids” and can limit neurological damage caused by certain diseases and disorders.
What is the Endocannabinoid System?
All animals have an endogenous cannabinoid system (ECS) that regulates biological functions of both the mind and body. CB1 and CB2 receptors only react to certain compounds, while they are unaffected by others. They can be activated by the endocannabinoids naturally found in the human body or phytocannabinoids found in cannabis.
When cannabinoids do bind to CB1 or CB2 receptors, the cells that the receptors are on experience changes in cell activity, gene control, or communication between bordering cells.
CB1 receptors are found in the brain, connective tissue, genitals, and glands, but are missing from parts of the brain that control lungs and heart functioning. When compounds bind to these receptors, there are changes in coordination, sensory perception, spatial awareness, and cognitive performance. CB1 activation can also regulate serotonin and dopamine, which affect mood and overall happiness. This is typically through the binding of the phytocannabinoid THC.
CB2 receptors are mainly found in other areas of the body, such as the immune system, gut, heart, liver, kidneys, bones, lymph cells, blood vessels, endocrine glands, and reproductive organs. Cannabinoids that bind to these receptors help to control inflammatory diseases, acute pain, chronic inflammatory pain, and neuropathic pain. Newer studies also show that CB2 receptor activation affects signal processing in the brain. CBD is the phytocannabinoid most known for reacting with CB2 receptors.
How does CBD Affect the Endocannabinoid System?
More and more research has shown that CBD could be used as a new treatments for both mental disorders and chronic pain. Besides with CB2 receptors found throughout the body, CBD also has at least 12 sites of action within the brain.
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine found that CBD significantly reduces chronic pain and inflammation in rats and mice, which implies that CBD could be used as a suitable treatment for chronic pain in humans. In addition, CBD has been found to possess anti-seizure, anti-psychotic, and anti-anxiety properties.
Studies in 2013 also found that CBD may treat addictions. A report published in Addictive Behaviors found that cigarette smokers who began using CBD were able to fight cravings for nicotine easier and smoked fewer cigarettes as a result. A similar study published in the Journal of Opioid Management found that CBD may be a reliable treatment for opioid addictions.
According to a 2013 article in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, cannabidiol also has a potential to act as an “anticancer drug.” In other words, CBD tends to stop the growth of cancer cells and tumors while also promoting their destruction.
Of course, smoking any substance can carry risky side effects – it is important to remember that there are many alternative ways to ingest cannabidiol that do not require inhalation , such as in capsule or tincture form. CBD has proven to have many health benefits, both mentally and physically. In many ways, our bodies are designed to reap the positive effects of the phytocannabinoids within cannabis plants (including hemp). The US government seems to believe this as well, according to their patent on the substance. With safe ingestion methods and expanded knowledge of its benefits, CBD may be the alternative treatment you’ve been looking for.