With the 2018 Federal Passing of the Farm Bill, which allows farmers to grow and cultivate hemp plants, combined with the FDA’s recent approval of Epidiolex (first CBD medication), CBD is getting a whole lot of attention.
Until Recently, the best known cannabinoid was THC or marijuana. However, there are over 113 different cannabinoids.
This prominent cannabinoid is found mainly in hemp plants. Cannabinoids are natural occurring chemical compounds found in the cannabis sativa and mature hemp. It is important to understand that although CBD and THC come from the same plant they are completely different.
THC, also known as marijuana, is a cannabinoid that has psychoactive components that give the “high” feeling. CBD, however, is not psychoactive and does not give the “high” effect, but it has significant benefits to health and helps maintain balance in the body.
We actually have our own Endocannabinoid System commonly abbreviated the ECS, naturally occurring in our own bodies that bind the cannabinoids that we make ourselves.
The ECS is responsible for a wide variety of functions and is found in all major systems of the body. Its main role is in the regulation of homeostasis, meaning it keeps the body in balance. Similar to our endocrine system that regulates our hormones. When the body is out of balance it causes chronic inflammation, exhaustion, illness, and many other negative effects.
Homeostasis helps to avoid illness and promotes a greater quality of life.
CBD works as a supplement to the body’s own endocannabinoid system allowing the ECS to work more efficiently.Endocannabinoids (Endo – from within) and Phytocannabinoids (Phyto – from plant) Are almost identical in structure (bioidentical) to our own cannabinoids which is why they are able to interact so well with each other.
The ECS is present in all major systems in the body. This includes the central nervous system, cardiovascular system, and the endocrine system. The ECS works by sending and receiving important messages throughout the body that are responsible for controlling pain, mood, memory, cell lifespan, metabolism, immune system, appetite, sleep patterns, and many other areas.
The ECS is often referred to as the “Meta-System” because it is present in all eleven systems in the body and helps them function correctly.
The endocannabinoid system is made up of three main components:
Receptors (CB1 and CB2)
It is most easily understood if we think of cannabinoids like a lock and key mechanism with an enzyme present to make it more efficient. Every time a key (cannabinoid) fits into a lock (receptor), the lock opens and causes a reaction in that organ system.
There are two main types of endocannabinoids, or keys, found in the body: 2-arachidonoylglycerol also known as 2-AG and anandamide.
This omega-6 fatty acid ester is the most abundant endocannabinoid found in brain tissue. However, it is also attracted mostly to CB2 receptors, which is rare in this area of the body. In order for the body to absorb 2-AG, it must be activated by enzyme monoacylglycerol lipase. Research shows that once 2-AG is active in the body, it releases potent anti-inflammatory properties and is thought to be a very powerful endocannabinoid.
Anandamide is also an important omega-6 fatty acid and works as a neurotransmitter that influences how neurons respond to input. Anandamide is responsible for producing serotonin also referred to as the “bliss molecule”. It got its name from the Sanskrit translation which means joy, bliss, or delight. When the body releases anandamide, we get the feeling of happiness or the feeling referred to as the “runners high”. When we eat, or feel emotionally low, the body produces anandamide to bring the body back to balance. Research shows that anandamide plays and important role in controlling our appetite, cognitive and memory function, motivation, mental health, fertility, and pain perception.
There are also two main Enzymes in the endocannabinoid system: fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL)
Enzymes are substances in the body that cause chemical reactions or accelerates a certain reaction. Enzymes are also needed to insure that after endocannabinoids are used by the body, they are properly stored. Enzymes are essential to the ECS. Without enzymes the body would never function as efficiently as it does currently.
Just like cannabinoids and enzymes, there are two main receptors: CB1 and CB2
These receptors are found predominantly in the brain and spinal cord comprising the central nervous system. Other vital organs containing this receptor are the kidneys and lungs. They are responsible for regulating memory, appetite and reducing pain. This receptor is most closely associated with THC binding.
These receptors are mainly found in the digestive tract and immune system. These are the receptors that bind CBD. Interestingly enough they share a 44% gene sequence with the CB1 receptor that binds THC. This allows the CB1 receptor and the CB2 receptor to have cross reactivity however, at a lesser intensity. The main goal being to reduce inflammation found in many different areas throughout the body.
Together, CB1 and CB2 receptors help control the following functions in the body: mood, cell rejuvenation, memory, appetite, digestive processes, reward mechanisms, eye health, immune system and weight loss, just to name a few.
Causes of Deficiency
Endocannabinoids can be thought of like hormones…the body needs them to stay healthy. There are many things that can contribute to an endocannabinoid deficiency, here are just a few: AGE (aging can be thought of as chronic inflammation over a number of years). Chronic stress, genetics, infections, diseases, poor diet, negative reactions to medications and substance abuse.
Symptoms of an endocannabinoid deficiency can vary from person to person. However, if you have any of the following symptoms there is a good chance that you have an endocannabinoid deficiency. Symptoms might include stress, mood swings, issues with digestion, insomnia, loss or increase of appetite, skin problems or breakouts, sexual dysfunction, anxiety or depression, unable to focus, or weight gain.
The good thing is CBD can interact with the ECS (when taken daily) to possibly prevent or help correct specific symptoms. There are a wide variety of products to choose from to accomplish your individual goals.
Now that there is basic understanding of the of endocannabinoid system, let's look at all the potential benefits of CBD.
Central Nervous System
Research shows us that CBD influences levels of anandamide, the endocannabinoid we discussed previously. Anandamide is made by the nervous system to promote the use of serotonin in the brain. Remember, serotonin is referred to as the “bliss molecule” and can improve our mood. Because of this reaction, CBD is often used to support, or balance our mood. If your mood is low, there is a good possibility your serotonin levels are low.
Currently antidepressants are used to correct this deficiency, however, these medications come with their own set of side effects. Good news, CBD can help!
The cardiovascular system is made up of the heart, blood, and blood vessels. The heart sends the blood through the blood vessels to the heart where oxygenation takes place and returns the newly oxygenated blood to the body. It also helps rid the body of waste, or toxins. Cannabinoid receptors are found in the muscle tissue of the heart. These receptors can potentially cause blood vessels to dilate or restrict the force of contractions in the heart. This would cause blood pressure to decrease. Research shows that the ECS helps control heart rate and blood pressure. CBD could help balance this system for an overall healthier cardiovascular system.
Receptors for the endocannabinoid system are present throughout the digestive system. The endocannabinoid system is responsible for gastrointestinal function. This involves increasing motility, hunger signals and decreasing inflammation. Your gut plays a huge role in maintaining optimal health and is responsible not only for digestive health, but also for regulating your mental state, hormonal balance, and your immune system. Often the gut is referred to as the second brain and is extremely important in regulating functions of the body. If your gut is not in balance, it could cause disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and obesity. In some cases, auto immune diseases, extreme stress, poor diet, an overload of toxins, or other chronic health issues may result in what is called “leaky gut”. Leaky gut allows harmful bacteria and pathogens to pass through causing extreme inflammation. Research shows that CBD may play an important role in supporting gut health and could possibly help with conditions like leaky gut, IBS, and other conditions that cause intestinal inflammation.
The endocrine system is made up of glands and organs that control and maintain hormones found in the body. Hormones are responsible for regulating many different functions of the body such as: growth, reproduction, mood, sexual function, development, metabolism, balancing hunger, energy, and repairing cells. The ECS is an essential part of regulating the endocrine system and making sure it remains in balance. When the ECS is out of balance the body may produce to many or too few hormones which could lead to diseases such as diabetes, thyroid disease, sexual dysfunction, growth disorders, and other hormones related issues. It is possible CBD can work with our ECS to keep the endocrine system functioning at its optimal level.
CBD works to balance GABA and Glutamate receptors. These neurotransmitters are responsible for exciting and calming your system. When your levels of GABA and Glutamate are balanced, or in homeostasis, your body can function as it should.
If your body is producing too much GABA (inhibits/calms nervous system) you will feel exhausted, sluggish, tired, and slower thought processes. When your body is not producing enough GABA, you will have a much more difficult time relaxing and will likely experience feelings of anxiety, nervousness, less social, and may be more aggressive, or prone to panic attacks. If you have too much glutamate (stimulates nervous system), you most likely will feel like things are out of control. You might feel rushed and anxious. It can also increase levels of unfavorable bacterial in the gut that cause IBS and many other digestive issues.
Some potential concerns of producing an extreme abundance of glutamate include autism, schizophrenia, migraines, ALS, MS, fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and many others. When the ECS is deficient, CBD may be able to help balance the production of these neurotransmitters.
A healthy immune system begins with a healthy and balanced ECS. Having a healthy immune system allows the body to be stronger and less prone to diseases and infections. As with most other systems within the body, the main role of endocannabinoids in the immune system is establishing protective elements. When the immune system is not working correctly, it is susceptible to infections, autoimmune diseases, and other viruses. If the immune system is overactive, it results in the body attacking its own healthy cells causing major health issues. When the immune system is under-active, the body is also unable to fight infections or viruses. A properly working immune system can fight infections and only attack cells that are harmful to the body. CBD can potentially aid in helping the ECS regulate our immune system by stimulating or suppressing the immune system and helping to eliminate damaged or harmful cells.
The endocannabinoid system is important for creating and maintaining bone cells. When our skeletal system is out of balance it can create problems like osteoporosis, hyperostosis, and even bone overgrowth. It is important to have balance in the skeletal system in order to help prevent issues as we age, like osteoporosis. Having a healthy skeletal system helps to ensure our bones are strong enough not to fracture with impact (falls). Research shows that CB1 receptors my help with the regulation of optimal bone mass. CBD could possibly help support strong cartilage and bones and potentially help with healing.
CBD is commonly used to support healthy sleep patterns. A poor night’s sleep affects the way we feel and act the next day. When CBD is taken at bedtime it binds the receptor responsible for calming your brain down, helping to maintain sleep.