Unless you’ve been hibernating for the past decade or two, you will have heard of CBD, or cannabidiol.
The Cannabis plant is a member of the Cannabis Genus, Family Cannabaceae, Order Rosales. It is an annual flowering herb believed to have originated in or around China. It spread rapidly across Asia to Africa and from there to Europe as trade routes opened up. Cannabis was a very important herb in ancient cultures for both medicinal and therapeutic reasons.
There are 3 currently identified sub-species within the genus. The 2 sub-species predominantly cultivated today are Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. The third, Cannabis ruderalis, is a wild type species that was first identified in Russia.
Cannabis is a veritable powerhouse when it comes to valuable active plant compounds! It is known to contain at least 480 of them, 80 of which are unique to this genus! These 80 Cannabis unique compounds collectively are called cannabinoids. Of those 80, at least 8 are thought to be ‘significant’ when it comes to the plant’s therapeutical value. However, only 2 of the 8 have thus far been studied in detail. One is delta-9-tetrahydrocannibinol (THC) and the other is cannabidiol (CBD).
The Differences Between CBD And THC
THC is the psychoactive compound associated with marijuana use! It targets CB-1 receptors in the brain and produces the characteristic ‘mind-altering’ effects associated with marijuana use.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is non-psychoactive and targets CB-2 receptors. Where CB-1 receptors are located in the brain, CB-2 receptors are located in other organs around the body. Therefore, CBD affects the body, not the brain.
Further, most strains of cannabis that are used to produce CBD have less than the minimum amount of THC required to be considered legal in many countries. These varieties of cannabis are commonly called ‘hemp’ varieties and they have a multitude of uses beyond the pharmaceutical.
CBD And The Endocannabinoid System
The value of cannabidiol medically is due to its ability to interact with the cannabinoid (CB) receptors that make up our Endocannabinoid system, or ECS. These receptors are located in major organs associated with energy balance, skeletal muscle and nutrient uptake. They react with endocannabinoids (neuromodulatory lipids) to stimulate particular responses within the cells ie pain responses.
Modern research has discovered that these cannabinoid receptors are also sensitive to phytocannabinoids ie plant-based cannabinoids. However, because these phytocannabinoids are not exactly the same as our own endocannabinoids, they cause the receptors to send slightly different messages to the cells. These slightly different messages then cause the cells to respond slightly differently!
This discovery has extremely important implications for the medicinal and therapeutic value of phytocannabinoids like CBD. By stimulating cannabinoid receptors to send different messages to cells, things like pain response and inflammation can be modified.
Medicinal Value Of CBD
Additionally, CBD has highly effective anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties that also lend themselves to a wide range of therapeutic and medicinal uses. It is very effective at modulating the immune system with important implications for treating autoimmune conditions such as arthritis. Some of the other health disorders that have been proven, either scientifically or anecdotally, to respond favourably to CBD include:
- ADD / ADHD
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Chronic pain
- Cystic Fibrosis
- Diabetes mellitus
- Fibro myalgia
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Hepatitis C
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI)
- Sleep apnoea
- Tourette’s syndrome