While most people are familiar with the concept of THC as it is largely responsible for the feeling of drunkenness, dizziness, and euphoria it produces, the attention has been shifting for some time now to another compound present in weed called CBD. At once non-psychoactive, while presenting a wide range of proven and potential medical applications - making it particularly attractive as a therapeutic agent -, no wonder it is increasingly present in conversations surrounding the plant.
In addition to neurological disorders such as epilepsy which has recently received great media coverage for its use on children, CBD can be helpful in treating a multitude of medical conditions: pain, inflammation, anxiety, depression, nausea and vomiting, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, acne, addictive behaviors, fracture healing, diabetes, and schizophrenia. And the list is far from being exhaustive: CBD is currently under study to fight against obesity, to treat asthma or disc degeneration, to inhibit the growth of cancer cells or for its beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system. More interestingly, CBD is known for its very low toxicity, therefore causing very few undesirable side effects apart from sedation if the dose required is important.
But how does it work exactly and how is it different from its counterpart? Let’s delve deeper into it.
THE IMPORTANCE OF RECEPTORS
As we have already mentioned, our body hosts an important endocannabinoid system linking a series of receptors that extend from the brain to various parts of the body and change the way it regulates itself. CB1 receptors are distributed in certain peripheral organs and tissues, though mainly present in the spinal cord, the digestive system and most brain regions, especially those related to movement, coordination, sensory perception, emotion, memory, cognition, and autonomic and endocrine functions. CB2 receptors are mainly found in the immune system, but are also present in all organs of the body and seem particularly effective in reducing inflammation and some types of pain.
To be altered, they must be solicited by cannabinoids that bind to them in order to modulate their behavior: this is basically what leads to physiological or psychological changes. When it comes to cannabis, THC and CBD are of course the most well-known since present in higher concentration, though more than 80 molecules can be found in varying quantities depending on each flower.
LINKING IS EVERYTHING
Although being of similar structures, science is slowly demonstrating that CBD is different from other cannabinoids in that it does not interact with the body in the same way: instead of engaging directly with the receptors as does THC, the latter acts on them indirectly. This is probably why it is known for not altering the mind on top of being able to modulate the psychotropic effects of THC.
But it does not stop there as recent studies show that it can also influence other systems of brain receptors. These include opioid receptors known for their analgesic role, dopamine receptors that affect many aspects of behavior and cognition, or adenosine receptors that regulate cardiovascular function. This characteristic could, among other things, explain the number and variety of its therapeutic applications previously mentioned.
METHODS OF CONSUMPTIONS
CBD can be consumed by most of the natural ways in which dietary supplements are regularly administered, the most prevalent being oral (in the form of oil, capsules or spray) or topical (cream, ointment or other cosmetics) depending on the symptoms to be treated. For the former, a sublingual uptake using a dropper is usually suggested, allowing the cannabinoids to immediately enter the bloodstream through the vessel-rich tissues and avoiding they get transformed into THC by the acidity of the stomach’s gastric juice. Topicals, on the other hands, are particularly effective in fighting localized pains or skin problems. The dosage varies depending on the disease to be treated, but it is common to start with 1mg of CBD per kg of body weight, then increase gradually until finding the effective dose.
Though it can be found in pure extracts, a plant source will prove to be more effective, thanks to the natural synergy that occurs between cannabinoids, terpenes and other molecules present in the plant. It's the entourage effect that we have spoken about in a previous article.
And as demand increases, growers have shown great adaptability by introducing new farming methods that produce plants with higher CBD content and very low THC – often less than 1%. These are getting more and more prevalent in dispensaries, a sign of the growing interest given to this molecule at the heart of a bubbling market in full evolution.