CBD, A Chemical Found in Marijuana Could Be The Future of Medicine

I’ve seen it advertised in moisturizers, oils, tinctures, candies, and even coffee. Some osteopathic doctors are even advising patients to take this chemical compound in supplement form to ease stress, anxiety, or minor gastrointestinal pain. Unless you’ve been living under a rock these past few months, you know CBD is the big buzzword in health and wellness. Maybe you have or are experimenting with it because of its claims to miraculous health benefits, or maybe you think it’s another wellness fad that will be forgotten next month. Nonetheless, cannabis was first reported in 2,6000 BC for its plethora of physical and psychological benefits in a Chinese pharmacopoeia. There’s no doubt about it, phytocannabinoids such as CBD have the potential to treat—as a primary or adjunct therapy— a wide range of pathologies as a consequence of its neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory functions. Right now, we’re just lacking the evidence.

CBD or cannabidiol is a chemical found in both marijuana and hemp and is actually the most studied nonpsychotropic phytocannabinoid—not to be confused with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the only phytocannabinoid that gets you “high.” You will typically see CBD oil or supplements extracted from hemp since the plant has less than 0.3% THC as compared to marijuana which can have up to 15-20%. Despite what you see in the media, there is actually very little hard evidence on the therapeutic potential of CBD. This is partly due to the strict regulation and classification of cannabis as a schedule-1 drug, a category that includes heroin and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). However, the sparse scientific evidence does not mean it can’t eventually live up to the hype. With the discovery of CBD in 1940 and beginnings of cannabinoid receptor pharmacology research in the 1960s, what we know of the potential medicinal properties of the cannabis plant is only at the early stages.

CBD has been dominating the health scene because of growing awareness about its medical uses for anxiety, seizure, neurodegeneration, gastrointestinal issues, acne and pain, among others. What is the physiological mechanism behind CBD’s claim to fame? Cannabinoids—including those we produce (endocannabinoids), phytocannabinoids, and synthetic cannabinoids—all interact with the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). The ECS is an extensive network of cell receptors found throughout the body’s nervous system, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune system. Put simply, the cannabinoids we produce and/or ingest are like the keys to the locks of the ECS. Discovered in 1992, the endocannabinoid system is thought by some to be one of the most essential and broad receptor systems for maintaining good health. The ECS is involved in homeostatic functions including regulation of pain and inflammation, and cannabinoids such as CBD are the ligands that bind to these receptors to essentially bring the body back to baseline and restore balance. The two main types of receptors, cannabinoid 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid 2 (CB2), can be found all over the body and in effect are involved in processes such as appetite, sleep, digestion, mood, memory, metabolism, neuroprotection, hormones, and heart function. That’s a lot.

Maybe balancing the ECS is one of the missing links in Western medicine’s patient care approach. Bringing awareness to the current identified therapeutic uses as well as obstacles in CBD research is essential in discovering the possible healing power of cannabidiol and other cannabinoids.

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Elizabeth Arruda

Is a contributor to The Almost Doctor’s Channel.