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What is CBD and How Does It Work?

If you're researching medical marijuana in Canada to see if it might help with an issue you're experiencing, whether it's joint pain, insomnia, or anxiety, one of the first things you'll hear or read is the acronym CBD. That's short for cannabidiol, one of several cannabinoids found in cannabis sativa.

THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is the main cannabinoid produced by the plant, and it's the fun cannabinoid, the one that gets you high. It can also make some people who've been smoking regularly just a little bit paranoid. That's one of the reasons many people who started smoking weed in the 1970s when it became widely available in North America (if you knew where to look and moved in the right circles) cite for giving up smoking.

If only we knew then what we know now. The solution for those who experience paranoia when high may be either lower THC content, or a more balanced THC: CBD strain that still gets you high without making you anxious. Or, better yet, a product with only CBD.

CBD

How Was CBD Discovered?

Ironically, CBD and other cannabinoids and the human body's entire endocannabinoid system (ECS) were discovered in the early 1990s after late U.S. President Ronald Reagan announced his war on drugs and authorized millions of dollars for marijuana research to prove cannabis caused brain damage and/or permanent cognitive impairment. Instead, researchers discovered a previously unknown internal regulatory system that governs almost every aspect of human health.

Wait, what is the Endocannabinoid System?

A complex network of cellular neurotransmitters and receptors, the role of the ECS is to maintain the body's homeostasis or stable internal environment. Cannabinoid receptors are primarily concentrated in our central and peripheral nervous systems and in our immune systems.

The ECS has three parts:

  • endocannabinoids, molecules your body produces internally;
  • endocannabinoid receptors, to which endocannabinoids bind. There are two main endocannabinoid receptors: CB1 receptors, prevalent in the central nervous system, and CB2 receptors, found mainly in the peripheral nervous system, particularly in immune cells; and
  • Enzymes, the ECS garbage disposal system. Enzymes break down endocannabinoids when they’ve done their job.

And the endocannabinoid system has a lot of jobs, including regulating the body’s metabolism, chronic pain, inflammation and other immune system responses, brain function including memory and learning, motor control, sleep and cardiovascular function, muscle formation, bone growth and remodeling, reproductive system function, stress, and skin and nerve function.

But of course sometimes the body is incapable of producing the endocannabinoids it needs in the quantities it requires to maintain homeostasis, and that's where cannabinoids available from marijuana come in. THC may be the smarter cannabinoid since it manages to bind to both CB1 and CB2 receptors.

CBD is the more mysterious cannabinoid. It doesn't bind to either of the two major receptors or at least not the same way THC does. It may instead inhibit the enzyme breakdown of the body's endocannabinoids, letting them work longer. Or it may bind to an as-yet-undiscovered receptor to provide pain and symptom relief for a whole host of medical conditions.

So How Does CBD Work?

Whether CBD binds to a receptor (or receptors) or keeps enzymes working longer and harder, marijuana has been used to treat pain for almost four thousand years, and research indicates it’s CBD that provides relief for chronic pain, including nerve pain, and can also reduce inflammation, even when applied topically via cream or ointment. Or even a CBD lip balm!

Animal studies indicate CBD administered orally can reduce both sciatic nerve pain and inflammation, while human studies have found a combination of CBD and THC can treat pain from both multiple sclerosis and arthritis. And since both chronic pain and inflammation can both cause and be exacerbated by insomnia, CBD’s ability to help you get a good night’s sleep can make you feel better in a whole host of ways.

Some of the most exciting research on CBD involves its potential to reduce mental pain, particularly anxiety. One blind study in Brazil indicated a precise, 300-mg dose of CBD could significantly reduce anxiety within an hour and a half, while neither a larger dose nor the placebo had any real effect.

CBD can act on the brain's serotonin receptors. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that regulates both mood and behaviour. That means CBD may be helpful for neurological disorders, including depression, epilepsy, and the muscle spasms of M.S. It may also work in more subtle ways to interrupt the brain circuits responsible for morphine and heroin addiction.

Where Are We on CBD Research?

Many of these possibilities have already been explored in test tube and animal studies. But the research process is long and slow. After laboratory and animal trials have been conducted, there are four more stages of clinical trials before a drug can be considered safe and effective for human beings.

These include:

  • Phase I, small studies on healthy volunteers to assess the drug’s safety and gather information on how it’s absorbed, metabolized, and excreted, as well as looking for potential side effects;
  • Phase II, which can last up to two years, involves hundreds of patients and randomized trials with one group of patients getting the drug being tested and the other group gets a placebo. A double-blind clinical test means neither medical professionals nor patients know whether they're receiving the drug or the placebo;
  • Phase III trials administered to an even larger group of patients (sometimes several thousand) can last several years, and are designed to research both a drug’s effectiveness and its possible adverse reactions.

Drugs can be prescribed and marketed after Phase III trials (assuming they pass). The fourth phase evaluates the drug’s long-term effectiveness and compares it with alternatives in terms of how it affects both physical and economic quality of life for patients taking it.

The Bottom Line on CBD

We know for sure that marijuana has never resulted in death by overdose and that cannabis prohibition has meant the medical system is still in the extremely early stages of clinical research.

You may not have 10 or 15 years to wait for relief from insomnia or arthritis pain, and you may not be happy with the costs, results, or side effects of medications commonly prescribed to treat these conditions. If you want to know where to buy CBD oil online in Canada or try CBD concentrates, tinctures, or creams for topical relief, Low Price Bud has a great assortment of products.

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