The Wonders of CBD: What You Should Know About The Amazing Compound
CBD, short for cannabidiol, has amazed the world over the past few years. This miracle compound has stopped epileptic seizures, calmed psychotic patients, and soothes those in chronic pain. But, what is it and how does it work? How is it different from THC? These are great questions, and everyone should know the answer. To help you become more familiar with the cannabinoid this post from HERB shares everything you need to know about CBD.
The CBD movement
Before she was five years old, Charlotte Figi stopped laughing.
Dravet syndrome affects roughly 1 in 30,000 infants around the globe. Though most Dravet patients begin their lives as healthy children, development quickly begins to regress after the first few months. Intense seizures overtake children as young as three months old.
Intense seizures overtake children as young as three months old. These seizures cause them to lose consciousness and convulse for up to a few hours at a time.
The Figi’s were desperate to find relief for their daughter after years of rushed trips to the ER. The dealt with complications from experimental medications and being told that they’ve reached “the end of the line.” They finally made the decision that would ultimately spur a movement and, more importantly, bring their daughter back to life.
The Figi’s decided to treat their daughter with cannabidiol (CBD), one of the primary compounds found in the marijuana plant.
What is cannabidiol (CBD)?
Cannabidiol is one of the most prevalent chemical compounds found inside the resin glands (trichomes) of the female cannabis plant. These chemical compounds are known as cannabinoids, or substrates that bind to special receptors on your cells. These cell receptors make up a larger endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system is a vast network of cell receptor proteins with many functions. Certain receptors are heavily concentrated in the central nervous system. But, others are found all over the body. They’re in your skin, digestive tract, and even in your reproductive organs.
The endocannabinoid system helps control everything from mood, cognition, movement, appetite, immune response, sleep, ovulation, and sperm development.
The human body produces compounds similar to those in the cannabis plant, called endocannabinoids. Molecules found on the herb are technically called phytocannabinoids. Like CBD’s more famous relative, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol is just one of 85+ phytocannabinoids found in the marijuana plant.
Very unlike THC, however, CBD is non-psychoactive.
Yep, that’s right. CBD cannot get you “high” or “stoned” in the way that THC does. While CBD still has an effect on your body, consuming CBD by itself isn’t going to send you on the cerebral adventure associated with THC. For decades, medical professionals and the general public overlooked CBD because marijuana’s psychoactive effects took center stage.
CBD: Underappreciated for too long
When Paige and Matt Figi first began their search for non-psychoactive cannabis in Colorado, they fell upon some tough luck. Since the 1980s, marijuana breeders have had one major goal: creating the most potent, psychoactive cannabis out there.
The competition is tough. After nearly three decades of rising demands for psychoactive, it’s not uncommon to walk into a dispensary today and find cannabis with THC content over 20%.
Focusing on THC content alone meant growers selectively began to eliminate overlooked CBD from the mixture, making access nearly impossible for anyone hoping to experiment with CBD as medicine.
Fortunately for children like Charlotte, one Colorado family was ahead of the curve. The Stanley Brothers had been developing exactly the plant the Figi’s had been searching for: a strain high in CBD and low in THC.
Before making the final decision to try CBD as a treatment, Charlotte was having 300 grand mal seizures a week, one every 15 minutes.
After adding CBD oil to her daily routine? CBD kept Charlotte’s seizures at bay for an entire week. The Figi’s were astonished.
I didn’t hear her laugh for six months. I didn’t hear her voice at all, just her crying. I can’t imagine that I would be watching her making these gains that she’s making, doing the things that she’s doing (without the medical marijuana). I don’t take it for granted. Every day is a blessing. – Paige Figi
CNN first aired Charlotte’s story in 2013. Since then, CBD has been making headlines all over the world. Families began relocating to Denver to find medical cannabis for their sick children. Even states that once seemed centuries away from changing their cannabis policy began to introduce pro-CBD legislative initiatives.
Now, high-CBD strains can be found at nearly every medical cannabis dispensary in medical states. All thanks to the Stanley Brothers and the Figis for sharing their incredible story.
How does CBD work?
In general, far more marijuana research is needed to figure out just what effect this herb has on our bodies. But, to say that our understanding of CBD is “lacking” would be an understatement.
We have come a long way in CBD research. There are even new pharmaceutical drugsthat are nothing more than purified CBD. But, CBD is one complicated compound.
One reason why figuring out all of the ways CBD actually works is so difficult is because it’s polypharmacological, meaning that it affects more than one aspect of our bodies at a time.
In a 2013 article, authors Srinivas Reddy and Shuexing Zhang summarize that,
Polypharmacology remains to be one of the major challenges in drug development, and it opens novel avenues to rationally design next generation of more effective but less toxic therapeutic agents.
Simply stated, when a drug causes bodily changes on multiple different levels, it’s difficult for us to figure out exactly how these changes interact with each other. So, while we now know quite a bit about CBD, the bottom of the iceberg still awaits discovery.
The science behind CBD
THC specifically binds to the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors on your cells. CBD doesn’t bind to these receptors very well. It prefers to do something a little different.
This is where things get complicated. Researchers have discovered a few ways that CBD interacts with the body, but this area of research is still fairly young. New discoveries are made each year.
Here’s a simple summary of what we currently know about CBD. The cannabinoid activates receptors such as vanilloid, adenosine, and serotonin receptors.
- Vanilloid receptors help mediate pain signals in the body
- Adenosine receptors help determine your sleep-wake cycle.
- Caffeine blocks adenosine and creates a feeling of alertness
- Serotonin receptors help control mood
CBD also regulates the endocannabinoids that occur naturally in your body. It blocks a particular fatty acid known as fatty-acid amide hydrolase (FAAH). This enzyme that’s responsible for breaking down the naturally occurring endocannabinoid anandamide in your body.
Anandamide helps regulate basic functions like pleasure and reward, appetite, ovulation, memory, sleep, and pain. With nothing to break anandamide into smaller parts, CBD boosts the amount of this chemical in your system.
But that’s not all. Cannabidiol has been shown to engage with receptors that help modulate body temperature and immune function, reducing inflammation. So, it does quite a lot of different things.
CBD vs THC
There is another fascinating component to CBD. It’s what biochemists refer to as a negative modulator for THC. Meaning, CBD actually negates some of the psychoactive effects of THC.
CBD may have an extremely low affinity for the CB1 receptors in the central nervous system, but the compound still can affect them.
Consuming CBD actually blocks some of your brain’s CB1 receptors, meaning that THC cannot have an effect on them.
Another interesting difference between the two cannabinoids is their effect on metabolism. You’ve probably already heard of the munchies. THC is to blame for all of those late night snacks after consuming a little cannabis.
CBD actually has the opposite effect. Studies have shown that CBD decreases appetite and increases satiety.
Image credits: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/y8qKLFbdclI/maxresdefault.jpg
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