Cannabidiol and the Endocannabinoid System
You have probably heard about the amazing medicinal properties of cannabis, and you may even know someone who has had positive results with it. The fact that it is an effective medicine has been known for centuries in many cultures all over the world.
What you might not know is that there are two main active ingredients in cannabis. One of them is medicinal (cannabidiol), and the other is psychoactive (THC). With the tools of modern science, we can now separate the two of them and use the medicinal one for healing without worrying about the psychoactive effects of the other.
So it would seem reasonable for us to examine cannabis more closely, and that’s just what thousands of scientists are doing all over the world right now. Once you realize the significance of the situation, you will understand why more valuable research needs to be done because there are so many people who are finding exciting new options for therapy for a large assortment of medical conditions.
The next few sections of this article will use some technical terms, but don’t worry; they will be presented in a simple fashion so that you may get a better understanding of the situation without having to be a rocket scientist.
The Endocannabinoid System
One of the first things that you will run across when examining the actual science behind the amazing medicinal benefits of cannabis is that our bodies actually possess a built-in mechanism that processes its active ingredients. It is known as the endocannabinoid system (ECD).
The endocannabinoid system (endogenous cannabinoids) assists with maintaining homeostasis, and its receptors are found in many locations all over the human body. It helps provide a stable internal environment and is composed of the CB1 and CB2 receptors, the endocannabinoids themselves, and the enzymes that clean up everything after certain processes have been completed.
Endocannabinoids and the CB1 and CB2 Receptors
Endocannabinoids are endogenous arachidonate-based lipids, and they function as neurotransmitters. The main endocannabinoids are anandamide (N-arachidonoylethanolamide, AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). Our bodies naturally create these two substances in order to stimulate the CB-1 and CB-2 receptors. For simplicity’s sake, we will refer to these two endocannabinoids as anandamide and 2-AG.
CB1 receptors are found in the brain and spinal cord; however, they are also located in the nerves, glands, gonads, and connective tissues. They are the main target of anandamide. They are also the primary target of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is a phytocannabinoid—that means it is a cannabinoid created by a plant (in this case from cannabis). This is the active ingredient in cannabis that has a psychoactive effect, and it is similar to anandamide produced by the human body. THC also interacts with the CB2 receptors but to a much lesser degree.
There are enzymes that clean up everything after certain processes are completed. The primary enzyme that is responsible for the degradation of anandamide is a substance known as fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH). This enzyme eradicates anandamide signaling by hydrolyzing it to ethanolamine and arachidonic acid.
CB2 receptors are found primarily in the immune and gastrointestinal systems, but they also appear in the spleen, thymus, and tonsils. They appear in the brain as well, but to a much lesser extent than the CB1 receptors. 2-AG is active at both the CB1 and the CB2 receptors. Acting in a similar fashion as 2-AG, another phytocannabinoid, known as cannabidiol (CBD), is also active at the CB1 and CB2 receptors. This is the magical phytocannabinoid that is the healing element of cannabis, so let’s take a look at it more closely…
Cannabidiol, the Agent of Healing
Now that we have located the actual component of cannabis that is responsible for the healing properties possessed by this miracle plant, we can target our examination to finding out more about this substance.
Cannabidiol has many medicinal properties. It is possesses anti-anxiety effects, anti-epileptic effects, anti-inflammatory effects, and anti-psychotic qualities. In addition, it is also an antioxidant and has neuroprotective features. Now this is an impressive list of medicinal benefits, so let us find out exactly how CBD works…
Cannabidiol interacts with receptors. To be more specific, it activates receptors but does not seem to interact with them directly. Instead, it makes sure that the CBD receptors are reactive, and since these receptors have an effect on mood, appetite, memory, and pain, we can see how CBD can be used as an effective treatment for so many conditions.
Now that we have a better idea about how CBD works, let us now take a look at a few of its many medical applications.
Medicinal Uses of Cannabidiol
Here is a list of a few of the conditions treatable with cannabidiol:
CBD and Glaucoma
Glaucoma is a condition that affects the optic nerve and may cause blindness if it is not treated properly. It is speculated that it may be connected to certain neurodegenerative diseases, and as of now, its cause is unknown.
Many scientists believe that CBD is an effective therapy for glaucoma because it assists with the reduction of intraocular pressure, which is the fluid pressure in the eyes.
CBD and Stress
Stress is a problem for many people, and it often leads to insomnia or anxiety. CBD has certain effects on basolateral amygdala receptors and the hippocampus; it is speculated that these actions provide therapeutic comfort for victims of stress.
CBD and Asthma
This condition is an atopic disease, which means that it causes allergic reactions. By restricting an individual’s airflow, this disease causes inflammation of the airways, making them more sensitive and more likely to have reactions.
CBD is used to treat this disease because it anti-inflammatory. More specifically, it brings about a reduction in the TH2 and TP cytokine levels. It also reduces the amount of mucus secretion, and alleviates the pain of asthma patients by reducing muscle spasticity as well as the pressure within the lungs.
CBD and Arthritis
Arthritis is the inflammation of the joints, and it has many causes, including infection and injury. It is characterized by pain and swelling and is capable of severe debilitation. Currently, there is no cure for this medical condition.
Because of its anti-inflammatory qualities, CBD can treat the pain and inflammation of this disease quite effectively (like it does with asthma patients). To be more technical, CBD activates the pathways of CB2 receptors. In addition, cannabidiol allows nerves that have been damaged to heal.
CBD and Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by several symptoms, including hallucinations, catatonia, poor attention, and problems with memory.
The reason that CBD is such an effective treatment for this disorder is because individuals with schizophrenia will often have low levels of endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors. CBD boosts the endocannabinoid system, and this is why it is widely speculated to be such an amazing treatment for this disorder.
It is also interesting to note that cannabidiol reduces many of the psychotic effects as well as the cognitive impairments that often accompany this mental condition. It also enables patients to have more psychomotor activity.
CBD and Autism
This neurobehavioral disease impairs a person’s language and communication skills. There are many symptoms, and the severity of the disease varies for each individual. The worst cases of autism may involve a victim of this medical condition to have institutional care.
CBD promotes oxytocin, which is what is what allows a person to have regular social skills.
CBD and Atherosclerosis
This medical condition involves a hardening of arteries, and it occurs when the vessels become rigid. Age and metabolic issues may also damage the arteries. While this disease can be life threatening, it may also be treated.
Cannabinoid receptors in the cardiovascular system play a crucial role in the regulation of circulation and heart function, so it would make sense that CBD might help with various problems of the arteries.
CBD possesses an immunomodulating effect, which means that it may be used to control the progression of this disease.
First, it activates CB2 receptors and lowers circulatory issues by allowing a person’s blood vessels to relax. It also protects the endothelial cells in the coronary artery. Cannabidiol also reduces myocardial dysfunction, cardiac fibrosis, and oxidative-nitrative stress.
CBD and Neurodegeneration
This is a term that is used to describe various conditions that affect the neurons of the brain. Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease are caused by neurodegeneration. Cannabidiol protects the neurons and can slow down the effects of aging.
CBD and Kidney Disease
This is a condition where one has impaired functions of the kidney. This organ no longer filters waste and fluids from the blood like it should. This disease causes harm to nephrons, and this causes the kidney to be unable to function correctly. Nephrons are microscopic units of the kidney.
When used as therapeutic aid for kidney disease, CBD blocks the cytokines that are inflammatory and lowers their activity, which causes the expression of the genes causing inflammation.
CBD and Cancer
Cancer is a condition characterized by individuals getting tumors. This disease is suffered by people all over the world by approximately 100,000 people, and it is estimated that at least another 15 million will contract it every year. It is thought to be the cause of millions of deaths.
CBD kills cancer cells, slows their growth, and keeps some forms of cancer from spreading throughout the body. It does this by gravitating towards the CB2 receptors in the spleen, and then activating them.
This means that the human body utilizes 2-AG and CBD interchangeably. So when there is not enough natural 2-AG being created, cannabidiol goes to work. After CBD interacts with CB2 receptors, it then looks out for cancer cells and eradicates them. It does this by interfering with the lipoxygenase pathway.
CBD and Depression
When a person is experiencing a poor mood, they have depression. This condition can be extreme and may also be a symptom of another condition, such as a disease or the side effect of a drug.
Cannabidiol functions in the same manner as SSRI drugs, which have an effect on serotonin receptors. Serotonin is a hormone produced by the body, and it helps alleviate an individual’s depressed mood. It does this by inhibiting the absorption of serotonin so that more serotonin is available and ready to go. CBD also increases the transmission of 5-HT1A, which raises the availability of even more serotonin.
It would make sense that CBD will gradually gain acceptance as more studies are conducted and more new applications of this substance are discovered. There will be many new breakthroughs as more knowledge is found.
Because cannabis is now legal for both medicinal and recreational uses in a growing number of places, it would be reasonable to speculate that it will eventually be legal everywhere in the world within a few more decades. This will make future research much easier to accomplish.
One of the key things to remember about future advancements with this substance is that cannabis-based medicines have a number of delivery methods that allow CBD to be taken in by the body. Smoking is not the only way to have these substances enter our bodies. There is vaporization technology, and there are also several oral methods, including tinctures, oils, and edibles. In addition, there are delivery systems that are topical in nature, such as lotions and creams.
There are also many other active ingredients in cannabis that show promise as well. One of the more prominent ones is cannabigiol (CBG). This substance already shows promise as a viable treatment for irritable bowel syndrome and chronic pain. There have already been a few studies with this substance, and there will probably be many more.
One thing is certain, however, and that is that cannabidiol in all of it many forms and delivery methods will be a very important aspect of the new medical advances that will be made in the upcoming years.
This is good news for the many people suffering from a growing list of debilitating conditions. Let us hope that all of these new developments will eventually make things better for everyone who needs help.