CBD: How It Works and Why It Has So Many Benefits
Are you still curious about how CBD oil works? Yes, people have started using cannabidiol (CBD) oil to a treat myriad health issues, but how does it work at the cellular level to influence our physiological responses?
Considering CBD oil is such a novel supplement, it's entirely reasonable to crave an understanding about what you are putting into your body. Let's set the record straight, and explain the fundamental role CBDs play in our body. After a little preliminary research, the next time someone asks you about CBD, you should have all the answers you need.
What is The Endocannabinoid System?
A recent accidental discovery, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is the master of a vast array of essential physiological processes. Unbeknownst to scientists until its discovery in 1990, the ECS controls pain management, mood, appetite, immune function, and inflammatory response -- just to name a few.
Although the ECS technically is spread out all over your body, two primary receptors appear most often in the literature, the CB1, and CB2 receptors. The CB1 receptor is in your brain and central nervous system, and the CB2 receptor is in your immune system, digestive tract and around your internal organs.
The ECS is in charge of maintaining the perfect internal environment, what scientists like to call homeostasis. If there is a problem, such as localized pain, or an onset of depression, the endocannabinoid system ramps up production of whatever particular chemical is required. These compounds are called endocannabinoids. You may have heard of some of the most common ones, such as dopamine and anandamide. These chemicals travel to where they are needed and bind with the associated receptor.
What happens if there is a dysfunctional receptor? Not enough endocannabinoids, or too many? Just like anything else, the ECS can be prone to misfiring in times of need. Thankfully, when there is a chemical imbalance, phytocannabinoids can come in quite handy.
Just like the cannabinoids produced by the human body, the ones found in cannabis, such as THC or CBD (also called phytocannabinoids), can influence and interact with our ECS. Dozens upon dozens of cannabinoids already have been identified, but THC and CBD are probably the most understood.
The interesting thing about cannabinoids is they were how the endocannabinoid system was discovered in the first place. Since the early 1990s, when scientists determined cannabis interacted with this novel ECS system, cannabinoid and endocannabinoid research has grown exponentially.
How CBD Interacts with The Endocannabinoid System
Each one of the cannabinoids found in cannabis interacts differently in our system. The more familiar cannabinoid, THC, binds directly to the CB1 receptors found throughout our brain and central nervous system. Cannabidiol’s effects are less direct. CBD’s influence is much more nuanced than its sister cannabinoid, but still seems to have an affinity for both the primary receptors. Although it can stimulate their activity, it cannot bind directly. It likes to tickle the receptor instead of locking into it.
What is interesting about CBD’s relationship with the inner workings of the human body is CBD also has demonstrated a strong relationship with some non-cannabinoid receptors. Its relationship with each receptor is still in the preliminary stages of research, but so far seems to support some of the anecdotal evidence reported by patients.
The language involved with the subject is understandably dense and full of jargon. But at this cellular level of CBD interaction, there is a potential to develop and better understand many therapeutic applications. The list below represents a summary of the current understanding of CBD’s most well-understood interactions: pain, mood and emotional memory.1. Reduces Anxiety and Spiraling Trains of Thought
When it comes to CBD and the human body, the interaction that scientists understand the most is between CBD and the CB1 receptor. Unlike THC, which binds directly with the CB1 receptor, CBD has a more nuanced relationship
The role of CBD will reduce the length and intensity of a “high” related to THC. Even a relatively small ratio of CBD to THC will have a calming effect and reduce the sensation of paranoia and anxiety often reported by marijuana users. What makes CBD especially popular for medicinal purposes is it has none of THC’s mind-altering effects.
Its soothing capability goes beyond its applications for THC-induced anxiety. It also has shown through small-scale human trials to be beneficial during social situations, perhaps due to its activation of serotonin receptors, specifically one called 5-HT1A. Researchers have concluded that large doses of CBD can stimulate this receptor and reduce the sensation of overall fear. In animal trials, low doses over longer periods of time also have reduced physiological indicators of stress.2. Uplifts Mood
On top of its ability to reduce agitation through its interactions with the serotonin receptors, CBD also may help reduce downward-trending mood swings. Researchers have found that CBD inhibits the reuptake of serotonin, encouraging this mood-modulating endocannabinoid to remain active longer.
In preliminary studies, cannabidiol has been found to stimulate hippocampal neurogenesis. For those who don’t know, the hippocampus is an area of the brain that regulates human emotion. Studies using brain scans have shown the hippocampus is typically much smaller in people suffering from depression. Researchers are hopeful that promotion of new cell growth in the hippocampus could reduce the severity and duration of depression.3. May Potentially Target Cancerous Cells
A growing body of laboratory research has demonstrated that CBD seems to inhibit tumor growth, migration and metastasis - at least in the petri dish. Researchers have determined one way CBD might target cancerous cells is through a rarely discussed receptor, the PPAR.
The PPAR seems to play a role in cancer cell proliferation. Again, CBD blocks these receptors from functioning, potentially preventing tumor development. Some initial research suggests, at least in human lung cancer cells, that CBD oil can induce tumor regression.
Another receptor that CBD interacts with is called the GPR55 receptor, which is found throughout your brain. If the GPR55 receptor begins to hyperactivate, it also may stimulate the proliferation of cancer cell growth. Again, scientists have discovered preliminary evidence that CBD oil could inhibit the overactive signaling of the GRP55 receptor. Through a variety of receptor interactions, CBD oil is being explored as a way to inhibit cancer cell growth.