Introduction to Hemp CBD
Hemp CBD has been recently growing in popularity and is used by many people around the world. CBD may benefit a person’s health in various ways, from regulating stress and mood, to managing pain, fighting inflammation, insomnia and more.
Cannabidiol, which what CBD stands for, is a naturally occurring compound abundantly found in Cannabis plant. It has a long history in medicine going back thousands of years. CBD belongs to a group of more than a hundred phytocannabinoids, which are present in many plants, herbs and spices. However, the highest known concentrations of CBD are found in cannabis and hemp plants.
People often refer to cannabis plants as either hemp or marijuana, depending on how much THC they contain. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is probably the most famous and abundant phytocannabinoid found in marijuana. Both CBD and THC have significant therapeutic attributes, but unlike THC- the compound that causes a feeling of ‘high’ effect, CBD does not make a person feel “intoxicated”. That is because CBD and THC act in different ways on different receptors in the brain and body. CBD can actually lessen or neutralise the psychoactive effects of THC.
Discovery of the Endocannabinoid system
About 50 years ago Raphael Mechoulam, researching why cannabis affects the human body, discovered the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). The ECS is a communication system that interlinks our organs and other body systems in order to work towards homeostasis (a state of optimal functioning) and cellular healing in the body. It consists of cell receptors and corresponding molecules produced in the body (endogenous cannabinoids), that interact on the surface of various cells. These receptors are also affected by exogenous (originating outside the body) cannabinoids — which is why cannabis has the effects that it does. These receptors are located throughout the body and take part in a variety of physiological processes, as mentioned above.
Two different types of receptors
CB1 receptors are essential for a healthy functioning brain and are one of the most common in the entire nervous system. Depending on what region of the brain they are located in, they can modulate memory, mood, motor function, or perception of pain. Although CB1 receptors are most common in the central nervous system, they are found in other parts of the human body at lower densities. CB1 receptors also have roles in pregnancy, hormone production, cardiovascular health and digestion.
CB2 receptors are most often found on the cells of immune system. They help moderate inflammation and immune response to pathogens. Targeting CB2 receptors is particularly beneficial in combating an overactive immune system (as seen in arthritis, asthma, allergies, autoimmune disorders).
How CBD works on the Nervous System
The Endocannabinoid System is very easy to throw out of balance. High stress levels, poor diet, exposure to toxins and lack of exercise all influence body’s ECS. Ageing is a major cause of unhealthy ECS and western lifestyle is taking a toll on this recently discovered bodily system. Chronic stress, that is so present in today’s society, particularly speeds up the ageing process. Small release of stress hormones tell the body to wake up and/or to prepare for a “fight or flight” response. However human bodies aren’t designed to be in chronic state of panic. Persistent, high levels of stress hormones, mainly cortisol, have negative consequences that include: depression, weight imbalance, weakened immune system, high blood sugar levels, heart disease, fatigue, problems with sleep, digestive problems, nutritional deficiencies and more.
CBD and Anxiety
Therapeutic properties of Hemp CBD are being tested and confirmed by scientists nearly every day. CBD has broad medicinal uses across a range of mental disorders (1, 2). In recent years, CBD has received an increasing interest as a potential anxiolytic (anxiety reducing) treatment (3, 4, 5). While some individuals take CBD to calm their everyday worries, others use it to treat more serious conditions like generalised anxiety disorder. There are over 30 preclinical studies that investigate the anti-anxiety properties of CBD, which generally support a positive outcome. In a 2011 study (6), 24 people with social anxiety disorder received either CBD or a placebo an hour and a half before performing a simulated public speaking test. Additionally, 12 other people with social anxiety disorder performed the same test without receiving any CBD treatment. Results revealed that pre-treatment with CBD significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort during their speech.
CBD and Pain
Market research shows us, that the most common reason of people taking Hemp CBD supplements is to manage pain (7). There is in fact a growing number of evidence to support that claim. In a 2018 mice study (8), a group of scientists evaluated the effects of CBD on the inflammatory response and recovery after spine injury. After 10 weeks of its administration, they have observed a significant decrease in pro-inflammatory chemicals produced by mice.
CBD used topically also works well in pain and inflammation management. In 2015 a study using a rat model (9), examined the efficacy of transdermal CBD for arthritis related complaints.
Scientists have concluded that the topical administration of CBD “has therapeutic potential for relief of arthritis pain-related behaviours and inflammation without evident side effects”.
CBD and Memory
There is also some evidence to suggest that CBD may improve memory function and other symptoms presented in Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) such as social recognition (10). Latest research from UCL Psychiatry Department (11) shows CBD’s ability to increase cerebral blood flow to different regions of the brain that are responsible for memory function and thought processing. Those findings could be an important treatment factor in multiple brain disorders including different forms of dementia, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other psychiatric illnesses.
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Evidence from multiple studies have begun to describe the details of how CBD acts in the brain. In fact, human studies are showing CBD’s efficacy as an anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory treatment. Other studies have demonstrated how CBD supplementation may benefit memory and brain decline. More research on humans is needed to examine the long-term effects and potential healing properties of CBD’s. However, thus far, it has demonstrated its effectiveness and a highly favourable safety profile, which makes it a viable alternative to what pharmaceutical industry currently offers.
Sylwia Wyrebek, Naturopath, MCMA
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