CBD has become very popular as of late, taking Britain and the world by storm. You’ll probably have heard of CBD oil already, and you might even know somebody who is taking it. Most people who take it see impressive results for their general health and wellbeing, which is why word of mouth has allowed it to spread so quickly.
If you have heard about the potential positive effects of CBD, you might want to give it a go for yourself. However, it’s not a good idea to put something in your body when you’re not entirely sure what it is and how it impacts you.
In this guide, we will be telling you absolutely everything you need to know about CBD. You will find out what it is, where it comes from, what its effects are on the body, and whether it is safe for you to take. If you are interested in knowing more about CBD, then keep reading…
What are Cannabinoids and Why is CBD Different?
Cannabinoids are the active compounds that can be found in the cannabis plant. There may be over one hundred cannabinoids within the plant, but most of them only exist in negligible amounts and don’t do much. In fact, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) make up 90% of the total cannabinoid content in most varieties of cannabis.
Over the course of history, cannabinoids evolved within the plant to protect it from mammalian predators that would eat its leaves. For example, THC is the compound in cannabis and marijuana that causes a psychoactive high; these intoxicating effects would deter herbivores that had tried the plant before. Other cannabinoids all have their own individual purposes to help the plant, too, but scientists cannot confidently say which cannabinoid plays which role precisely. There are simply too many to be studied!
Instead, scientists have focused on the primary cannabinoids like THC and CBD. A few others, like CBG and CBN, are also more abundant and sometimes featured in scientific research studies.
One of the key differences between CBD and THC is its lack of psychoactive properties. While THC causes the ‘high’ in marijuana users, CBD has no such ability. In fact, some studies suggest that CBD may even be able to counteract the THC high and mitigate the psychoactive symptoms.
Another key difference in understanding CBD products in particular is that the concentrations of cannabinoids can vary between plants. Marijuana strains are bred with different ratios of CBD to THC, meaning that their effects can vary depending on what the ratio is. However, hemp is another form of the Cannabis sativa L plant, and this variety is not used as a drug. Industrial hemp has uses as a textile and a building material because it is more fibrous, but it only contains less than 0.3% THC. Instead, hemp has extremely high concentrations of hemp in comparison with marijuana. When you are buying CBD products, you are purchasing those made from hemp rather than marijuana.
Now that we know what cannabinoids are, we can start to understand why they have any effects on our body at all.
What is the Endocannabinoid System and What Does it Do?
All mammals and many other creatures are born with an innate biological system called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS was discovered around the 60s, which is why it is a little known and little understood system. It was only found as a result of research into cannabis, which is where it earnt its name.
Throughout all of our bodies, we have things called cannabinoid receptors. These sit on the surface of cells and ‘listen’ for changing conditions in the body. To date, we know of two primary cannabinoid receptors, called CB1 and CB2. While the CB1 receptors are concentrated into the brain and nervous system, the CB2 receptors can be found in organs, tissues, and the immune system.
Another vital part of the endocannabinoid system is endocannabinoids. These are sort of like the cannabinoids in plants, called phytocannabinoids, but we make them ourselves. Whenever something in the body changes, cannabinoids are synthesised (created) to pass messages along via the cannabinoid receptors. Each endocannabinoid binds to a different receptor with a sort of lock-and-key system, allowing for changes to take place that regulate our bodies.
The endocannabinoid system’s job is to maintain homeostasis. In other words, it ensures that we remain in balance no matter what happens. It is thus responsible for controlling and regulating a vast number of physiological functions, including our mood, sleep schedule, appetite, temperature, pain perception, immune response, and more. As a result, it could be one of the most important biological systems in our whole body.
Sometimes, the endocannabinoid system fails to work properly, and we may suffer from a lack of endocannabinoids. This endocannabinoid deficiency is much more common than you might expect, and it is responsible for us feeling under the weather and out of balance. In fact, a deficiency in endocannabinoids can lead to a huge number of problems. There is, thankfully, a way to fix this, but we will get into that later (can you guess what it is?).
Two of the most well-known endocannabinoids are anandamide (also called the bliss molecule) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol, referred to as 2-AG for simplicity. Each one binds with a different receptor; anandamide favours the CB1 receptor, meaning it has more of an impact on mood since these receptors are found in the brain.
Endocannabinoids have a short half-life. Once they have done their job of binding to the receptors, they are destroyed through the enzymes fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL). We don’t keep our endocannabinoids around for longer than we need to, which is what makes this such an efficient system – usually.
How Does CBD Oil Work on the ECS?
As we mentioned earlier, sometimes the ECS doesn’t work perfectly and we might not be producing enough endocannabinoids to maintain homeostasis. Is there anything we can do about that? What about phytocannabinoids?
Whenever we consume phytocannabinoids through cannabis ingestion, they can interact with our receptors in a very similar way to our own endocannabinoids. THC, for example, binds with our cannabinoid receptors to provoke certain effects. It has an affinity for the CB1 receptors in the brain, which is what triggers its psychoactive effects.
CBD, on the other hand, is slightly different. It does not actually bind to our cannabinoid receptors directly, which is partly why it is non-psychoactive. Instead, cannabidiol can stimulate the creation of endocannabinoids, which then bind with their corresponding receptors to make the ECS work properly. In other words, CBD could ensure that the ECS can work properly, helping us to maintain homeostasis.
It is for this reason that consumers are using CBD to help maintain their general wellbeing; it has a large influence on the ECS, which regulates a vast number of functions. This peculiar ability gives CBD a huge impact on our bodies, which is probably why it is becoming so popular. It does mean, however, that CBD will not necessarily improve the general health of those who are not suffering from an endocannabinoid deficiency.
When it comes to taking CBD in oil form, you are supposed to drop a few drops of the oil beneath your tongue and hold it there for up to a minute and a half. During this time, the cannabinoids are absorbed directly into your bloodstream through the capillaries under your tongue and in your mouth. This is why CBD oil is very effective compared with other forms of consumption, as the CBD is absorbed very quickly and can start impacting your endocannabinoid system within 15 minutes.
There are a variety of other CBD products out there, though, and even though they all work in different ways they all have an eventual influence on your ECS. It is a good idea to do your research and shop around before making a decision.