THE SCIENCE BEHIND CBD

The last five years have seen a remarkable increase in interest in CBD products, mainly stimulated by the discovery of its anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, and neuroprotective effects. There is so much potential in the product, and we are starting to really understand the science behind CBD. Possible therapeutic uses of cannabidiol for several conditions are now being explored, including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and other inflammatory diseases.

The Endocannabinoid System

How can one substance do so much? The answer lies within the workings of our own body’s endogenous cannabinoid system, or ECS. This system, only discovered in the 1990s (by analyzing the cannabis plant, hence the name), consists of endocannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors, and the enzymes that synthesize endocannabinoids.

According to Jahan Marcu, Ph.D., director of experimental pharmacology and behavior at the International Research Center on Cannabis and Mental Health in New York City: “The ECS helps us eat, sleep, relax, forget what we don’t need to remember, and protect our bodies from harm.” There are actually more ECS receptors in the brain than there are for opioids and serotonin (the receptors upon which most antidepressants work). ECS receptors can also be found in the liver, pancreas, intestines, ovaries, bone cells, and more.

Our bodies produce endocannabinoids that bind with ECS receptors by the billions every day. “We always thought the ‘runner’s high’ was due to the release of dopamine and endorphins. But now we know the euphoria is also from an endocannabinoid called anandamide,” says Joseph Maroon, M.D., clinical professor and vice chairman of neurosurgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. People who are extremely happy are found to have more endocannabinoids than do unhappy people. They can also tolerate pain better.

How Does the ECS Work?

The ECS mainly works like this: Endocannabinoids are produced by the body and act as “communicators” between bodily systems. The goal of this system is to create homeostasis, or stability, in the body. For instance, if you have an injury, the ECS will work to regulate your internal organs, nerve cells, and hormones to minimize pain and damage.

In order to do this, there must be receptors to take up the compounds and “translate” as healing throughout the body. So far, two types of receptors, CB1 and CB2, have been identified by researchers. Both types can be found throughout the body, but CB1 is more prevalent in the brain and nervous system and CB2 in the immune system.

Different types of cannabinoids interact with these receptors differently. THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana, creates swirling thoughts and colorful hallucinations when it activates these receptors. However, marijuana produces very low CBD. Whereas hemp, a different subspecies of the same plant, produces high THC and low CBD.  In both subspecies, there are at least 110 natural cannabinoids (that we know of) in the cannabis plant, and most of them act much the same way as our body’s own endocannabinoids. Two are particularly important: CBDa and CBDn.

Detailed Science behind CBDa

CBDa is the precursor to CBD, as in the CBD found in CBD oil. Found in the raw flowers and leaves of hemp plants, CBDa is the unadulterated version of CBD. It must go through the process of decarboxylation, or decarbing, which removes the acid (the “a” in CBDa) before it becomes CBD. The two compounds are similar, but up until recently, CBDa was thought to be an inactive compound which was “activated” by the decarbing process. More recent studies have shown CBDa in a better light, particularly in how it affects the COX-2 enzyme.

That is, CBDa doesn’t bind with ECS receptors; rather, it works as an inhibitor to certain enzymes which also play a part in the ECS system. COX-2 is an enzyme that is created by inflammation, and too much of it degrades the number of cannabinoids in the body. Regular over-the-counter analgesics such as Tylenol target this enzyme for pain relief and to counter inflammation. However, CBDa has also been shown to be a selective COX-2 inhibitor (similar to Tylenol, but more selective, thus, it has less side effects). This protective effect allows its activated cousin, CBD, plus the body’s own cannabinoids, to bind with ECS receptors and promote healing.

For Sleep: CBDn

CBDn, or CBN, is another cannabinoid entirely, though THC is really its “parent.” It exists in hemp plants, and it can also be formed when THC degrades through exposure to oxygen. In either case, CBN has no (or extremely mild) psychoactive properties. However, one thing it excels at is making you sleepy. Studies show that taking 5 mg of CBN is the equivalent of taking 10 mg of Valium (which, by the way, is the largest standard dose of Valium).

CBN binds mostly to the CB2 receptor, which is associated with the immune system. Thus, research suggests that it has a large role to play in the fight against cancer. CBN seems to, according to current research, specifically fight tumor growth and metastasis in a number of different types of cancer. For breast cancer in particular, CB2 receptors are expressed in 3 out of 4 breast tumors. When these receptors are activated, they start in motion apoptosis (cell death) of cancer cells, which shrinks tumors and keeps metastasis at bay.

The science in full is complicated, of course, and we’re still learning not only about the healing properties of CBD, but the ECS system itself. Research is growing rapidly, with studies being undertaken all over the world.  For example, there is a new cannabis research center at UCLA and significant programs in Israel. It’s an exciting time to be a researcher, as the cannabis plant – a plant that has been cultivated and treasured as far back as ancient Greece and China – is finally getting its fair due in the medical sciences.

The most important thing to know is that CBD is a highly nuanced product with the science behind it growing rapidly. If you want to try it, be sure to purchase from a reputable company with quality products. GüüdMfg produces specific products for night and day, allowing you to find the perfect solution for your needs.


Tom Williams is part of the team at GüüdMfg, where their goal is to create the highest quality CBD products available anywhere.

 

 

 

 

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