Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the 400 chemicals that create the positive health effects of medical marijuana, alongside the other well-known chemical, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Medical researchers have discovered that CBD and THC help the body in a variety of ways. Because of this research, these chemicals, called cannabinoids, are well on their way to becoming major players in disease prevention and treatment.
If you’ve ever enjoyed the effects of marijuana before, you’ve probably been told to ingest different strains: cannabis indica if you want to relax and cannabis sativa if you want to get up and go. This theory is a very simplistic explanation of the varying amounts of THC and CBD in cannabis, as well as a simple classification of marijuana and hemp as plants. The truth is, both hemp and marijuana fall under the same genus of cannabis; within that, there are several different species of the plant, including what we recognize as indica or sativa. Inside this genus, researchers and growers can play around with producing strains that contain high levels of CBD or strains that contain high levels of THC.
For most of the United States, THC is still classified as an illegal substance because of its psychoactive effects. CBD lacks the ability to get you “high,” but still has the positive effects associated with traditionally ingesting marijuana. Cannabidiol has proven to:
- Relieve pain
- Reduce anxiety
- Fight cancer
- Reduce inflammation
- Act as a neuroprotectant
- Relieve muscle spasms
With renewed interest in plant-derived medicines, researchers are constantly testing to better understand the extent of CBD’s medical benefits by observing the effects of CBD in various clinical trials. More recent medical research studies have stretched from the known benefits of cannabinoids to studying how CBD can be used to treat and reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. The newest studies also show that CBD can even help reduce cell death, or apoptosis.
Oxidative Stress, Apoptosis, and CBD
Oxidative Stress & Cell Death
Oxidative stress and cell death go hand in hand. While both are normal in the body, one getting out of balance can trigger the other. If the body has a severe amount of oxidative stress, it can cause increased cell death. A slightly increased amount of stress can trigger apoptosis, where the cells receive the message to destroy themselves, but severe stress can cause a more severe form of cell death called necrosis.
Cell death can happen one of two ways: necrosis and apoptosis. Necrosis is when an outside force kills the cells, be it a toxin, injury, or an infection. This process causes inflammation during the dying process and has the potential to cause more injury to the body. Apoptosis is essentially programmed cell death, where the cells destroy themselves. This is better for the body in that it’s predictable. However, it doesn’t always go smoothly. Sometimes cells don’t get the message to destroy themselves and sometimes the wrong cells are triggered to destroy themselves because of too many free radicals — that’s where oxidative stress comes in. Too many free radicals and too much oxidative stress can cause necessary cells to destroy themselves.
Oxidative stress is a major factor in the development of chronic and degenerative diseases such as cancer, autoimmune disorders, arthritis, and neurodegenerative diseases. This particular condition is when the body can’t eliminate all the free radicals in the body, causing stress and premature cell death. While the body can counteract the effects of oxidative stress with antioxidants, sometimes part of the problem is that the body isn’t making enough antioxidants because it’s under stress, creating a vicious cycle. The natural antioxidants in our bodies aren’t enough to prevent the cell death associated with the body’s distress. Over time, this response creates disease through cell death.
Since these oxidative stress related diseases like arthritis and even Alzheimer’s can be difficult to treat with existing pharmaceutical drugs, medical researchers have turned to plant-based treatments such as cannabinoids to find new ways to reduce oxidative stress, cell death, and disease.
Cannabidiol & Apoptosis
This new CBD study takes a look at exactly how cannabidiol can prevent cell death and oxidative stress using rodent test subjects. Many CBD and other medical studies use mice and rats because their biology is much like ours but they reproduce very quickly. This particular study was conducted in two parts.
The first part of this study involves prompting cells to send apoptosis signals by inducing stress with hydrogen peroxide. The hydrogen peroxide prompted apoptosis, inflammation, and oxidative stress in individual cells. When the cannabidiol was administered after the hydrogen peroxide, the results showed cannabidiol to reduce oxidative stress and apoptosis, as well as improve the viability of cells.
When the cells were pre-treated with cannabidiol, it suppressed a lot of the symptoms related to the exposure to hydrogen peroxide. And then when the hydrogen peroxide and the cannabidiol were administered at the same time, the results showed cannabidiol to protect the cells. These results show that cannabidiol has anti-apoptosis, anti-inflammatory, and anti-oxidative activities in individual cells. In plain English, CBD can help reduce inflammation, clear free radicals to reduce oxidative stress, and in turn protect from cell death.
What Does All This Mean?
The hydrogen peroxide-induced apoptosis cells is a small scale study on how environmental stressors and oxidative stress can affect the body. Just like in certain degenerative diseases, the cells involved in this study were prompted to destroy themselves. While this doesn’t answer all the questions one might have about apoptosis and cannabidiol, it does start paving the way to answer an important question: how can we prevent pollutants from destroying our body?
So far, the answer to that is by adding cannabidiol to your daily vitamin regime. The best part about cannabidiol is that it offers the benefits of common synthetic drugs, only with very mild side effects such as dry mouth and lightheadedness. Cannabidiol can be taken in smaller or larger doses to no negative effects and can be taken in a variety of ways. The most common way to ingest cannabidiol is by tincture or by CBD hemp oil. However, cannabidiol can also be purchased as pills, edibles, vaporizer liquids, and even gummies. As with anything surrounding medical cannabis, always check your local laws to make sure CBD is legal in your area.