Cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD, is a non-intoxicating natural medicine that is derived from the cannabis sativa plant.
CBD is just one of over 100 pharmacologically active compounds called cannabinoids that can be extracted from cannabis and used for therapeutic purposes.
How does CBD work?
Cannabinoids like CBD work by binding to special receptors in the body. CB1 receptors are found throughout the body, but are especially abundant in certain areas of the brain, mainly those involved with movement, coordination, pain and sensory perception, emotion, memory, cognition, autonomic, and endocrine functions. CB2 receptors are mainly found in the immune system, and they appear to reduce inflammation and certain types of pain.
This biological network of receptors make up what is known as the endocannabinoid system, or the ECS. This system regulates mood balance, fear perception, fight-or-flight response, memory, emotional outlook, sleep/wake cycles, pain sensation, motor control, immune system function, and body temperature.
CBD has a highly diverse ECS receptor profile. Therefore, it exhibits a broad spectrum of action as it affects neural pathways in the spinal cord, the brain, the hippocampus, and the amygdala. Many of the benefits from CBD are not yet fully understood, but are likely due to complex pharmacological interactions that point to cannabinoid (CB) receptors 1 and 2.
Cannabidiol is “biphasic”, which means that it has different effects on the body at different concentration levels. Low concentration levels of CBD have been shown to increase wakefulness and alertness. At higher levels of concentration, CBD has a sedating effect which may promote relaxation and sleep. It also is a pleiotropic substance, which means it produces many effects through multiple molecular pathways.
The therapeutic properties of CBD
Anti-inflammatory and analgesic
There’s a lot of talk about CBD’s analgesic (pain relieving) and anti-inflammatory properties. CBD interacts with receptors in the brain and immune system to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. The substance shows promise as a natural medicine that can help reduce or alleviate pain without the adverse side effects and risk of addiction that have been associated with many pain medications. Cannabinoids work through many different mechanisms of action in their anti-inflammatory properties, including the blockage of pro-inflammatory compounds that are made in the body as a result of injury or illness.
Neuroprotective and antioxidant
CBD has proven neuroprotective and antioxidant properties. It may help reduce damage to the brain and nervous system, and has been shown to stimulate neurogenesis (growth of new brain cells). Oxidative stress caused by ischemia, trauma, or autoimmune and genetic disorders can cause temporary or permanent neural damage, but CBD may be able to protect against this damage and improve recovery. CBD shows promise in treating neurodegenerative disorders, which are diseases that cause the brain and nerves to deteriorate over time. It may also reduce the inflammation that can make neurodegenerative symptoms worse.
Seizures occur when there’s a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain. Cannabis has a long history of use as an anti-epileptic treatment. CBD is known to have a range of biochemical effects on nerve cells in the brain, and some of these biochemical interactions may be why CBD can reduce the frequency and severity of some types of seizures.
CBD is a neurotransmitter modulator that inhibits reuptake of Serotonin, Dopamine, and GABA neurotransmitters. This increases neurotransmitter availability within post-synaptic neurons to enhance serotonergic activity, nerve-impulse transmission, and cell-to-cell communication. Neurotransmitter balance plays a key role in the regulation of normal body functions, including mood balance, emotional outlook, sleep/wake cycle, and memory function.
Sleep difficulty can include a range of problems such as difficulty falling asleep, frequent waking during the night, and waking up too early in the morning. There are many possible underlying causes of sleep difficulty, but two common ones are stress and feelings of anxiety.
Our ability to stay awake, fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up feeling rested is part of an internal biological process regulated by circadian rhythms and the endocannabinoid system. The use of cannabinoids to promote sleepiness and to help people stay asleep goes back centuries. Low doses of CBD have been found to improve daytime wakefulness, and higher doses have been shown to improve the quality and duration of sleep.