The therapeutic properties of cannabis have been known for thousands of years, and the plant is referenced several times in Ayurvedic texts. However, the modern world, and especially the West, has displayed an unfortunate resistance to natural, plant-based medicines over the past hundred years, and has only recently shown signs of reversing this detrimental approach.
The main drawback of cannabis as a medicine has been its psychoactive effects, but today’s science is giving us a more in-depth herb about how the herb affects us, and which chemicals are responsible for what.
In the 1960s, the discovery of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) confirmed that only a limited part of cannabis is psychoactive, and that there are a number of other non-intoxicating chemicals which are teeming with unique health benefits.
The most popular of these is cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid that plays a regulatory role in the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS has been an essential discovery for medical research, as we know now that the network has been in the bodies of humans and other life forms for millions of years.
Indeed, with not yet three decades of research on the ECS, we cannot currently appreciate its true impact, but its influence over immune system function, bone health, cognition, perception of pain, appetite, mood and stress levels is not in doubt.
When we take CBD, therefore, we help to regulate all of these areas, in a few different ways. Studies have shown, that in the ECS at least, CBD produces a mostly indirect effect, although the cannabinoid also affects other systems.
Let’s delve deeper into how CBD can be used to improve our health.
How CBD Improves Health?
Improving Mental Health
Cannabis has always been a questionable treatment for mental health, as the psychoactive effects are notorious for causing unpredictability. Some find that an altered state of mind allows them to look inwards, take new perspectives on problematic matters and remove mental blockages, while others experience heightened levels of anxiety that just makes them feel worse.
While CBD cannot provide mental relief through psychoactivity, the substance does offer subtler and more reliable psychological improvements which are quickly noticeable and build time.
For example, the most significant chemical effect CBD has is connecting with fatty acid-binding proteins (FABPs) to prevent anandamide reuptake. Anandamide is the body’s naturally generated THC and stopping degradation of this endocannabinoid helps to boost mood. Anandamide is not as potent as THC but binding to CB1 receptors produces an uplifting effect while increasing motivation.
All CBD products – except for creams which are not ingested into the bloodstream – can be used for mood enhancement purposes. The fastest but shortest improvements can be derived from CBD concentrates, tinctures and Veedverks e-liquids, while a slower, but more extended mood boost can be obtained with edibles, concentrates and syrups.
CBD also helps to reduce fear response and relieve symptoms of anxiety, by acting outside of the ECS. A recent study found that CBD – and the endocannabinoid 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) is a positive allosteric modulator of the GABA-A receptor. The investigation, published in the peer-reviewed Pharmacological Research, suggested this could explain CBD’s anxiolytic and anticonvulsant properties.
Boosting Immune System Defences, and Reducing Inflammation
A well-functioning immune system serves to protect the body from dangerous viruses and bacteria, but when out of control, can sabotage our health with high levels of inflammation. Treating inflammation and moderating immune system response is tricky, but ECS research is providing us with fresh solutions. Studies have shown that CB2 receptors are present on white blood cells and in immune tissues, and that activating these can have an immunomodulatory effect.
CBD is an antagonist of the CB2 receptor but instigates an anti-inflammatory effect via anandamide-mediated activation. 2-AG is also noted for its anti-inflammatory properties.
Managing inflammation with CBD could potentially help to treat arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. THC is an agonist of the CB2 receptor and therefore can reduce inflammation directly, but the emergence of a non-psychoactive, cannabis-based anti-inflammatory means that many more patients could benefit.
The most effective method of managing arthritis may be with a pain cream or muscle rub, as this engages the most relevant CB2 receptors. For more internal inflammation and autoimmune diseases, capsules and edibles should deliver more potent and sustained relief.
It is great news that natural healing remedies of cannabis are starting to be embraced once again – after all, this knowledge has been known for millennia.