What Exactly is CBD & Endocannabinoid Dysfunction?
Most people have heard of the chemical THC, which is the compound in marijuana that gets users “high”. But recently, attention has shifted to another compound found in the same plant, called CBD — and for good reason.
Whilst doctors can’t seem to look past certain side effects of THC, CBD doesn’t appear to present the same problem. The number of studies on CBD and its medical benefits continue to grow.
What is CBD ?
CBD is one of over 60 compounds found in cannabis that belong to a class of molecules called cannabinoids. Out of all the compounds, CBD and THC are usually present in the highest concentrations, and are therefore the most recognized and studied. CBD and THC levels tend to vary among different plants, marijuana grown for recreational purposes often contains more THC than CBD. However, by using selective breeding techniques, cannabis breeders have managed to create varieties with high levels of CBD and next to zero levels of THC.
The difference with THC lies in where they bind to special cell sites called cannabinoid receptors, and it are these receptors that make up a larger endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS regulates all sorts of bodily processes, including mood, metabolism, pain, reproduction, and immune function
What does CBD do, exactly?
CBD seems to offer a natural protection against the marijuana high. Numerous studies suggest that CBD acts to reduce the intoxicating effects of THC, such as memory impairment and paranoia. CBD also appears to counteract the sleep-inducing effects of THC, which may explain why some strains of cannabis are known to increase alertness. Both CBD and THC have been found to present no risk of lethal overdose. However, to reduce potential side effects, medical users may be better off using cannabis with higher levels of CBD.
When the user ingests CBD, CB1 and CB2 are stimulated to produce its own cannabinoids which enhance the overall effect on the body. In essence when we take in CBD, terpenes or any other compound that can bind to the receptors within our ECS, we are supplementing a naturally occurring system.
Dr. Ethan Russo is the Senior Medical Advisor at GW Pharmaceuticals, the company responsible for Sativex and Epidiolex. One of his most notable contributions to the cannabis knowledge bank can be found in his study “Taming THC,” in which he discussed the synergistic effect of endocannabinoid deficiency.
What is clinical endocannabinoid deficiency?
Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CEDC) is a proposed spectrum disorder that has been implicated in a range of illnesses, including fibromyalgia, migraine, and irritable bowel syndrome. So far, very little research has been conducted on this speculative disorder, but if it is found to exist, it could be responsible for these very common conditions as well as many related ones.
If you don’t have enough endocannabinoids you have pain where there shouldn’t be pain. You would feel sick or nauseated and have a lowered seizure threshold.
Cannabinoid receptors and the biochemical machinery necessary to synthesize and generate cannabinoids are present within areas of the brain known to control emotional behavior, mood, stress, and fear. These structures include the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, hippocampus, and periaqueductal gray (PAG) of the midbrain.
Why isn’t the ESC more well-known?
Recently, research has begun to highlight other neurochemical systems, including cytokines, peptides, and bioactive lipids. By diving deeper into the science of bioactive lipids, we begin to unearth the potential role of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in stress and fear responses. Unfortunately, research on the endocannabinoid system is sorely lacking. Medical students are not taught about it during school, and thus far, very few pharmaceutical drugs are designed to tap into the ECS.
This is mind-blowing for several reasons, one of them being the fact that cannabinoid receptors are found in abundance on all types of cells in different parts of the body.
As Russo mentions, these receptors are especially common in the brain;“There are more cannabinoid receptors in the brain than there are for all of the neurotransmitters put together”. The fact that we can find these receptors in such high concentrations and in crucial areas of the body like the brain, should mean that the ECS plays an integral part in our general health and well-being. The more we understand about this system, the easier it will be to supplement it in order to enhance certain bodily processes or even relieve symptoms of chronic illnesses.
To help close the gap on endocannabinoid research, Russo and the team at Phytecs are working to develop drugs, herbal remedies, and nutritional supplements that enhance the ECS.