Buckle up; here's a CBD and Endocannabinoid System (ECS) crash course.
Public interest is growing in the power of CBD as an accessible entry to the world of cannabinoids.
While cannabis itself is only legal in a certain number of states (although that number continues to grow!), hemp-based CBD is legal in all fifty states. This means that wherever you are, it's probably relatively easy to obtain CBD.
But unlike THC, CBD’s more familiar cousin, many people are unaware of the precise nature of CBD. So how similar is CBD to its psychoactive cousin? Can CBD get you high? Let's take a closer look at this intriguing compound and the possibilities it offers for interaction within the human body systems.
What is CBD?
Short for "cannabidiol," CBD is a compound found in both cannabis and hemp plants, the latter of which is the source of the more universally legal forms of CBD. The reason for this is the widespread use and legality of the hemp plant, although, as American acceptance of cannabis grows, cannabis-based CBD will also grow in popularity.
While CBD and THC (short for tetrahydrocannabinol) are the most well-known cannabinoids, over 113 known cannabinoid compounds are found within the cannabis plant. Each of these distinct compounds interacts with the human endocannabinoid system (don't worry, we'll get to that later!) in its own specific way. Still, the significant difference between these two heavy hitters is their psychoactive potential. Unlike THC, CBD won't create the effects of a "high."
What is the Endocannabinoid System?
Researchers in the 1990s discovered the endocannabinoid system. Although exploration into the nature of this complex biological network is ongoing, there are still many unanswered questions about how this system works.
However, we do know that several essential processes are dependent on the endocannabinoid system. Evidence suggests that the system supports:
- Mood and emotional function
- Fertility and reproduction
There is evidence that this network might impact other biological functions. Still, we know that it's a natural function of the human body that interacts with other systems constantly, regardless of whether or not an individual consumes CBD or other cannabis products.
How does the Endocannabinoid System work?
There are three main components of the endocannabinoid system: endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes.
Sometimes referred to as "endogenous cannabinoids," endocannabinoids are similar to cannabinoids, but they're produced naturally within your body as needed. These molecules help regulate the internal systems listed above, keeping things running smoothly.
Once your endocannabinoid system has produced the molecules, they bind to receptors found throughout your body. This binding process signals the system to kick into gear and create a particular response depending on where the receptor is located and which endocannabinoid binds to it.
Lastly, the enzymes! Your body produces enzymes for many reasons--the ones within this system are designed to break down endocannabinoids once they've performed their function.
CBD and the Endocannabinoid System
While researchers still aren't entirely sure about the mechanisms of how CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system, there are a couple of theories about how and why this interaction works.
Some researchers believe that CBD works by keeping the system's enzymes from breaking down naturally produced endocannabinoids. When these molecules interact with their receptors over a more extended period, they may be able to have a more pronounced effect on your body. So, while it might not bind to a receptor, it's still interacting with it in some way.
Others believe that CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system the same way THC does by binding with a particular set of preexisting receptors. If this is true, then the specific receptor that interacts with CBD hasn't been discovered yet.
The Effects of CBD
While the mechanics of how CBD works within the body are still somewhat mysterious, there is a growing body of research that suggests CBD can be helpful with the symptoms associated with multiple conditions. Studies are showing that CBD might help provide relief for:
- Short term and chronic pain
- PTSD symptoms
- Heart issues
This shortlist is only a sample of the many symptoms people often treat with CBD in experimental settings. With full cannabis legalization on the horizon and a growing body of research dedicated to this promising compound, the list will likely continue to grow.
Whether you're seeking to treat a specific symptom or just preventatively support your mental and physical health, CBD's nonpsychoactive properties and easy availability make it ideal for introducing into your everyday wellness routine.