The Complete Introduction To CBD
Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are by far the most interesting cannabinoids in the cannabis plant that we know of at present – CBD is non-intoxicating; however, THC does produce psychoactive effects. Both cannabinoids have medicinal properties, although THC is perhaps better known for its recreational uses. The controversy that still surrounds THC has been beneficial for THC, and this non-psychoactive, cannabis-based alternative treatment is popular for multiple physical and mental conditions.
CBD has received plenty of positive attention in the media, with several human-interest stories focussing on the anti-epileptic properties of the cannabinoid, and how these can be harnessed to treat complicated types of epilepsy, including those affecting children. Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome are just two forms of intractable epilepsy that CBD has shown potential against.
What Are Cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are a group of compounds that interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system – so far, researchers have identified 113 cannabinoids, all of which have come from the cannabis plant. CBD and THC are both cannabinoids and are nearly always the two most abundant compounds in a cannabis strain, whether it’s cannabis sativa or cannabis indica.
THC makes a basic connection with the CB1 receptor in the endocannabinoid system, forming bonds that would usually be made by anandamide, an endocannabinoid recognized for its anti-depressant properties, and the chemical behind the “runner’s high”. While THC essentially replaces anandamide, CBD aims to keep more anandamide in the endocannabinoid system by turning off the fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) enzyme, which normally breaks down anandamide at a speedy rate.
In addition to being non-psychoactive, CBD inhibits neither cognitive function nor memory, and in small doses has even been found to enhance concentration levels. CBD products are made using extracts from either cannabis or industrial hemp plants – over the past few years, the US market has been bigger for the latter, as hemp-derived products are legal in all 50 states. Research into CBD has found that the cannabinoid has antipsychotic properties, which could create new treatment options for schizophrenia and psychosis. These effects can also help to suppress a THC-induced “high”.
CBD also looks to have neuroprotective properties that promise to give doctors new tools in the fight against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s.
In the United States, a CBD-based drug can now be prescribed to patients with certain types of epilepsy after getting approval from the FDA. The compound’s anti-inflammatory effects are encouraging for arthritis patients, and the antidepressant and anti-anxiety qualities offers optimism for progress in mental health medication soon.
Finally uncovering the endocannabinoid system has been a monumental development for cannabis science, as researchers can now establish the scientific reasons why the herb has such impressive and unique therapeutic value. The discovery has shown that the body produces compounds which are similar to the cannabinoids made by plants, and that there are receptors which both sets of compounds can connect with. These receptors are the gateway to influencing mood, immune system response, appetite, sleep cycles, stress levels, pain sensation and more.
The method of consumption has a significant effect on what sort of an impact the cannabinoids will have on the body. For example, if vaping CBD e-liquid and vape oil, the CBD is going to travel around the body in just a couple of minutes and start bringing relief. However, when using a topical cream or balm that is applied to the skin and therefore externally, the benefits are more localized – for pain, swelling and skin complaints, topicals are perhaps preferable.
CBD’s job is to regulate the entire endocannabinoid system, rather than to mimic or supplement another endocannabinoid. The idea that CBD can alleviate depression comes from the compound increasing concentrations of anandamide. Although CBD does not directly stimulate the production of anandamide, it has the same effect by blocking the FAAH enzyme. More studies are necessary to further understand CBD’s antidepressant effects, and the cannabinoid may also influence the serotonin system, but anandamide certainly plays a crucial role. The medical cannabis industry is currently centered around CBD, although recreational states do offer readily available access to THC products which could also be used primarily for their therapeutic effects. Thankfully, the stigma surrounding cannabis is being broken down year-on-year, and more than 60 percent of Americans are now supportive of full legalization. It should not be forgotten that some patients, such as those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), are reliant on cannabis medication that contains THC as well as CBD, because this helps to combat flashbacks.
Specific Medicinal Benefits Of CBD
Although CBD’s medicinal benefits may be enhanced when the cannabinoid is consumed in conjunction with the rest of the plant, there are also benefits which can be derived from taking it in isolated fashion.
Anti-inflammatory: CBD is a potent anti-inflammatory compound that can help with the treatment of autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and manage notorious skin disorders like acne.
Analgesic: CBD can be used to relieve pain, and it is particularly effective at alleviating neuropathic and inflammatory pain. Therefore, the analgesic and anti-inflammatory qualities of CBD often combine in the treatment of one ailment, such as arthritis.
Anti-nausea: Some chemotherapy patients find that cannabis helps to relieve some of the side effects from treatment, and CBD does have anti-nausea properties. Strong CBD-rich oils and edibles should make the pain more bearable.
Anticonvulsant: The anticonvulsant and anti-seizure properties of CBD are more powerful than those of conventional medications. Studies look to show that CBD eases excitation in the brain, which reduces the chance of seizures.
The decades of cannabis prohibition in the United States have set research back a long way, although we are starting to make swifter advancements now the most relevant cannabinoids have been identified and their effects determined. Our understanding of how these cannabinoids work in the endocannabinoid system – and possibly other systems – is improving, but there’s still a lot that we don’t know.
Working out where CBD travels to in the body after consumption was step one, and now researchers are seeking to find out more about the pharmacodynamics of the cannabinoid. All the existing research suggests that CBD has an extraordinarily low toxicity, which means that very potent doses can be given without any adverse side effects.
CBD can reduce the onset of other illnesses from its anti-inflammatory qualities, and the cannabinoid could also help to boost lung function, according to new research. In theory, CBD might be able to treat lung-related inflammatory conditions.
With neurodegenerative diseases prevalent all over the world, the neuroprotective and neurogenesis potential of CBD, cannabichromene (CBC), cannabigerol (CBG) and other cannabis compounds could be huge. Unfortunately, there is not much scientific data on the neurological effects of these cannabinoids in humans, although a study on rats found that a CBD and CBC treatment increased the size of the hippocampus in the brain. Furthermore, the Brazilian government granted a special license to a patient with Alzheimer’s to take CBD oil in 2017.
Once again, the medicinal value of CBD in this area may not be just reserved to the endocannabinoid system, with research published in Pharmacology and Therapeutics suggesting that CBD doesn’t just make interactions with CB1 receptors.
There is evidence that CBD can clean the brain and remove toxins by changing sleep patterns so that the body experiences less rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep and more deep sleep where prions, which damage neurons and hasten the onset of neurodegenerative diseases can be washed out by cerebrospinal fluid.
The sleep-promoting traits of CBD can also be utilized by patients with insomnia, sleep apnea and any other disorders that are preventing a full and rejuvenating night’s sleep. Many problems are caused by an excessive amount of time in REM sleep – this is the phase of sleep where we dream, but REM sleep also tends to be quite light, so is easy to awaken from. Many patients’ problems stem from difficulties with REM sleep – for instance, those with PTSD are prone to flashbacks in this phase because of the dreams. CBD is often more appealing for those with sleeping troubles than pills, as they don’t cause unpleasant side effects.
Experts are still uncertain as to why CBD is effective at reducing pain, as it doesn’t work in the same mechanism as THC, which partially eases pain through mental distraction. However, a connection between anandamide and the pain sensation-regulating vanilloid receptor could hold some clues.
While there are treatments available for schizophrenia and psychosis, antipsychotic drugs are not without issues. Therefore, the relative safety of non-psychotropic CBD can be a much more attractive treatment option. Past apprehension to cannabis as a medicine for mental health disorders is subsiding as it has become clear that the plant’s psychoactive effects are contained in just a few cannabinoids, and mostly THC.
Can CBD Really Help With Neurodegeneration?
Further up in the article we touched on the proposed neuroprotective properties of CBD and other cannabinoids, and we’re now going to take a more in-depth look at the study featured in Pharmacology and Therapeutics recently.
Many neurodegenerative diseases are initially set off by a form of inflammation, and the more out of the control the inflammation is, the quicker the neurodegeneration occurs. However, as a compound that boasts neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, CBD is undeniably interesting as a natural, plant-based medication for neurodegenerative illnesses.
The brain is put under great risk when oxidation occurs due to the build-up of neurotoxic beta-amyloid peptide deposits. When these plaques begin to accumulate in the brain, the body typically responds with neuroinflammation, but CBD induces an opposite, soothing effect on the brain.
Parkinson’s disease has always frustrated experts, as they are yet to develop a treatment that can stifle the progression of symptoms, without causing an array of side effects. Parkinson’s affects the body’s motor control system, killing dopaminergic neurons that are essential for its functioning. There is no cure for the condition, although CBD has given patients refreshed hope.
Studies have found that CBD stops the deterioration of dopamine-producing neurons, and it’s possible that this could be used to help with Parkinson’s. Sadly, there is currently no scientific research on the effects of CBD in human patients with Parkinson’s, so we can only speculate on how effective a treatment it might be.
Multiple Sclerosis And CBD
Multiple sclerosis (MS) causes the deterioration of myelin sheath that offers protection to neurons in the brain. The research in Pharmacology and Therapeutics notes that MS leads to “irreversible disability” – but what about CBD?
Most research into cannabis and MS has involved using both CBD and THC, and indeed some countries have legalized a cannabis-based drug for this condition. What we aren’t sure of is how effective CBD is on its own against MS, but some have argued that an isolate could be more effective in this case than a whole-plant extract.
Any CBD-isolate therapy would be completely absent in psychoactive effects, and therefore much stronger doses could be tolerated by the patient. However, CBD has the key neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties that are required for a successful MS treatment. Investigations have revealed that controlling the inflammation that causes MS would stifle the onset of the illness.
More On CBD And Epilepsy
The medical cannabis argument enjoyed a huge national breakthrough in the United States back in 2013, with a CNN documentary that showcased the new potential of the plant as a treatment for children with epilepsy conditions that are resistant to all existing and approved medication.
The Epidiolex drug that the Food and Drug Administration approved in 2018 is consumed sublingually – this is a safe way of treating a child with medical cannabis that ensures efficacious relief. While CBD doesn’t work for all patients, the vast majority find that CBD reduces the frequency and harshness of seizures.
Final Thoughts On CBD
The United States is enjoying a cannabis renaissance that is sure to have a positive effect on the nation’s public health in the long term.
The country is viewing cannabis in a new light, not just as a herb that has recreational value, but as a medicinal plant that can be used responsibly to improve quality of life.
Unfortunately, not all doctors are keeping up to speed with the new research behind cannabis, and many are reluctant to prescribe cannabis due to their lack of knowledge, even if it could be the best treatment.This must change going forward, as patients deserve access to the best quality healthcare that the existing medical science allows for.
With the FDA not regulating CBD products as of 2018, manufacturers are doing the hard yards to build up a bond of trust with their customers. Since there is no regulation, some opportunists have tried to make quick cash by selling low-quality CBD products. Reputable CBD companies have sought to separate themselves from the conmen by having their CBD gummy bears and other types of CBD products tested by a third-party laboratory.