The Endocannabinoid System & Cannabidiol (CBD) For Health

An increasing number of individuals are opting to use cannabidiol (CBD) as a very powerful alternative treatment to use on a wide range of different ailments. CBD works so well for so many diseases, because it interacts with the endocannabinoid system.

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Endocannabinoid system CB1 receptor locations and functions. FullStrideHealth.com

The Endocannabinoid System Was Discovered In The 1990s

That’s why you might not have heard about it before.

It wasn’t until the 1960s that Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) was determined to be the cause of the marijuana “high”.

Eventually, in the 1990s, scientists found membrane receptors that the THC bonded to.  Those receptors are known as CB1 and CB2.

More and more of those receptors were discovered in the brain, the central nervous system, the immune system, and elsewhere.  All of those receptors became known as the Endocannabinoid System (ECS).

Endocannabinoids are so called, because your body produces them naturally.  That means that the Endocannabinoid System actually refers to (endo) cannabinoids the body creates and uses.

Whereas, phytocannabinoids come from the cannabis plants.

five distinct classes of cannabinoid compounds have been identified

The body creates at least two endocannabinoids:

The first one is commonly called: anandamide.  Or you could call it: N-arachidonoylethanolamine or AEA.  Your choice.

The second one is: 2-arachidonoylglycerol or call it: 2-AG

Both anandamide and 2-AG bind to the CB1 And CB2 receptors, as does THC.

The CB1 receptors are located, for the most part, on the central and peripheral neurons of the nervous system. [5]   Some parts of the brain have large amounts of CB1 receptors. [6]

The CB2 receptors are located primarily on immune cells. [5] Although there are some CB2 receptors on neurons. [6]

NOTE:  The Endocannabinoid System and its CB1 and CB2 receptors are highly concentrated in the brain, and distributed throughout the body via the nervous system. 

The brain and nervous system are essential to being healthy and feeling good.

That means that probably all diseases could (possibly) be prevented or treated by taking cannabidiol (CBD) in one form or another.

A Short List of Diseases That Respond To Treating The Endocannabinoid System [4]

  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • All types of pain
  • Inflammation
  • Stroke and other cardiovascular disorders
  • Glaucoma (eye disease)
  • OCD – Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Various forms of cancer
  • Rare forms of Epilepsy
  • PTSD
  • Schizophrenia
  • Autism
  • Lou Gehrig’s disease – ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)

Up until the past couple of decades, cannabidiol (CBD) was a fairly unknown substance.  That’s mainly due to it being associated with marijuana so closely.

Because marijuana was a controlled substance it was difficult getting funds to research it.  Attempts for exploring its full potential were also mired by legal issues.

What research that was done, was all concentrated on the effects of THC.  Essentially cannabidiol was ignored.

Recently the barriers surrounding cannabidiol research and use have been removed.  It is just now that the huge potential of cannabidiol as a powerful and viable alternative treatment is coming to light for a wide range of ailments.

What is Cannabidiol (CBD) Exactly?

Cannabidiol is commonly referred to as CBD. 

CBD and THC are called phytocannabinoids, because they come from plants. There are over 100 phytocannabinoids that are contained within the cannabis plant. 

Cannabis includes the marijuana strains that are high in THC, and the hemp strains that are very low in THC.

The human body is powerfully affected by phytocannabinoids since they interact with the endocannabinoid system of the body.

In essence, the endocannabinoid system is composed of cell receptors.  The cell receptors are located in all parts of your body. 

The endocannabinoid system moderates movement, cognition, the immune system, the digestive system, pain, moods, and other functions.

Some parts of the body have many more endocannabinoid receptors than other parts.  The receptors are especially abundant in the brain and central nervous system.

The body produces endocannabinoids (cannabinoids made within the body) in order to interact with those receptors when necessary. 

However, the receptors can also interact with those cannabinoids that are produced by plants (called phytocannabinoids).  Plants like marijuana and hemp, and that is where CBD comes in.     

THC (delta9-Tetrahydrocannabinol) is the more notorious phytocannabinoid, because it creates the marijuana “high”. 

Although THC and CBD are both contained inside of the same plant, and both of them interact with the endocannabinoid system, they do so in really different ways.

The difference between the marijuana cannabis plant and the hemp cannabis plant, is the amount of THC they contain.

Hemp (industrial hemp) by law contains less than 0.03% THC.

Marijuana (medical cannabis) contains more than 0.03% THC.

Higher cannabidiol levels are just now starting to be bred in hemp plants for the purpose of its therapeutic treatment potential.  In some hemp strains the THC is now being bred out completely.

The main difference between THC and CBD is, CBD doesn’t cause a number of negative side effects that THC does.

Cannabidiol (CBD) doesn’t cause changes to body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, or appetite.  Also, it is not psychoactive and doesn’t increase drowsiness (except at high doses) or hunger.

Endocannabinoid system CB1 receptor locations and functions. FullStrideHealth.com

The Endocannabinoid System And CBD      

The other important difference between THC and CBD, is the way they interact with your endocannabinoid system.

THC directly binds with two cell receptors called CB1 and CB2. On the other hand, cannabidiol, doesn’t directly bind with CB1 or CB2.  Instead CBD indirectly influences those receptors.

Also, cannabidiol appears to stimulate a number of other receptors like the serotonin, adenosine, and vanilloid receptors.

Although CBD doesn’t directly bind with CB receptors, it does have a powerful effect on your endocannabinoid system.  It does that through suppressing the fatty acid amide hydroxylase, or FAAH.

That fatty acid is responsible for regulating anandamide inside the brain, where anandamide directly interacts with CB receptors.

Anandamide Is What Makes You Happy

Anandamide was so named, from the Sanskrit word Ananda, which means bliss or happiness.  That’s because anandamide makes you happy!  So, you want more of this happy stuff.  Right?  Well, CBD can do that for you.

Anandamides are endocannabinoids that your body creates naturally.   If you’re not getting enough of them, you’ll be depressed.

The anandamides stimulate the CB1 and CB2 receptors, creating happiness.   However, FAAH is responsible for breaking down the anandamide.  Which results in shortening the amount of time that the anandamide happiness stimulation occurs.

Given that the functionality of FAAH is suppressed by cannabidiol, FAAH isn’t able to break anandamides down as fast as it would otherwise. 

The end result is that the anandamide is able to stimulate the receptors to increase happiness for a longer period of time. 

Which in turn increases the functionality of the whole endocannabinoid system.

The Vanilloid Receptor And CBD

The vanilloid receptor is also called the TRPV-1 receptor.  It regulates inflammation, and body temperature, as well as regulating pain inside of the body.

What is interesting is, even though CBD doesn’t directly influence the CB2 or CB1 receptors, it does stimulate the vanilloid receptor directly.

Although CBD effectively relieves neuropathic pain, we still aren’t sure how that happens.  Currently it is believed to be the result of CBD stimulating the vanilloid receptors.

The Serotonin Receptor And CBD

Serotonin is another chemical that makes us happy.  However, sometimes this receptor has been signaled to release less serotonin.  That’s where CBD can help relive anxiety and depression.

This receptor is responsible for a number of various responses within the central nervous system.

Serotonin receptors are linked specifically to numerous processes inside of the body and brain.  That includes: vomiting, nausea, pain perception, sleep, appetite, addiction, and anxiety. [1]

Research has shown that CBD treatments, particularly in higher doses, has an especially powerful (good) effect on mood disorders, anxiety, and depression. [1]

That is most likely the result of how CBD activates the serotonin (5-HT1A) directly, inside of the brain. [1]

The receptor belongs to the 5-HT1A receptors family. It is triggered by the release of serotonin.   Which tells the body to stop producing serotonin, because there is enough already.  Which is normally a good thing.

However, someone who is depressed, needs more serotonin, which will make them feel happier.

CBD treatments will signal this receptor to release more serotonin. [1]  The end result is less anxiety and less depression.

The Adenosine Receptor And CBD   

Adenosine is responsible for regulating cardiovascular function, including oxygen levels and blood flow. [2]   

CBD helps regulate the adenosine receptors in the brain to prevent brain damage during a stroke. [4]

Adenosine receptors respond to CBD, which decreases inflammation in multiple sclerosis (MS) suffers.

It also plays a very big role in neuroprotection anti-inflammation throughout the body. [3]

As can be seen there is great potential for CBD to be a viable alternative treatment. An increasing body of research is examining its capabilities in addition to the specifics on why and how it interacts with the human body the way that it does.

An increasing number of individuals are turning to CBD rather than more traditional medicine to get effective relief from a wide range of symptoms without suffering from strong side effects.

It appears that research is continuing to support CBD’s positive effects.   Social acceptance of cannabidiol (CBD) is continuing to expand.  That can only result in CBD turning into a mainstream treatment, rather than just an alternative one.

References and Sources

[1]   5-HT1A receptors are involved in the cannabidiol-induced attenuation of behavioural and cardiovascular responses to acute restraint stress in rats

[2]  Adenosine Receptors and the Heart Role in Regulation of Coronary Blood Flow and Cardiac Electrophysiology. 

[3]  Neurological Aspects of Medical Use of Cannabidiol.

[4]  Review of the neurological benefits of phytocannabinoids.

[5]  Cannabinoid receptors and their ligands.

[6]  Cannabinoid receptors: where they are and what they do.

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