What exactly is cannabidiol (CBD) and more importantly, what does it do?
These questions and more are being asked by people from all walks of life, from those living with life limiting, debilitating illness through those struggling to cope with the stress and anxiety bought on by day to day life.
This is a quick guide to one of the most fascinating and important compounds of the cannabis plant.
Cannabis plants are chemical powerhouses that produce more than 400 different compounds. Not all of those compounds are unique to marijuana, and appear in many other species of plants. That’s why marijuana can smell like pine trees or taste like fresh lemons. However of those 400 compounds, more than 60 of them are totally specific to the plant genus Cannabis.
Scientists call these special compounds “cannabinoids.” However, not all cannabinoids are created equal. One of them, cannabidiol, or CBD, holds the key to the wide variety of medicinal and therapeutic effects marijuana offers.
The more we learn about CBD, the more it seems poised to revolutionize medicine as we know it.
One of the most crucially important qualities of CBD is its lack of psycho-activity. This means that cannabidiol won’t get you high. Unlike THC, the cannabinoid with the legendary power of producing euphoric sensations, Cannabidiol is inert.
So when taken on its own, users experience none of the sensations of being stoned. And this is the single most important property of the cannabinoid from the medical—and legal—perspective.
Because CBD doesn’t get you high, products that contain only CBD (cannabinoid) are not covered by the legal ban on marijuana.
For good reason, cannabidiol dominates the conversation about the medical applications of cannabis. But that doesn’t mean CBD isn’t valuable to recreational users. In fact, CBD has some special qualities that can make it an important part of any recreational experience.First, lets take a look at the medical side of things. Then we’ll take a look at the importance of cannabidiol for recreational users.
All of the 60-plus cannabinoids unique to the plant genus Cannabis interact with our bodies thanks to a network of neurons called the endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system runs throughout your body. And it’s loaded with receptors that bind to the cannabinoids you introduce to your bloodstream when you consume weed.
And it’s the chemical interactions of those bonds that create a wide and largely unknown series of responses in your body.
Without distorting the science too much, you could say that human beings are “hard-wired” for CBD. The endocannabinoid system runs deep and touches all of the major systems of the body. And that’s why weed can do so many things for us, from altering and regulating moods to stimulating appetites and reducing pain.
And even though cannabidiol has no toxicity for humans—meaning, it doesn’t make you intoxicated (i.e. high)—it is highly reactive with the endocannabinoid system.
To put things as simply as possible, CBD works hard. When it binds to the endocannabinoid system’s receptors, it stimulates all kinds of changes in the body
Most of those changes are incredibly beneficial, and researchers keep uncovering real and potential medical uses for them.
One of the most important CBD studies ever published was a path-breaking study into the efficacy of using CBD as a treatment for epilepsy.
In 2012, researchers with the British Epilepsy Association published a paper called “Cannabidiol exerts anti-convulsant effects in animal models of the temporal lobe and partial seizures.” The conclusion? “The evidence strongly supports CBD as a therapeutic candidate for a diverse range of human epilepsies.”
Researchers are still trying to figure out the exact mechanisms behind neuro degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. We know it has to do with a protein pathway. looking down to the molecular level, researchers discovered that CBD can actually protect nerve cells from degenerative diseases. Scientists call this CBD’s “neuroprotective effect,” and it’s one of the most promising aspects of the cannabinoid.
Cannabidiol is a potent pain reliever. 2015 saw the most important study to uncover the pain-relieving effects of CBD. In that study, researchers compared cannabidiol to morphine.
To their surprise, CBD worked well in combination with morphine and counteracted the latter’s risky side effects. This means cannabidiol can help treat acute pain conditions, along with more long-term benefits.
It sounds too good to be true. But indeed, pre-clinical trials have shown that cannabidiol has a powerful anti-tumor effect. The most important study in this has been the 2015 study "The Antitumor Activity of Plant-Derived Non-Psychoactive Cannabinoids"this study concluded that “CBD slows the progression of many types of cancer, including breast, lung, prostate and colon cancer.”
How that works is pretty incredible. Cannabidiol actually makes it harder for cancer cells to grow. In some cases, this causes an increase in cancer cell death. No wonder stories abound about “miracle” CBD cures that shrink tumors.
Cannabis is widely-valued as a treatment for inflammation. Credit goes to both THC and CBD in that regard, but cannabidiol has some special anti-inflammatory properties of its own.
Specifically, cannabidiol binds with the endocannabinoid system to produce a response that reduces nerve inflammation. This is another of its “neuroprotective” qualities and a major reason why CBD is such an effective treatment for neurological diseases.
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