If you are a little puzzled by the science behind cannabidiol (CBD) or why everyone is talking so highly of it, then you have come to the right place. The legalization of medical cannabis cultivation in various states, and the more recent legalization of recreational cannabis, has made it more readily available for the patient and consumer markets. Therefore, clinicians and researchers have been more deeply exploring the medicinal value of various compounds within cannabis. These medicinal compounds are called phytocannabinoids, with phyto meaning plant-derived and cannabinoid referring to a class of compounds that act upon receptors within the human body, collectively called the endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system is the main target for many of the physiological actions observed with CBD consumption. Researchers are still learning about all the ways this system functions to maintain homeostasis within the body. The endo prefix explains that this system functions autonomously within the human body, meaning that our body produces cannabinoids on its own. Exogenous cannabinoids, with exo meaning from outside of the body, are capable of interacting with receptors within this system and changing physiological function. Phytocannabinoids derived from cannabis sativa are an example of an exogenous cannabinoid.
There are two main receptors within the endocannabinoid system: CB1 and CB2. These receptors act on the central nervous system (i.e. the brain and spinal cord) and the peripheral nervous system (i.e. everywhere else), and they regulate the function and secretion of neurotransmitters and neuromodulators, which in turn alter the functioning of various physiological systems. These systems affect our behavior, memory, learning, emotional regulation, immune system functioning, appetite, inflammatory processes, and pain response. Stimulation of the endocannabinoid system has even shown neurogenic — meaning neuron-generating — and neuroprotective properties.
Activation of the CB1 receptors by the cannabis sativa phytocannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) produces psychoactive effects, which alters an individual’s perception, awareness, and mental state, which is commonly referred to as the “high” effect from consuming traditional cannabis sativa. CBD is being researched so heavily because it has a low affinity for the CB1 receptors, meaning it does not readily bind to these receptors and does not produce any of the psychoactive effects associated with THC. In fact, CBD actually helps to reduce the psychoactive effects associated with THC, which is why some products contain equal doses of both compounds to get therapeutic benefits associated with each one. Additionally, CBD works on other receptors outside of the endocannabinoid system in ways researchers are still unclear about, which accounts for most of its medicinal and therapeutic properties. This is the main reason why CBD has gained so much attention from the medical, research, and patient populations as an alternative to conventional care for various functional diseases and pain management.
Search through the site to learn more about specific applications of CBD for various medical conditions.