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What is CBD and How Does it Work?

Posted by Janna Champagne,RN on

What is CBD?

CBD is one of hundreds of cannabinoids found in the Cannabis Sativa L (hemp) plant.  CBD has been ingested for more than 5000 years in cultures around the world, and has a well-founded safety profile for easing dozens of conditions and has never resulted in harm.  

Just recently, when Dr. Raphael Mechoulam discovered the human Endocannabinoid System (ECS) in 1992, we started to understand how CBD works in our bodies. CBD interacts with ECS receptors, filling vital nutrient deficiency, and promoting homeostasis or balance. This interaction may reduce the impact of Endocannabinoid Deficiency, which contributes to the imbalances found in chronic illness, according to Dr. Ethan Russo. When our bodies are ill, we deplete 2AG very quickly, and although the chemical structures of 2AG and CBD differ slightly, the body responds to both exactly the same. 

As this suggests, cannabinoids may be supplemented through ingestion of plants like Cannabis Sativa L hemp (phytocannabinoids). This is especially helpful when the endocannabinoids our bodies produce (like 2AG) are not enough to maintain homeostasis or balance.  Recent studies prove that our body’s response does not differ when comparing effects of cannabinoids from plant sources versus those our ECS creates.

What Is the Endocannabinoid System?

The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is a complex signaling network similar to our Endocrine (hormone) system, with ECS receptors located throughout the body. The function of the Endocannabinoid system is two-fold. The ECS produces endogenous cannabinoids (endocannabinoids), which are derived from a diet rich in essential fatty acids. Cannabinoids bind with receptors in the ECS, which prompt balancing or homeostasis throughout the body. The ECS also reduces the stress response, and is known for activating the sympathetic nervous system, which promotes our eat, relax, forget, sleep and protect phases, known to be vital for balance and restoration.

The current understanding is that the Endocannabinoid System consists of two primary types of receptors:

  • Cannabinoid-1 (CB1) receptor
  • Cannabinoid-2 (CB2) receptor

CBD acts as a partial antagonist against both of these receptors to control, influence, and regulate various bodily processes.

CB1 Overview

Studies reflect that CB1 receptors are found primarily in regions of the brain responsible for mental and physiological processes such as memory, high cognition, pain perception, stress response, emotion and motor coordination.

CB2 Overview

CB2 receptors are widely distributed throughout the peripheral organs of the body and serve as core components in the regulation of the immune system, muscular system and cardiovascular system.

How They Function Together

Together, CB1 and CB2 receptors are responsible for regulating neuro-hormones in the body. These receptors play an active role in many different physiological processes including memory, mood, sensations of pain and appetite regulation.

The Endocannabinoid System plays a critical role in the regulation of disease. In fact, researchers Pacher and Kunos stated in a 2013 review article that optimizing Endocannabinoid System activity may have therapeutic potential in treating and preventing human diseases.

When a body system is out of balance, it will produce more ECS receptors in an attempt to compensate, which is the body’s way of asking for cannabinoid supplementation. Research supports that our Endocannabinoid System has the potential to interact and balance all of the major organ systems in our body.   Considering that disease represents underlying imbalances in some form, this simplifies the explanation of how supplementing with CBD may ease a variety of common disease states or symptoms.

CBD and Endocannabinoid System

Although the body can naturally produce its own endocannabinoids that bind to cannabinoid receptors, phytocannabinoids like CBD are known to help kickstart CB1 and CB2 receptors associated with both the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system.

 This stimulates the Endocannabinoid System and promotes homeostasis in the body, reducing disease symptoms, sensations of pain and inhibiting inflammation.

Interested in learning more about CBD and how it can benefit your body? Click here for more information!

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