The past few years have seen a surge of interest with regards to cannabidiol (CBD), a naturally occurring compound extracted from the cannabis plant with non-intoxicating and therapeutic properties. Now, there exists numerous start-ups and online retailers offering CBD in many different forms to help with various conditions and symptoms. However, considering the sheer number of conditions that can be improved using CBD, it is understandable to be a bit skeptical of the claims that seem to hail CBD as a miracle cure. As any wise person would affirm, there is no one substance that can cure all diseases, but where there is smoke, there has to be some fire. So what’s all the fuss concerning CBD about? In this article, you will learn about the medicinal value of CBD and its influence on the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which in turn gives it the power to improve the ECS’ ability to maintain homeostasis.
What is homeostasis?
Homeostasis can be described as any physiological process or reactions that our bodies utilize to maintain an optimal internal environment. In most instances, these processes that maintain balance are necessary for life itself.
Throughout our bodies, these automatic control systems are continuously making small modifications in order to sustain ideal levels of crucial body conditions. These include processes such as hydration, oxygen levels, mental stability and body temperature.
For example, to maintain the average internal temperature of about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, our bodies are constantly listening for changes, and when necessary, trigger the appropriate response. When the internal temperature gets too high, for instance, we sweat and the evaporation of the sweat off our skin cools us off. When the temperature gets too low, we shiver to produce heat.
Why homeostasis is crucial for well-being
All organisms must maintain specific internal environments to survive, function and grow – a feat that sounds easier said than done. Our bodies are in a constant struggle to maintain homeostasis, as our systems, including the endocannabinoid system, work to identify and regulate the necessary variables to ensure a stable internal environment. Uncorrected imbalances to this equilibrium may result to health issues, which can range from minor symptoms like sweating, to more serious illnesses such as cancer.
Diseases such as arthritis, stroke, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, glaucoma and many others have also been linked to a loss in this equilibrium. The ability of the body to adjust to changes and effectively maintain homeostasis, therefore, impacts the chances that an illness will develop or not.
Cannabidiol (CBD) and Our Endocannabinoid System (ECS)
CBD has been shown to have a wide range of medical applications, and is currently being used by a huge number of people from all walks of life, suffering from different health conditions as an alternative medicine or supplement.
This begs the question, does CBD work? And if it does, how does CBD work? In case you would like to see how CBD affects your particular condition, visit this page.
To answer the above questions and more, continue reading. We will show you how this amazing compound provided purely by nature interacts with our endocannabinoid system to enhance homeostasis and promote good health.
The Endocannabinoid System and its role in Homeostasis
The endocannabinoid system is a part of our physiology that we did not know existed until the 1990s when an Israeli scientist discovered it. It is a network of cells throughout the body, composed of endocannabinoids and their network of receptors.
The endocannabinoid system has been shown to have extensive impact over homeostasis and is credited for the regulation of an array of physiological processes. These include: pain regulation, sleep, digestion, inflammation, appetite, immune response, mood, energy regulation, memory, just to mention a few.
The endocannabinoid system is able to maintain homeostasis by utilizing the cannabinoid receptors and cannabinoids found throughout the immune system and the central and peripheral nervous systems. When the body detects any imbalance, cannabinoids are naturally synthesized to interact with the cannabinoid receptors, which in turn, trigger the necessary chemical response required to return the process that is out of balance back to normal. Cannabinoids are the links that allow communication between different types of cells in the body.
The body is capable of naturally creating cannabinoids on demand, these include 2AG and anandamide. Anandamide is the chemical you produce when relaxed or meditating and has earned the name, the bliss molecule. Both 2AG and anandamide are found in huge concentrations in breast milk and may explain why children are always relaxed during breastfeeding. The two compounds are also linked to what is commonly known as a runner’s high.
Clinical Endocannabinoid deficiency
Scientists believe that in some cases, not enough cannabinoids are synthesized to bring balance back to a physiological process. This is a condition known as clinical endocannabinoid deficiency, and has been associated with a good number of health issues and diseases. In cases where the endocannabinoid system is not synthesizing enough cannabinoids, scientists have found evidence that supplementing with plant-derived cannabinoids (phyto-cannabinoids) such as CBD may help the endocannabinoid system work effectively and lead to improved health.
Below are some of the major systems in the human physiology most involved with maintaining homeostasis and how CBD intervenes to bring back balance.
How CBD Achieves Homeostasis in Major Homeostatic Processes
The Immune system
If we look at the immune system, we could say that homeostasis generally depends on inflammation and anti-inflammation signals. Many conditions can cause inflammation, which means it is more of a symptom that correlates with many maladies, than a disease itself.
Inflammation can be identified through signs such as pain, soreness, swelling, fatigue, redness, itchy skin and heat. Even discomforts in the gut can be a sign of inflammation, for example, in the case of ulcerative colitis, diarrhea and IBS.
Inflammation is simply the body’s way of getting your attention that something is threatening your health. The body activates the immune system to fend off the attacker, and inflammation is just the end result. If the immune system is inflamed, it could also be a sign that you are suffering from autoimmune diseases such as lupus, thyroid, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, or even multiple sclerosis. Psoriasis and eczema are chronic skin conditions that also cause inflammation.
Unfortunately, inflammation in most people today is caused more by bad habits than pathogens, and some of these diseases were unheard of less than two centuries ago. These include harmful habits such as poor diet, excessive stress, elongated exposure to chemicals that disrupt the endocrine system such as plastics, smog in cities, over-processed foods – you get the drift.
All these substances are being introduced to our bodies every day, exerting an ever increasing pressure to our bodies, which are already struggling to maintain homeostasis.
Inflammation can be considered one of the greatest symptoms of our age. Fortunately, the endocannabinoid system is spread extensively through the immune system. And as we shall see, cannabinoids such as CBD can interact with the ECs to bring the much-needed balance.
The Central Nervous System (CNS)
When considering the central nervous system with regards to homeostasis, the main forces of balance can be grouped into those of relaxation/inhibition and the forces of excitation. When this system is overly excited, it can lead to various mental conditions, including anxiety. When some aspects of the CNS are inhibited, it can lead to problems with mobility, or cause drowsiness.
Again, inflammation appears as a major symptom of various conditions that affect the central nervous system. These include migraines, anxiety, PTSD, epilepsy, autism, ADD/ADHD and insomnia. The endocannabinoid system is widely distributed throughout the cells in the CNS. When cannabinoids such as CBD bind to the receptors on CNS cells, a message is sent all the way down to the nucleus of the cell and the appropriate action is taken to gain back balance.
For example, CBD up-regulates the genes that create anti-inflammatory bio-chemicals for use by the immune system to reduce inflammation in the CNS. It also up regulates a system that brings calmness and relaxation to the CNS called the GABA-system. In the same breath, CBD down regulates the genes that cause inflammation in the immune system and also down regulates the system in the central nervous system responsible for over excitation called the glutamate system.
The Endocrine system or Hormone system
In terms of homeostasis in the endocrine or hormone system, the major forces of balance are distributed between those that break down tissue (the catabolic hormones) and those that build up tissue (the anabolic hormones).
For instance, think about your pancreas, whose job is to produce insulin. To ensure your body functions properly, millions of pancreatic cells will have to produce ample amounts of insulin to maintain a stable blood sugar level. If they produce too much, it may lead to a complications known as hyperglycemia. Too little and you suffer from hypoglycemia.
The endocannabinoid system has been shown to be involved with the control of lipid and glucose metabolism at various levels. For instance, whenever there is an unbalanced energy intake, the ECS becomes dysregulated and may become hyperactive in numerous organs that are responsible for maintaining energy balance. Researchers now believe that the dysregulation of the ECS is a major factor in the accumulation of excess visceral fat, and reduced adiponectin release from adipose tissue.
It does not end there, homeostatic imbalance has been largely linked to the onset of several cardiometabolic risk factors that may result to obesity and type 2 diabetes. According to one study, this phenomenon might present a novel method of action of phytocannabinoids such as CBD, to bolster the ECS signaling system by minimizing the extent of its dysregulation.
CBD influences the making of certain genes in our bodies
All the information needed to create proteins, our bodies’ building blocks, are contained in our genes. We are talking about all the signaling molecules that run various physiological processes. Including; hormones that run the endocrine system, neurotransmitters that run the central nervous system as well as cytokines which operate the immune system.
Scientists now know that CBD regulates the transcriptions of over 1,100 genes. These include genes that form the signaling molecules that naturally reduce inflammation throughout the immune and central nervous systems, thereby restoring the necessary balance to both systems.
How CBD Works – Interaction with Endocannabinoid and Non-Endocannabinoid receptors and channels
CBD does not directly bind with either of the two known endocannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), nonetheless, it is able to interact with the ECS indirectly via non-ECS receptors. It also acts through numerous channels that do not require the mediation of receptors, for instance, CBD can act by causing a delay in the re-uptake of natural neurotransmitters such anandamide and adenosine. CBD also inhibits or improves the binding action of some receptors such as G-coupled protein receptors. Read along to see the full range of CBD’s interaction with the body – this is just what we know so far.
Below are some of the many ways through which CBD interacts with our bodies to produce its therapeutic effects:
CBD and Adenosine Receptors
CBD’s anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory properties are largely associated to its interaction with the Adenosine receptors. By activating adenosine, CBD promotes the release of glutamate and dopamine neurotransmitters. Dopamine is responsible for the control of major processes, including motor control, cognition, motivation and reward mechanisms. Glutamate modulates memory formation, learning, cognition and excitatory signals.
CBD and serotonin
Scientists have proven that CBD is able to activate specific types of serotonin receptors (5-HT1A) in neurons. Serotonin is strongly linked to anxiety and the response to fear. CBD’s impact on serotonin is believed to be the cause of its natural anti-anxiety effects, as well as its ability to reduce cravings and affinity to addictive behaviors. The 5-HT1A is also involved in the regulation of many other processes, including appetite, anxiety, nausea, perception of pain, and addiction mechanisms. This supports the possibility that CBD could be utilized as a novel agent for treating many other disorders such as nausea, vomiting and schizophrenia.
CBD and G protein-coupled receptor 55 (GPR55)
Scientists have found that CBD tends to reduce the spread of cancerous cells and bone reabsorption by inhibiting GPR55 signaling. GPR55 signaling is dominant in the central nervous system, and has been linked to the control of vital physiological processes. These include; controlling bone density, maintaining blood pressure and preventing the spread of cancerous cells.
Peroxisome Proliferator Activated Receptors (PPARs) nuclear receptor
Besides GPR55 signaling, CBD is also an anti-cancer agent by activating peroxisome proliferator activated receptors (PPARs). These receptors lie on the surface of a cell’s nucleus, and when activated, they start a chain of chemical reactions that induce the regression of lung tumors.
PPAR receptors are also responsible for the regulation of genes that influence numerous functions, including insulin sensitivity, energy homeostasis, lipid uptake and other metabolic processes. This could help explain why some patients with diabetes have been reporting relief with some of their symptoms after taking cannabidiol.
CBD is capable of re-uptake inhibition
Cannabidiol is a unique compound in the sense that it is a phyto-cannabinoid, yet it is be able to not only enter a human cell, but also bind to a nuclear receptor. You see for CBD to enter a cell, it has to attach itself to a fatty acid binding protein (FABP). These proteins act as transporters of certain lipid molecules across the cell wall. They are the same intracellular molecules that transport the other cannabinoids such as THC, as well as natural endocannabinoids such as 2AG and anandamide (which are basically fatty acids) to their specific targets inside the cell.
Once inside the cell, both THC and CBD have been shown to influence the receptors on the surface of the nucleus and mitochondria. CBD has been mainly associated with three FABPs, and it competes with our naturally produced endocannabinoids (2AG and anandamide) for the same transport molecules.
After being synthesized anandamide is normally broken down by a metabolic enzyme known as fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH). This is where CBD’s effects come in – it interferes with this process by blocking anandamide’s access to the transporters (FABPs), hence delaying its passage into the cell.
CBD’s Influence on non-ECS Receptors in the Brain
The human brain is made up of neurons that connect to each other through structures known as synapses. During brain activity, one neuron communicates to other neurons through chemicals known as neurotransmitters that are sent through synapses and received by the corresponding receptors on other brain cells.
Now, there are a numerous receptors, each with its own set of corresponding neurotransmitters, designed to perform specific functions. For instance, there are opioid receptors, dopamine receptors and serotonin receptors. Cannabinoids such as CBD and THC are able to mimic the effects of neurotransmitters such as anandamide and dopamine, thereby having considerable effects on the brain through these non-endocannabinoid receptors. Some of these are listed below:
Opioid receptors have been largely implicated in the regulation of pain. As you might know, these receptors have been the major target of pharmaceutical drugs, some of which have proven to be deadly, including morphine, fentanyl and heroin. Some scientists believe that the interaction of CBD with opioid receptors could explain its pain-relieving effects.
Dopamine receptors play an important role in encouraging behaviors upon which life depends on such as mating and eating. Dopamine release results in improved mood and therefore, plays a crucial role in mood and addictive disorders.
Other important information concerning CBD
There are many companies selling CBD oil products extracted from hemp. The oil is then ingested orally, using a vape or can be infused with other products to make capsules, liquids, tinctures, etc. CBD is legal to import, purchase and use in all states as long as it is derived from hemp. Laws in individual states vary, and some have their own dynamic laws regulating the use of hemp-derived CBD. Nonetheless, CBD is generally accessible in all states since it is considered non-toxic, non-psychoactive and non-addictive.
When shopping for CBD products, it is important to remember that not all CBD products are of the same quality and not all have gone through safety standards. Therefore, be sure to source your products from a trusted and licensed supplier to avoid any disappointments such as poor quality. Having said that, we cannot over-emphasize consulting with your physician first before adding CBD to your health regimen. Take a look at this article if you are having trouble talking to your doctor about CBD.
Now that you are here, you must have a pretty good idea of what CBD is and more importantly, how it is able to provide therapeutic effects for such a wide range of conditions and symptoms. This makes it an outstanding alternative and supplement, especially to patients who have not been finding much luck with their current medication.
Nonetheless, for those who are of sound health or suffering from nothing serious, CBD can still be extremely valuable. Just the way you need minerals and vitamins every day to stay healthy, CBD works in a similar way as an all-natural supplement. This does not mean that you should replace your usual supplements with CBD, rather, you can consider it as an additional option that you can discuss with your medical practitioner. The research speaks for itself in terms of the wide range of conditions that CBD can help with, just like with supplements and if your CBD is not working for you, maybe these could be one of the reasons.
CBD can produce a positive mood and work similarly to vitamin C in removing potentially harmful oxidizing agents from the body. CBD also works to prevent the proliferation of cancerous cells, keeps inflammation minimal and improves sleep. All these are the subtle, yet extremely beneficial side effects of CBD that make it an outstanding alternative for many patients who need to improve the quality of their lives. It also makes CBD an obvious choice for anyone seeking to improve daily health.
Unlike other daily supplements that contain additives, CBD is completely natural and so far, in all the studies concerning CBD have reported no incidences of adverse effects. It also does not have a high, compared to THC, making it appropriate for all ages.
For a long time, CBD has suffered the same stigma as THC, the psychoactive component that is also extracted from cannabis. However, with so many therapeutic effects, almost non-existent side effects and no high, CBD keeps winning the hearts of even the most doubtful Thomas’s. Currently, there is already medication for treating rare forms of epilepsy based solely on CBD that have been approved for use by the FDA in the U.S.A. It is due to successful results from studies concerning the use of CBD to treat various conditions that the FDA has now decided to remove CBD from the most restrictive class of drugs, Schedule I, to Schedule 5. So, after all is said and done, should CBD be a part of your medicine cabinet?