CBD Myths and Facts
At first glance, the health benefits of CBD seem to go on forever. Chemical compounds – called cannabinoids – in the hemp plant have shown the potential to slow the growth of certain cancer cells, help diabetics manage blood sugar, reverse osteoporosis-related bone loss, help in managing chronic anxiety, reduce pain and inflammation, even slow the progression of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.
But does the science support these claims? And do CBD products on the market deliver results? That’s what well explore in this multi-part series. Over the next few weeks, we’ll look at the endocannabinoid system and explain how it works. We’ll break down how CBD interacts with the human body, analyze the science, and review CBD products to see if they deliver results.
The Science Behind CBD
For today, let’s look at some of the research and science behind CBD. Cannabidiol or CBD is one of over 100 known chemical compounds – called cannabinoids – found in the cannabis plant. There are three species of cannabis; Indica, Sativa, and ruderalis (hemp). Each has different characteristics, effects, and benefits.
In all three species, cannabinoids are concentrated in resin produced by the plant’s flowers. These compounds can be isolated and manufactured for human use as oils, supplement pills, topical creams, and even used to enrich foods. Cannabinoids work in human beings by inserting themselves into special receptors found in certain tissues and cells.
These receptors make up something called the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which helps modulate bodily functions like appetite, sleep, anxiety, digestion, and cognition. The ECS is also closely tied to both the nervous system and the immune system.
Unlike its better-known brother THC, CBD cannabinoids do not make people feel “high” or “stoned”. In fact, CBD may counteract the psychoactive properties of THC. The fact that CBD oil is non-psychoactive makes it an appealing option for patients looking for relief from inflammation, pain, anxiety, psychosis, seizures, and other conditions without the mood and mind-altering effects and dysphoria of THC.
Are There Health Benefits Associated with CBD Oil?
Scientific and clinical research seems to indicate that CBD is a potential treatment option for a wide range of conditions, including arthritis, diabetes, chronic pain, PTSD, epilepsy, cancer, digestive issues, neurological disorders, and inflammatory conditions. Here’s why…
Cannabinoids like CBD target specific types of cannabinoid receptors found in certain brain cells and tissue. This targeting is called a binding affinity. There are two main kinds of cannabinoid receptors in humans, CB1 and CB2.
Although CBD has little binding affinity for either of the two cannabinoid receptors, it does activate several non-cannabinoid receptors.
For example, Jose Alexandre Crippa and his colleagues at the University of San Paulo in Brazil and King’s College in London found that highly concentrated CBD activates a serotonin receptor (a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of happiness, calm, and euphoria) called 5-HT1A, creating an anti-anxiety effect, lowering stress and reducing pain.
CBD has also been shown to interact with ion channels in the body that generate therapeutic effects. Of particular interest to chronic pain sufferers, CBD has been shown to bind to TRPV1 receptors, which mediate pain perception, inflammation, and body temperature. That could mean relief for the millions suffering through debilitating pain every day.
In fact, capsaicin – the main ingredient in icy hot and other pain rubs that create a heating or cooling effect – works the same way. It also activates TRPV1 receptors, that’s how it helps soothe your aches and pains. CBD can also serve as an antagonist for certain receptors. For example, it can block or deactivate a type of protein receptor called GPR55.
What is GPR55?
GPR55 is widely expressed in the cerebellum (the part of the brain that controls movement, motor control, and sensory perception). It helps modulate blood pressure and bone density. When GPR55 is activated (or overactive) it can lead to osteoporosis, hypertension, and the proliferation of cancer cells. CBD has been shown to prevent the activation of GPR55, possibly reducing the risk of certain cancers.
As the University of Aberdeen scientist Ruth Ross demonstrated in a study presented at the 2010 conference of the International Cannabinoid Research Society, CBD acts as a selective GPR55 inhibitor. By blocking GPR55 signaling, CBD may slow osteoporosis-related bone loss, lower blood pressure, and prevent the growth and expansion of certain types of cancer cells.
Even better, CBD also exerts an anti-cancer effect by activating something called peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs) that sit on the surface of a cell’s nucleus.
One study showed that stimulating activation of the PPAR-gamma receptor was linked to tumor regression in patients with lung cancer.
PPAR-gamma activation can even break up beta-amyloid plaque which is a key contributor to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. But there’s more. PPAR receptors also regulate genes involved in energy homeostasis, lipid uptake, insulin sensitivity, and other metabolic functions. That means CBD might be a promising treatment protocol for those with diabetes.
And if all that’s not enough, CBD has been shown to have neuroprotective properties and wide-ranging anti-inflammatory benefits that could prove useful in the treatment of autoinflammatory conditions like Rheumatoid Arthritis.
New Studies are Starting to Prove the Benefits of CBD
While the science behind cannabinoids and CBD oil is still young, it does look promising. New information and discoveries are being published every day.
While more research is needed, particularly human studies, this natural chemical compound found in the hemp plant may mark a new approach to the treatment of conditions like chronic pain, anxiety, diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension, autoimmune, autoinflammatory, and neurodegenerative diseases.
But how does CBD interact with the body to produce effects? What is the endocannabinoid system? Can CBD products really deliver the results they claim? Why do so many fall short of expectations, or fail to deliver at all? We’ll explore these questions and more in our next post.