Cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive component of cannabis, is developing a reputation as a trendy cure-all. But science knows very little about what it does in the human body, so much about the workings of this drug—including whether it works at all—is something of a mystery.
What exactly is CBD?
Cannabis contains over 100 chemical components called cannabinoids. The best known of those are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). Meanwhile, our bodies contain receptors for cannabinoids. CB1 receptors are found mainly in the brain, and CB2 receptors are found in other types of cells, including in the immune system and digestive system. We have these receptors because we also have endocannabinoids, cannabinoids that our body naturally produces. THC can affect the CB1 receptors, and it’s responsible for weed’s high. CBD is a little more complicated; it can affect both types of receptors, but often in indirect ways. The exact mechanisms aren’t fully understood. Most cannabis products contain a mix of THC and CBD, but if you’re just looking for the medical effects, CBD is the portion you’re interested in. It’s possible to buy oils and other products that contain only CBD.
How CBD works with Humans
To understand the benefits of CBD oil, it's important to first understand the cannabinoid system, a relatively newly discovered part of the human body that naturally produces certain cannabinoids, similar to CBD (cannabidiol) or THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive cannabinoid in the cannabis plant.
"Endo stands for endogenous, originating within the body," explains Stormy Simon, former President of Overstock.com and champion of the cannabis industry.
She notes that the endocannabinoid system has two types of receptors – CB1, which are mostly located in the brain, as well as in the nerve endings, and CB2, which are found in the immune system and in tissues of the spleen and tonsils.
"CB1 receptors in the brain are associated with emotions, moods, appetite, coordination, movement, and pain," she says.
"Think of [the endocannabinoid system] as a bridge between body and mind with its interactions throughout our internal systems."
Research purports that while the human body does produce cannabinoids on its own, adding new cannabinoids from an external source, like cannabis or CBD oil, can help promote a healthy endocannabinoid system.
Latest CBD Research Findings
Seeing as the endocannabinoid system is a relatively recent discovery, the effects of CBD oil and other cannabinoids on this system are still being explored by researchers, and there is very little conclusive evidence regarding the health benefits of the substance.
According to a recent WHO report on the effects of CBD oil, the product has a low human bioavailability (about 6 percent from oral delivery, according to a 2004 study in Pharmaceutical Press), while aerosolized CBD "has been reported to yield rapid peak plasma concentrations."
The report also notes that while the effects of CBD have yet to be conclusively proven, what has been observed is that the effects of this cannabinoid are quite different from those of psychoactive THC, notably with regards to behavioral characteristics and stress reactions in mice.
It is important to note that much of the research that has been conducted thus far on CBD is done with far higher dosages than what is available over the counter: hundreds of milligrams per day, as opposed to the standard serving of 25 milligrams recommended by most CBD oil producers.
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