Benefits of CBD and other Cannabinoids for your Body and Mind
Among dozens of applications of the Cannabis plant, improving human health has always been one of the most important – and most controversial! – ones. It is not a coincidence that one of the earliest uses of the hemp plant had to do with the medicinal properties of the plant: the first documented use of cannabis-derived medicine by Chinese Emperor Sheng Nung was reported as early as in 2730 BC!
But what medicinal application does this inconspicuous bush really have? Is the media buzz really justified? To understand how the Cannabis plant can help improve your health and wellness, we first must comprehend how exactly does it interact with our body.
Endogenous Cannabinoid System – Your Body’s Innate Cannabinoid Circuit
One of the most astonishing discoveries in the field of Cannabis science was the founding of the Endogenous Cannabinoid System (ECS). This innate cannabinoid circuit is propelled by endocannabinoids produced by our body and it intertwines with and regulates almost all other systems of human body.
Our Endogenous Cannabinoid System regulates a balance of ‘homeostasis’ within us, including functions such as mood, sleep, appetite, digestion, metabolism and hormone regulation. It was discovered in the mid-1980s by Dr David Allen who describes the functions of the ECS as “the body’s ability to maintain itself and function in the proper environment”.
Fuelling the ECS are the endocannabinoids – molecules synthesised by our body and first identified in 1992 by Raphael Mechoulam. What is the most interesting, though, is how similar are these innate compounds to the cannabinoids naturally occurring in nature, predominantly in the Cannabis plant. In fact, the plant-derived cannabinoids (phytocannabinoids) and endocannabinoids are so similar in structure, that the former can easily interact with the ECS, sometimes even surpassing their human-produced counterparts in terms of how intensively they activate said system. It is thanks to this serendipity, that human beings (and other mammals) can enjoy the beneficial effects of Cannabis.
For the complete pictures, let’s talk the ‘ports’ where the cannabinoids ‘dock’ to our system. The ECS interacts with various bodily function via two types of receptors: CB1 and CB2. Although both of these react to cannabinoids, they react to different cannabinoids and endocannabinoids with different intensity (their ‘affinity’ to said compounds is greater or lesser, in scientific terms). Factoring in the types of the receptors, their location, and literally dozens of different cannabinoids they can interact with sheds some light on why exactly are the effects Cannabis so versatile and multi-faceted. Just take a look at some examples of how the CB1 & 2 receptors are distributed throughout the body and what areas of human functioning they can have impact on:
The ECS has receptor sites in the brain and central nervous system (CB1 receptor) and in the viscera, internal organs and gut (CB2). It’s interesting to note that the CB1 neurotransmitter receptor in the brain has more receptor sites than all other neurotransmitters combined.
CBD and other Cannabinoids
Before we continue to the key benefits of cannabis for your health, it is worth noting which compounds are responsible for the beneficial properties of the cannabis plant. Although there are over 100 identified cannabinoids, most of them are only present in the plant in minuscule quantities. The content of specific cannabinoids varies between strains, and preparations of the plant, but in general CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) are responsible for most of the plant’s therapeutical effects. It is also worth remembering, that although THC is psychoactive, and high-THC strains of Cannabis are regulated for medicinal or recreational use in most countries, CBD (and most of the other cannabinoids) is not psychoactive whatsoever, and therefore can be safely consumed without any disadvantages side effects, even by children. To learn more about the difference between hemp (high CBD, almost no THC) and marijuana (high THC content), read our in-depth blog post.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that although it is CBD which is predominantly responsible for the beneficial effects of non-psychoactive Cannabis products, the sole presence of other botanical compounds (including other cannabinoids, but also terpenes) significantly strengthens the effects of cannabidiol. This is the reason why in most cases the extracts containing broad or full spectrum of cannabinoids naturally occurring in the Cannabis plant are a better choice than high-concentration isolates thereof; this is especially true for dietary supplements and other products supporting your overall condition and well-being.
Key Benefits of Cannabis for your Health and Wellness
The discovery of the endogenous cannabinoid system resulted with a rapid surge in studies on the medicinal potential of the Cannabis plant. In some cases, these resulted with creation of medicinal-grade drugs based on isolates of a specific cannabinoid, such us Epidiolex or Dronabinol (based on CBD, and THC, respectively). But in many, many more cases, this rise in interest shed some light on how traditional preparation of the Cannabis plant could be used to improve health or to support one’s everyday wellness. There are a few key areas in which cannabinoids can be potentially beneficial:
Cannabinoids as Antioxidants
Cannabinoids’ potent antioxidant properties are among its thoroughly examined and the most promising ones. They also exhibit potential benefits for metabolic syndrome due to anti-inflammatory benefits. These properties are the most promising in treatment or prevention of:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Cannabinoids as Neuroprotectants
This is the area where cannabinoids have proved to be the most effective, first resulting in cases of successful experimental therapies, and then in creation of cannabinoid-based medicinal drugs. Whilst CBD’s potent role in the treatment of epilepsy and acute seizures caused by Dravet syndrome or Lennox-Gastaut syndrome has been proven beyond all doubt, there is a number of other neurodegenerative diseases where Cannabis can be one of the promising treatments:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
It is worth noting that although the healing effects can be observed in cases of medicinal-grade, high-concentration cannabinoids, even the lower concentrations of cannabinoids, found in popular preparations such as CBD oils or extracts, do exhibit some neuroprotectant properties.
Cannabinoids as Sleep-Promoting Agents
One of the lesser-know application of cannabinoids is the role they can play in regulating a healthy sleep cycle. By no means are they soporific agents, but in the right concentration, cannabinoids such as CBD can promote healthy sleep cycle, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up in the morning.
CBD for Pets
As you may recall, all mammals can benefit from the effects of cannabinoids – and that includes your pets, too! Just look at how the ECS receptors are distributed throughout dog’s body for an idea how can CBD and other cannabinoid help your four-legged companion:For more information on how CBD can improve your dog’s health, please red our blog post.