How Does CBD work?
When people come to me with a varying array of ailments, my first response is “Have you tried CBD?”. Half of the time I am kidding and poking fun at an ever growing, and sometimes annoyingly relevant industry, but most times I’m incredibly genuine. By now you’ve seen CBD advertised almost everywhere for issues ranging from anxiety and depression to inflammation and pain. So how can one product, CBD, help with such a WIDE range of issues and why do I always recommend trying CBD first? This all has to do with your Endocannabinoid System.
What is CBD?
The most common of the cannabinoids are CBD and THC.
CBD, which stands for cannabidiol, is a type of cannabinoid found within the cannabis plant. It is primarily found within the cannabis sativa L strain, better known as Hemp. The most common of the cannabinoids are CBD and THC, though the emergence and discovery of other cannabinoids such as CBG, CBN, and CBC are starting to make an appearance in fields and greenhouses around the country. Researchers learn more and more about CBD everyday but so far have discovered CBD can have an impact on:
- pain & inflammation
- anxiety and depression
- alleviate symptoms of cancer and cancer treatment
- symptoms of IBS and Crohn's Disease
- can act as a neuroprotectant
The majority of hemp is grown in two different ways. One is a very tall, stalky plant that is harvested for industrial goods such as building materials or cotton alternatives to clothing. The other is a short bushy plant that is grown for therapeutic benefits and contains high cannabinoid content. The genetics of these short bushy plants can vary depending on the type of cannabinoid you are wanting to extract.
When CBD is extracted from a hemp plant, it can then be used to create therapeutic products such as CBD Oil or tinctures, lotions, gummies, even dog treats! These are the products we have come to know and love. There are also several types of CBD.
What is THC?
CBD, the non-psychotropic plant-based chemical is a stark contrast to THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, the highly psychoactive cannabinoid found within the plant. THC is responsible for the “high” feeling you get when you consume marijuana-based products. The high isn’t the only thing THC is good for. It has also been shown to help with:
- & Anxiety, just to name a few.
When CBD, or THC, is introduced into the body, it works by interacting with our Endocannabinoid System. That’s right, we have an ENTIRE system in our body that specifically interacts with cannabinoids.
What is the Endocannabinoid System?
Your Endocannabinoid System is a primary system in your body, much like your Cardiovascular System, Endocrine System, or Respiratory System. It’s primary function is to create homeostasis within the body. Homeostasis is defined as a “stable equilibrium” or balance within the body. When your body is balanced, or in a homeostatic state, it functions at peak levels. While medical experts are still studying the vast and complex ins and outs of the Endocannabinoid System, researchers have already discovered it is responsible for regulating:
- Reproductive Health
- Motor Development and
- Pain Perception
- Among other Chronic Pain issues
Let’s put it this way, when you suffer from anxiety or depression, it is caused by a chemical imbalance. If you suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Crohn's Disease or arthritis, it is caused by an imbalance. So, if the Endocannabinoid System is responsible for rebalancing the body, how can you leverage your body’s ability to activate it? You guessed it, CANNABINOIDS! In fact, the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is activated not only by endogenous cannabinoids, or naturally occurring cannabinoids within the body, it is also activated by phytocannabinoids, or plant-based cannabinoids.
This is where CBD, THC and various other cannabinoids come in. Derived from the cannabis plant, cannabinoids have been used for many years as a therapy for issues ranging from anxiety and depression to pain and insomnia. But worry not, CBD, and other compounds such as CBG, CBN, and CBC, won’t get you high but can provide you with a mount of therapeutic benefits. So how exactly does it work?
How Does the Endocannabinoid System work?
Now that we have a general understanding of what the Endocannabinoid System is, let’s talk about how it works, and how CBD plays an important role in a healthy Endocannabinoid System. The ECS is a body wide system that has two receptors: CB1 and CB2. The CB1 receptors are based primarily throughout the central nervous system while the CB2 receptors are primarily located throughout the peripheral nervous and digestive systems. Endocannabinoids bind to these receptors throughout the body. Where they bind, determines how they work. For instance, if you’re having anxiety and depression, endocannabinoids may bind to CB1 receptors in the brain.
THC and the Endocannabinoid System
THC, the psychotropic cannabinoid that is responsible for giving you the “high” feeling often associated with marijuana use, works by directly interacting with these receptors, much like a lock and key system. Much like our endocannabinoids Anandamide and 2-AG, this plant based cannabinoid can bind with both the CB1 and CB2 receptors.
CBD and the Endocannabinoid System
CBD *indirectly* interacts with these receptors to activate your ECS and keep it working in its greatest capacity. While it is not known exactly how CBD works within the body, it is widely accepted that it does not bind with receptors unlike THC, but instead interferes with the enzymes that prematurely break down, Anandamide and 2-AG, allowing our body to uptake much more of its naturally occurring endocannabinoids. This is why we see CBD working so well for people of all ailments. When using CBD, we are quite literally allowing our body to heal itself!
How does CBD make you feel?
It’s no secret that THC is responsible for getting you high. But what about CBD? How does CBD make you feel? This is one of my favorite questions I get asked. My answer to this question is always: “It’s not what you feel, but rather what you don’t feel”. When you take a Tylenol you don’t expect your mental capacity to be altered but you hope that, within a short amount of time, your shoulder pain goes away, right? Next thing you know, you’re walking along and you’re feeling better! CBD works MUCH like that! Only it has many more benefits from a natural health standpoint as compared to taking an over-the-counter medicine (OTC) like Tylenol and Advil which are known for causing liver damage. CBD can create a calm throughout the body using the freeway of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) all throughout every cell of your body. From our brain to our belly, our back to our heart, our eyes, and everything in between. CBD travels far and fast on the ECS pathways.
Are all Endocannabinoid Systems (ECS) created equal?
Every individual’s specific “ECS” is different. Everyone’s body is in a different state of homeostasis or lack thereof. This is why what may work for one person may not work for another. When using phytocannabinoids to help boost your Endocannabinoid System, it is imperative to listen to your body. Start slow, notice how your body is responding and make tweaks where necessary.
Our Bodies and Hemp
Hemp and cannabis were taken out of our regular diets 80+ years ago. Yes, it’s true, your ancestors used to get down on some hemp seeds, hemp flour, and hemp fed animals. Even our very first United States president George Washington had a hemp farm. Our Endocannabinoid Systems have stayed relatively dormant over the past few generations and are only now beginning to be woken up as we incorporate hemp back into our diets. Hemp was once a primary source of food that livestock would eat before prohibition in 1937. When livestock ingest hemp feed, their bodies also take in the positive effects associated with the plant. A healthier animal means a healthier food supply. Check out this study Kansas State University is currently conducting on the topic.
There is still so much to learn about the Endocannabinoid System and hemp. After almost a century of this plant being labeled as criminal and a schedule 1 drug, meaning it has absolutely no health benefits, we are finding that just isn’t the case. Cannabis is an important part of our lives. Congress has recently made it easier for colleges and universities to begin studying the effects of CBD and THC on the body. As more and more information is revealed, we are seeing the importance of cannabis being used in the daily life of humans.