With the meteoric rise in popularity of cannabidiol (CBD), many people are benefiting from the amazing benefits this little molecule has to offer. However, with so many different uses for such a wide range of symptoms, CBD oil users are wondering exactly how CBD can do all this and why it works so well for so many things.
The secret lies in something called the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a physiological system that each and every single vertebrate on the planet has within their bodies - as do you.
Think of your ECS as your body’s very own cannabinoid producing system that not only helps your cells, organs and nervous system run smoothly, but also interacts with plant cannabinoids and allows CBD to do its job.
The ECS’s main job is to modulate and regulate a range of different biological and physiological systems within your body, keeping it in a constant state of balance - a type of “Goldilocks” zone, where everything is just right. This state of balance, or homeostasis, is what helps your body perform at its best and allows you to stay healthy and vital.
Let’s find out more...
The Endocannabinoid System
The ECS is made up of three basic parts, consisting of endocannabinoids, the cannabinoid receptors cannabinoids bind to, and the metabolic enzymes that break them down.
Endocannabinoids are a specific type of cannabinoid which your body manufactures and which is responsible for helping to activate and regulate the ECS. Endocannabinoids are classified as a very special type of neurotransmitter called retrograde neurotransmitter which has the ability to control and regulate the signalling of other chemicals and neurotransmitters in the body.
To give you a practical example of what this means is, say you suffer from chronic or inflammatory pain, the reason for this is that the cells in that part of your body are constantly sending out neurotransmitters that signal “pain” to your brain. What endocannabinoids can do is stop that signal and send its own message back up that neural pathway, telling the cells to stop making and sending those pain signalling neurotransmitters, essentially cutting off the sensation of pain.
But for endocannabinoids to be able to do this, they need cannabinoid receptors (CBr’s) that basically act as a kind of “lock-and-key” system, where the receptor is the lock and the endocannabinoid is the key that unlocks the signalling systems between different cells in the body. We know of two different types, each of which interact with different systems in the body.
CB-1 receptors are mainly responsible for regulating the release of neurotransmitters and balancing neuronal activity and mostly found in the brain and central nervous system, but can also present in the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, liver and kidneys.
CB-1 receptors are involved with:
reducing seizure activity and spasticity in people with epilepsy and multiple sclerosis
CB-2 receptors are involved with:
modulation of intestinal inflammatory responses such as found in Crohn's disease, inflammatory bowel diseases, and ulcerative colitis
There are two main metabolic enzymes responsible for breaking down endocannabinoids. They are fatty acid amide hydrolase, and monoacylglycerol lipase. It is because of these enzymes that, unlike other hormones and other neurochemicals, endocannabinoids don’t hang around and cannot be stored for later use, but more on that later.
The endocannabinoid system & CBD Oil
As with anything else, sometimes things go wrong and the same goes for the ECS. Due to the ECS’s metabolic enzymes and the fact that endocannabinoids can’t be stored for later use, sometimes there is a possibility that there aren’t enough of them to go around. This can cause the body to fall out of homeostasis which scientists now believe may cause many of the symptoms and ailments we suffer from resulting in a condition called clinical endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome.
This is where things start to get interesting. When scientists started looking at how plant cannabinoids interact and work with the ECS and endocannabinoids, they found that the ECS is not only a great target site for therapeutic interventions but that phytocannabinoids like CBD oil can hold the key to restoring endocannabinoid deficiencies, balance and health.
Scientists found that, although phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids are chemically different, the way in which they interact with the ECS are very similar. That means that, when you take CBD, it works very much the same way as what your body’s own cannabinoids do, acting both as a retrograde neurotransmitter that reduces many symptoms directly as well as helping to restore homeostasis and health within your body.
As ECS and CBD research is continuing and more information is becoming available about the therapeutic properties and health benefits of this phytocannabinoid, an increasing number of people are using CBD oil to help relieve a variety of symptoms and conditions. Even more people are now also using CBD oil as a preventative supplement to help keep their bodies happy and healthy.
And although we are still in the early stages of knowing everything there is to know about how phytocannabinoids like CBD interact with our bodies, and in particular with the ECS, what we do know is that there is a definite biological basis for why it works so well on so many different symptoms and conditions.