The cannabis plant secretes hundreds of chemical compounds, among these are cannabinoids. There are 85 cannabinoids that have been discovered so far, and two of them are produced in greater quantity: THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol).
What Is CBD ?
CBD or cannabidiol is one of the most prevalent cannabinoids found in cannabis. It can be found more specifically in the trichomes, the resin glands of the female cannabis plant.
CBD concentrations tend to vary among different plants; cannabis grown for recreational purposes often contains more THC than CBD. However, by using selective breeding techniques, cannabis growers have managed to create varieties with high levels of CBD and next to zero THC levels (the psychoactive component of cannabis). Also, industrial hemp legally grown in most of Europe contains naturally from 1 to 5% CBD.
How CBD Works?
The difference in effect between CBD and THC is due to the different cannabinoid receptors they bind with.
THC activates the CB1 and CB2 receptors, while CBD does not directly stimulate them. Instead, CBD indirectly stimulates endogenous cannabinoid signaling, by suppressing the enzyme “fatty acid amide hydroxylase” (FAAH), the enzyme that breaks down anandamide the endogenous analogue of THC.
Less FAAH means more anandamide remains present in the body for a longer duration which results in a greater CB1 activation. So overall, CBD enhances endocannabinoid action by suppressing FAAH.
These receptors, CB1 and CB2, are part of a larger network called the endocannabinoid system (ECS) with receptors that spread throughout the brain and body.The CB1 receptor is expressed mainly in the brain (central nervous system or “CNS”), but also in the lungs, liver and kidneys. The CB2 receptor is expressed mainly in the body, immune system and in hematopoietic cells.
Numerous studies suggest that CBD acts to reduce the intoxicating effects of THC, such as memory impairment and paranoia. CBD also appears to counteract the sleep-inducing effects of THC, which may explain why some strains of cannabis are known to increase alertness.
Both CBD and THC have been found to present no risk of lethal overdose. However, to reduce potential side effects, users may be better off exploring cannabis with higher levels of CBD.
When the user ingests CBD, the CB1 and CB2 receptors are stimulated to produce its own cannabinoids which enhance the overall effect on the body. So, when we take in CBD, terpenes or any other compound that can bind to the receptors within our ECS, we are supplementing a naturally occurring system.
What Is Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency?
The endocannabinoid system is present in all humans and many animals as well. This system consists of a series of receptors that are configured only to accept cannabinoids.
Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CECD) was coined by Dr. Ethan Russo in 2004, to characterise symptoms found when there is not enough endocannabinoid system signaling. They found that the ECS regulates all sorts of bodily processes, including mood, metabolism, pain, reproduction, and immune functions. Furthermore cannabinoid receptors and the biochemical machinery necessary to synthesise and generate cannabinoids are present in areas of the brain known to control emotional behaviour.
Why isn’t the ESC more well-known?
Recent research has begun to highlight the potential role of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in many situations. Unfortunately, research on the endocannabinoid system is sorely lacking despite the fact that cannabinoid receptors are found in abundance on all types of cells in different parts of the body.
“There are more cannabinoid receptors in the brain than there are for all of the neurotransmitters put together” Russo declared.
The fact that we can find these receptors in such high concentrations and in crucial areas of the body like the brain, should mean that the ECS plays an integral part in our well-being.