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What is CBD (cannabidiol), what does it do and how does it affect the body & brain?


CBD Guide

What medical conditions might CBD help, and what is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the cannabis-producing cannabinoid compounds, second only to THC in concentration and it effects the receptors in the brain. These plant-derived cannabinoids or phytocannabinoids (Phyto = herb in Greek) are distinguished by their capacity to function on the receptors of cannabinoids that are part of our endocannabinoid network. Although THC is the principal psychoactive ingredient of cannabis and has many medicinal benefits, CBD stands out as it is also non-toxic and has a wide variety of possible therapeutic applications, including assistance with anxiety, depression, pain and seizures. This makes CBD an enticing medicinal ingredient.

Why does THC get you high but not CBD?

While THC and CBD are chemical relatives, they have very different consequences. The primary distinction is that THC takes you high when CBD doesn’t get you far. That is how THC and CBD influence our endocannabinoid system (ECS) in several ways. The central brain ECS receptor, CB1, is activated by THC but not by CBD. Also, CBD may get in the form of THC compounds, preventing them from triggering the CB1 receptor. That is why the ratio of THC: CBD is so essential to affect the results of cannabis drugs.

The explanation THC and CBD many results is that they affect the endocannabinoid mechanism in specific ways.

Scientific evidence for CBD’s medical effects

Probably the most surprising aspect of CBD is the sheer amount and diversity of its possible medicinal applications. It is necessary to remember that various types of proof may back each claim. This varies from current clinical research assessing its effectiveness in the management of human diseases, animal tests studying its behavioural and physiological impact, to in vitro trials (test tube experiments) testing its pharmacological interactions and modes of action. A growing form of analysis has its strengths and weaknesses.

Clinical trials enable one to draw assumptions regarding the protection and effectiveness of possible human therapeutic drugs. In contrast, animal tests and in vitro experiments help us to investigate their biological behaviour in greater depth. However, since the above type of research is not performed in humans, the findings will not necessarily contribute to the therapeutic approval that we strive for — the majority of medicines that begin in human clinical trials have never been accepted. However, animal experiments provide us with a solid base of biological understanding and are where the critical breakthroughs in science are made.

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Why does CBD have so many potential therapeutic benefits?

CBD is renowned for its ability to cure treatment-resistant pediatric epilepsy. Several clinical studies are presently ongoing to assess the effectiveness of CBD in human epilepsy cases. However, there is also evidence, primarily from animal trials and in vitro research, that CBD might have neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-relieving) properties and possible therapeutic utility in the treatment of emotional disorders such as stress, anxiety and addiction.

What is the biological reason for this wide variety of possible therapeutic uses? A crucial part of the solution resides in CBD’s new pharmacology — it’s potential to affect a wide range of brain and body receptor networks, including not just cannabinoid receptors, but several others.

Receptor systems in the brain

The brain comprises a significant number of extremely developed cells called neurons. Every neuron is linked to several others by mechanisms called synapses. These are locations where one neuron interacts with another by producing chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters (Figure 1).

The response of a neuron to a particular neurotransmitter depends on whether or not it has a receptor that “suits” the transmitter, such as an electrical socket the matches a device. When a neuron produces receptors that suit a specific neurotransmitter, it may respond directly to the transmitter. Otherwise, it can’t do it necessarily. Both neurons have several neurotransmitter receptors, enabling them to respond to some but not other neurotransmitters.

Figure 1. Neurons Communicate Using Neurotransmitters
Right: The brain comprises a significant amount of nerve cells (neurons). Each neuron, depicted here as a hexagon, is connected to several others. Left:The synapse is a position where two neurons interact with each other. The “sender neuron” produces chemical impulses called neurotransmitters that activate receptors on the “receiver neuron.” There are several specific forms of receptors in the brain, each of which is responsive to certain neurotransmitters.

Brain receptors are not only responsive to naturally occurring neurotransmitters inside the brain, such as dopamine or serotonin but also chemical messengers generated outside the body, such as plant cannabinoids such as THC or CBD. And when you consume or inhale any vapour, you cause compounds that were initially created by a plant to invade your body, pass through your bloodstream, and infiltrate your brain. Upon delivery, these plant-derived compounds can affect brain function by interacting with neuron receptors. However, they don’t communicate with all the neurons, only the ones that have the right receptors.

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CBD effects many different receptor systems

While it is a cannabinoid, CBD does not interact specifically with the two traditional cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2). It then influences signalling via the CB1 and CB2 receptors indirectly. This partially describes why, unlike THC, CBD is non-intoxicating. In addition to its indirect effect on CB1 and CB2 receptors, CBD will raise the rates of the body’s own naturally developed cannabinoids (known as endocannabinoids) by inhibiting the enzymes that break them down.

Even more intriguing: CBD often activates other non-cannabinoid receptor structures in the brain, interfering with receptors that are responsive to a range of medications and neurotransmitters (Figure 2). Which involve opioid receptors, known for their function in the control of pain. Opioid receptors are the leading causes of prescription pain killers and substance addiction medications such as opioids, cocaine, and fentanyl. CBD can also communicate with dopamine receptors, which play a crucial role in controlling many facets of action and perception, including incentive and reward-seeking behaviour.

This gives rise to a new likelihood that CBD’s potential to affect either opioid or dopamine receptors that underlie its potential to dampen substance cravings and withdrawal symptoms, which are specifically crucial to the treatment of addiction. However, we can’t know for sure at this point; further work is still required on CBD interactions with opioid and dopamine receptor systems.

The medicinal capacity of CBD in regard to depression also applies to the serotonin gland. Animal experiments have shown that CBD specifically stimulates several serotonin receptors in the brain. Both experiences have been involved in their capacity to mitigate drug-seeking behaviour. The effect of CBD on the serotonin system can also be partially attributed to its anti-anxiety effects, which have been robustly documented in both human and animal tests.

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CBD and the serotonin system: exciting possibilities

The potential of CBD to access a particular serotonin receptor, the 1A serotonin receptor, is correlated with a surprising variety of therapeutic choices. Professor Roger Pertwee, an English pharmacologist known for his work on cannabinoids, talked to Leafly regarding this dimension of CBD biology.

“The obvious potential to increase the stimulation of serotonin 1A receptors strengthens the idea that it may be utilized to boost conditions that include. Drug dependency, neuropathic discomfort, stress and anxiety conditions, nausea and vomiting (e.g. chemotherapy) and adverse effects of schizophrenia,” he stated. “One major unanswered problem is what is exactly the human clinical significance and value of any of these possible therapeutic uses of CBD found solely by analyzing evidence from non-human preclinical study.” Provided that these possibilities come primarily from animal experiments, further work would be required before we can seriously discuss human applications.

Figure 2. Receptor Programs Involved in the possible medical use of CBD. CBD communicates, either explicitly or implicitly, with several specific brain receptor networks. It indirectly affects the primary cannabinoid receptor in the brain by reducing the capacity of THC to activate this receptor. It also communicates with a variety of other receptors. A subset of such is seen here. A glowing red outline reflects a specific brain receptor that could be located on a neuron. Any of the possible therapeutic applications correlated with CBD interactions with each receptor network are listed below each receptor.

CBD: Psychiatric utility from complex pharmacology?

Understanding the physiological impact of CBD is a difficult task because of the broad range of receptors it communicates within the brain. But the uncertainty could be the secret to his success as a therapeutic agent. Motivational problems, such as depression and anxiety, are themselves extremely complex; they emerge from incompletely defined mechanisms that cover numerous receptor structures and neuronal networks in the brain. The dynamic, multi-target effects of CBD can, therefore, be critical to its ability to aid in the treatment of these disorders. Over the coming years, scholars will begin to grasp this aspect and to discover the maximum range of CBD’s therapeutic capacity.