You have probably noticed that one of the biggest health trends of 2018 has been the rise of CBD oil and other products containing this cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. However, you may be wondering if it is just marketing hype or if there is any science to back up manufacturers’ claims.

In fact, the science behind the health benefits of CBD oil may amaze you!

In the late 1980’s scientists discovered the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and soon learned that it is responsible for maintaining the homeostasis (balance) of a huge variety of processes in the body. Turns out that everything from blood pressure to your immune system is regulated by the ECS.

Because CBD interacts with that system it has become a molecule of great interest in the medical community. If you want to learn more about how CBD works in the body, you have come to the right place!

In this article, I will address the following questions:

·       What is the endocannabinoid system?

·       What is the “entourage effect”?

·       What are some of the specific ways CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system?

·       What has science revealed about potential therapeutic targets of CBD oil?

 

The Endocannabinoid System

One of the most fascinating aspects of cannabis based medical research has been the discovery in the late 1980’a of the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) which is responsible for a variety of vital processes. The ECS includes four basic elements:

·       Endocannabinoids: Lipids that the body itself produces including anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglyderol (2-AG).

·       Enzymes to break down Endocannabinoids: Including fatty acid amide hydrolase and monoacylglycerol lipase.

·       Cannabinoid receptors: Including CB1 and CB2 found in the brain, central nervous system, peripheral nervous system and the immune system.

·       Other neurons and neural pathways: These work in synergy with the other elements of the ECS.

 

CB1 Receptor


The CB1 Receptor is found mostly in the central and peripheral nervous system. Smaller amounts are also found in the spleen, endocrine gland, white blood cells and gastrointestinal and urinary tracts. There are even some found in the reproductive organs of both sexes.

It can be activated by endocannabinoids such as anandamide and 2-AG. It is also activated by THC, a major cannabinoid found in cannabis.

The CB1 receptor is deactivated by the phytocannabinoid (also known as a terpene) THCV. This shows the complexity of how cannabinoids function in the ECS.

Through a variety of mechanisms, the CB1 receptor appears to be implicated in a variety of key body functions, playing a role in regulating them to a balance point. These functions include both physical and psychological aspects and include regulation over:

·       Anxiety and stress

·       Appetite

·       Depression

·       Motor control

·       Addiction

 

CB2 Receptor

CB2 Receptors can also be found throughout the body, although they are more concentrated in the immune system with high levels in white blood cells, thymus gland, spleen, and the tonsils. They are also found in the central and peripheral nervous systems, although not as densely populated as CB1 receptors.

It is widely thought that the CB2 receptor is deeply connected to achieving a balance in the body’s natural healing mechanisms by regulating the immune system. However, the mechanisms are very complex and are still poorly understood.

One of the reasons that researchers are excited about the therapeutic potential of manipulating CB2 expression is because this receptor is not thought to be implicated in the psychoactive effects of THC. Thus, treatments developed with CB2 receptors may offer options for therapy that do not have negative cognitive side effects.

As a therapeutic target, the CB2 receptor may offer potential for treating a variety of conditions, including:

·       Alzheimer’s

·       Inflammation

·       Cancer

 

The “Entourage Effect”: Synergistic Effects of CBD and THC

Although it still remains a somewhat controversial claim, many researchers believe that cannabinoids such as CBD and THC may have more potent and/or more effective therapeutic value when used in combination. This is known as the Entourage Effect after researchers coined the term in a landmark paper in 1998.

For example, we recently featured a news story demonstrating the Entourage Effect in the case of cannabis based Epilepsy treatments.

As researchers uncover more about the relationship between the various cannabinoids in cannabis (there are over 100 of them!) the odds are good that specific combinations of these compounds will be used to target specific diseases and/or symptoms.

 

How Does CBD Work?

It turns out that CBD does not work by binding to the cannabinoid receptors CB1 or CB2 directly. It works via receptor independent pathways, for example by modulating the binding capacity of the receptors and/or delaying the metabolism of key neurotransmitters in the endocannabinoid system.

Although we are discovering the exact mechanisms through which CBD works, there is exciting news coming out of the latest research showing the various health benefits of CBD.

In order to get a better understanding of the many ways that CBD is working with the body’s ECS to promote better health, let’s take a look at a few of mechanisms emerging in the scientific research.

 

CBD and TRPV1 Receptors

Also known as Vanilloid receptors, TRPV1 receptors play a role in pain perception, body temperature, and inflammation responses. Although many medicinal plants contain compounds that interact with this receptor, perhaps the most famous is the humble vanilla bean thanks to the essential oil it contains called eugenol. This receptor also reacts to capsaicin, responsible for the heat in chili peppers!

The Vanilloid receptor has long been a target for pain intervention, and since CBD binds to this receptor, it shows promise as a treatment for nociceptive pain and inflammation.

Want to learn more about CBD oil and pain management? Be sure to check out my informative article here.

In addition, CBD can be applied topically where it can also reduce pain by working through the skin. To learn more about that process, check here.

 

CBD and 5-HT1A Receptors

You may not have heard of 5-HT1A receptors, but I bet you have heard of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that binds to this receptor. The interaction between the 5-HT1A and serotonin plays a critical role in mood.

In fact, you may even be aware that many medications prescribed for depression are designed to actively increase the concentration of serotonin in our system by preventing it from being metabolized by our bodies. This class of drugs are known as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs).

It turns out that CBD also interacts with the 5-HT1A receptor, exhibiting rapid anti-depressant effects in studies on mice. Although more research needs to be done, there is evidence to believe that future research on CBD may have therapeutic value for those that suffer from depression and anxiety as a result of this interaction.

If you want to learn more about the latest research on CBD and depression and anxiety, be sure to check out my full article on the subject here.

 

CBD and GPR55 Receptors

Although scientists have not yet classified GPR55 receptors as part of the endocannabinoid system, it seems this receptor is sensitive to cannabinoids such as CBD. Here is where it gets really interesting – this receptor has been implicated in the aggressive spread of certain kinds of cancer. 

In addition, this receptor is related to bone health because it can trigger the production of osteoclasts, a type of cell that breaks down bone tissue.

Turns out that CBD is an antagonist of the GPR55 receptor, meaning it keeps it in the “off” position. Although more research needs to be done to develop specific CBD treatments for degenerative bone disease and cancer, there is a reason to be hopeful that future medications may take advantage of this relationship between CBD oil and GPR55 receptors.

 

More Health Benefits of CBD Oil

If you are interested in learning more about how CBD works, be sure to check out my other informational pages delving into more detail on specific conditions and how CBD oil works to address them.

 

Click through to learn more about CBD oil and:

·       Arthritis

·       Sleep

·       Psoriasis

·       Eczema

·       Acne

·       Anxiety and Depression

·       Pain and Inflammation– Orally taken

·       Pain and Inflammation — Topical