What Does CBD Do?
The term cannabis carries with it countless connotations. Everyone views it in a slightly different way. And these views are changing at an increasing rate. With state government acceptance of the plant slowly spreading and more scientific research being conducted the world is starting to more fully understand its potential uses. However, the key to seeing cannabis in its full capacity is understanding the science behind it and what it does to the human body.
The Endocannabinoid System
The best place to start when learning the science of cannabis is the endocannabinoid system. You should think of this system like a network that runs through everyone’s body. It contains cell receptors and their molecules—a cell receptor is like the login page to a website and its molecule also called an agonist, is the username and password. When the molecule attaches to the cell it enters the username and password, which logs into the cell. The cell then tells the agonist what to do and where to go.
There are two main types of cell receptors that make up the endocannabinoid system (ECS), Cannabinoid 1 (CB1) and Cannabinoid 2 (CB2). Endocannabinoids are these receptor’s agonists. These agonists are named after cannabis because they perform a similar function to THC, which was discovered first. Anandamide and 2-Ag are the two major endocannabinoids that exist.
The Role Of The Endocannabinoid System
As previously stated, the endocannabinoid system is a network that runs throughout the body. Its receptors have many different roles. Most of the receptors, though, are heavily concentrated on the gastrointestinal tract’s immune cells (CB2), the peripheral nervous system (CB2), and in the central nervous system (CB1).1
Endocannabinoids help to regulate some of the body’s most basic functions, including temperature, sleep, memory, appetite, hunger, digestion, pain, motor control, pleasure, immune functions, and reproduction and fertility. In short, endocannabinoids’ core function is to help keep the body in homeostasis and tell the body when to start and stop these various processes.
If the ECS is disrupted, these processes can start to malfunction, which will then kick the body out of homeostasis. This disruption is thought to be caused by the underproduction of endocannabinoids. Many researchers assume that when this happens, the body becomes vulnerable to any number of conditions.
The Source Of Endocannabinoids
The production of endocannabinoids within the body is reliant on diet. The body needs fatty acids–Omega-3 fatty acids in particular–in order to create endocannabinoids. Some of the best sources of Omega-3 include salmon, sardines, and hemp seeds.
The Rest Of The Endocannabinoid System
The ECS is much more complex than just the cannabinoid receptors. Another big player in the endocannabinoid system are enzymes. For the most part, an enzyme’s job is to break down different compounds, and this is exactly what they do with leftover endocannabinoids. FAAH, a specific type of enzyme, concentrates on removing one of the two types of endocannabinoids, anandamide, from the system. A compound called cannabidiol, or CBD, prevents this from happening. It does this so that more endocannabinoids are available for the cells.
CBD is a non-psychoactive component of cannabis. It is one of over 100 cannabinoids that make up the cannabis plant. CBD is one of the most significant components, constituting roughly 40% of a plant’s extract.2 Besides preventing enzymes from breaking down cannabinoids, the component has several other functions.3 Here are just a few of them:
1. Allosteric Modulator
CBD can have a lot of control over how a receptor transmits signals. It can change the shape of the receptor, which then helps or hinders the receptor with transmission. As an example, CBD helps the GABA-A receptor to transmit signals. This receptor is mainly responsible for creating a calming effect in the body. On the other hand, CBD hinders signal transmission in the CB1 receptor, weakening THC’s ability to bind with it.
2. Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptors
PPARs have several responsibilities. They regulate genes that contribute to everything from metabolism and insulin sensitivity to lipid uptake and homeostasis. They also help to degrade plaque buildup in the brain and slow and regress cells lines that are in human lung cancer. CBD activates PPARs.
Scientists refer to GPR55 as an ‘orphan receptor’ because they are unsure of what family of receptors it belongs to, or if it belongs to a bigger family at all. This receptor is mainly active in the brain, particularly the cerebellum. It regulates bone density, blood pressure, and several other functions. CBD blocks GPR55 transmission signals.
4. Vanilloid Receptors
Vanilloid receptors, also known as TRPV1, moderate body temperature, inflammation, and pain perception. CBD, along with a type of cannabinoid and capsaicin (a compound in hot chili peppers), binds to the vanilloid receptors and activates them.
5. Serotonin Receptors
Serotonin receptors are linked to a wide variety of processes in the body, both neurological and biological. This includes anxiety, pain perception, addiction, vomiting, appetite, nausea, sleep, and more. They are also a member of the family of receptors that is in charge of the fight or flight response. CBD has been found to activate the serotonin receptors.
6. Dopamine Receptors
Dopamine receptors are in two parts of the brain that are roughly the size of a postage stamp, the ventral tegmental and substantia nigra. They help to regulate cognition and behavior, such as reward-seeking and motivation. Low levels of dopamine are linked to mood changes, fatigue, and depression. One type of GABA neurons hinder dopamine production. CBD suppresses this type of GABA neuron, rather than interacting directly with the dopamine receptors.
The endocannabinoid system plays a major role in how the human body works and CBD has a part in regulating how the ECS functions. The ways that CBD interacts with certain body processes that were mentioned above are just a small sampling of the effects it can produce. In fact, all in all, scientists have identified that CBD, by harnessing various molecular pathways, has over 65 molecular targets.