What Is CBD and How Can It Improve Our Health?
Exploring the Benefits of the Non-Psychoactive Compound
In 2018, interest in cannabidoil (CBD) soared to new heights, especially in the United Kingdom. Britain has seen a huge influx of CBD products on the high street, and increased media attention thanks to the well-publicised medical cannabis debate which has now led to legalization—albeit with strict parameters.
But CBD isn’t strictly cannabis, and in fact, unless you’re living in a country or state where cannabis is fully legalized, the CBD products you’ll find will have been made not from general marijuana, but industrial hemp, a unique and non-intoxicating strain of cannabis sativa. Hemp is remarkably versatile, and has been used to make paper, rope, and even clothing.
CBD from hemp can be just as effective as CBD from regular cannabis, although the key benefit of hemp from a legal perspective is that it has very low levels of the main psychoactive component of cannabis, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
In a nutshell, this means that CBD cannot get you "high," whether you vape it, smoke it, eat it, drink it, or rub it into your skin via a cream. However, CBD, and particularly full-spectrum CBD from brands like Hemplucid, can be used for several therapeutic purposes, and to also improve general wellness by promoting chemical balance in the body.
The Endocannabinoid System
Many people have been quick to discard CBD products as the latest craze being paraded as a cure for everything, from physical pain to mental illness. And without a look at the science, the cynical argument that CBD companies are just trying to make a quick buck with an unproven, overhyped substance doesn’t sound far off the mark. After all, if CBD is so good, where has it been all these years?
But that is to ignore the progression of cannabinoid research, and the massive leaps that have been taken in recent decades. When cannabis became prohibited around the globe in the first half of the 20th century, research into a plant that had been used for centuries and millennia as medicine was all but shut away.
Intriguingly, though, the National Institute of Health (NIH) in the United States has been funding Israeli cannabis research since the 1960s, to the tune of $100,000 a year. Cannabis researcher Raphael Mechoulam’s appeal for an NIH grant was initially turned down in 1963, the same year that he discovered the cannabinoid THC, but an unknown senator promised to finance the scientist’s work after catching his son using marijuana.
The research truly paid off in the 1990s with the discovery of two cannabinoid receptors and the chemical anandamide, which was shown to be a naturally-produced version of THC. This system of endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors is now known as the endocannabinoid system, and is impacted in how the body feels pain, immune system health, memory and cognition, stress response, appetite, mood, energy balance, sleep, and exercise.
CBD helps to keep the endocannabinoid system in balance, which explains why it can be used to relieve so many conditions. Let’s look at the science behind some of the most common reasons for taking CBD.
Opioid painkillers may be very effective at blocking pain signals, but the side effects and risk of becoming tolerant to the drug has led many to seek out other options. CBD doesn’t cause euphoria or chemical addiction, so there is no psychological or physical dependence to be concerned about, but it can help to dampen sensitivity to pain.
Anandamide has a prominent analgesic effect, which it administers by binding to CB1 receptors that are found in both the central and peripheral nervous systems. CBD blocks the degradation of anandamide by inhibiting FAAH enzyme activity. Therefore, CBD indirectly relieves pain by boosting the availability of anandamide in the body and facilitating increased CB1-anandamide binding.
Our memory tends to fade as we get older, and research now suggests that this is due to deterioration in the hippocampus, a brain structure found in the temporal lobe. Studies have shown that neurogenesis, a process where new neurons are created, allowing for hippocampal regrowth, is facilitated via the CB1 receptor. Again, anandamide seems to be essential for neurogenesis, hence why CBD can be beneficial.
Perhaps the most effective way of improving mood with CBD is by vaping an e-liquid from a disposable, easy-to-use CBDfx pen. CBD exerts antidepressant effects by promoting anandamide, an agonist of the CB1 receptor, which controls our mood.