Health Benefits of CBD: Helping Your Body Achieve Homeostasis
Until recently, any claims about the health benefits of cannabis compounds, such as cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) were purely anecdotal. Decades of prohibition made scientific research on a large scale almost impossible, stigmatizing the patients who chose to use it as an alternative to traditional medicine.
However, as legalization is quickly reshaping public opinion, more educational institutions can study the health benefits of various cannabinoids. CBD is the focus of these studies, as it has shown incredible promise in treating a wide range of conditions.
What is cannabidiol (CBD)
CBD is one of the most prevalent among over 60 chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant. These ingredients are called cannabinoids and can be found in a surprising amount of living organisms.
Even the human body produces its own cannabinoids, that regulate many natural processes, such as inflammation control and serotonin production.
Although cannabis has mainly been associated with psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol, CBD has little to do with it. In fact, it acts as a counter-agent to THC, producing precisely the opposite effects. According to a growing number of scientific papers, CBD has the potential to be used for the treatment of severe conditions, such as late-stage arthritis and cancer treatment.
How CBD works with the endocannabinoid system
Without getting too technical, the key to understanding CBD is to realize that it doesn’t work as traditional medicine. Instead, it helps the body itself achieve homeostasis by interacting with our endocannabinoid system (ECS).
Homeostasis is the natural tendency of the body to maintain a relatively stable internal environment that is optimal to its operation. For example, our temperature or pH levels are supposed to stay within a certain range. The ECS has a lot to do with this state of natural equilibrium. Cannabinoid receptors, designed to interact with all kinds of cannabinoid compounds, are present throughout our bodies. They influence some major bodily functions such as appetite, pain, inflammation, and mood.
Studies on the endocannabinoid system are still new and inconclusive, so nobody can say for sure exactly how it works or how it is activated. However, the potential that has been unearthed from existing studies justifies the need for increased research on the field.
Types of endocannabinoid receptors
There are two main categories of cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2. Each one shows affinities for different kind of endocannabinoids and those produced by hemp/cannabis or other plants (in much lower concentrations.)
There are other cannabinoid receptors too, but they don’t play as an essential role as these two.
CB1 receptors are mainly located on the brain cells and the spinal cord, making them responsible for the control of functions such as memory processing and pain control. It is worth noting that there is a notably lower concentration of CB1 receptors in the brain stem (responsible for our motor functions). But that’s a good thing since you wouldn’t want anything to mess with your respiration or coordination!
CB2 receptors are mostly associated with the immune system, as they are found on white blood cells and the spleen. CB2 receptors have been singled out by researchers because of their anti-inflammatory properties and their role against neurodegenerative diseases.
What is interesting regarding endocannabinoid receptors, is that, contrary to THC, CBD shows little affinity for either receptor. Instead, it interacts with several non-cannabinoid receptors that trigger the production of internal cannabinoids (such as anandamide).
It sounds confusing, but it is really not! Essentially, what CBD does is promote the production of internal cannabinoids (endocannabinoids), that can help with:
- Pain & inflammation
- Cardiovascular health
- Psychotic episodes
- Helps fight cancer side effects
- Seizures and neuro disorders
- Lower incidence of diabetes
Health effects of CBD on your body
According to the scientific research conducted so far, CBD has proven health benefits for many conditions throughout the human body.
CBD health benefits on the brain
The health effects of CBD on the brain is a topic which should be approached cautiously, as we have yet to develop a full understanding of either. Nevertheless, studies show that CBD shows a lot of potential as an antipsychotic, antidepressant, antianxiety, antioxidant and neuroprotective agent.
CBD health benefits on the eyes
Although CBD and medical marijuana, in general, are not suggested during the early onset of glaucoma, studies have found that CBD can help alleviate the painful symptoms caused in the late stage.
CBD health benefits on the heart
Heart disease is the leading cause of death among Americans, accounting for more than 600,000 deaths per year. Therefore, much of the study regarding the health benefits of CBD is focused on its effect on cardiovascular health.
Studies have shown promising results regarding the benefits of CBD against atherosclerosis, by triggering the production of endocannabinoids that regulate blood flow.
CBD health benefits on the stomach & intestines
One of the many side effects of serious conditions is a loss of appetite. Cannabis is a well-known appetite stimulant (the famous “munchies”), but CBD can produce the same effects without the unwanted psychoactive high.
Nausea and vomiting are some other unpleasant issue caused by many mental and physical conditions (anxiety, pain, cancer treatment). Studies have shown that CBD is a powerful anti-emetic agent, by influencing serotonin production on the brain.
CBD health benefits on the hands
There are many different kinds of arthritis and all of them are equally painful. However, there has been some very promising research regarding the effects of CBD on patients with rheumatoid arthritis. According to the studies, CBD gel improved joint mobility, while at the same time drastically reduced pain levels.
CBD health benefits on the legs
All over the world, osteoporosis causes a fracture every three seconds. One of the most common problems for the elderly (especially women), osteoporosis is a disease where bone weakness reaches a critical threshold, dramatically increasing the risk of injury.
According to studies, CBD is capable of regulating endocannabinoid receptors that are responsible for bone formation and decay. Also, due to its proven anti-inflammatory effects, it drastically reduces the pain associated with the condition.
We are still in a relatively early stage regarding the studies on CBD and its effects on the human body. Studies are very promising. However, the evidence we have so far justifies the need for more studies on this new medicine.