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What is Cannabidiol (CBD)?
What is Cannabidiol?
In the early months of 2014, DR Sanjay Gupta was featured in a CNN documentary titled ‘Weed’. The subject of that documentary was the largely incurable neurological disease – epilepsy. DR Sanjay’s guest was a young girl who had a severe version of this illness known as Dravet Syndrome, but instead of using conventional drug therapies to reduce the incidence of her seizures, her parents were administering what DR Sanjay described as a ‘drug that can work wonders.' He was talking about cannabidiol (CBD), and it burst into the scene of modern medicine years earlier when one group of scientists demonstrated its efficacy at tackling a huge list of illnesses that had long puzzled medical practitioners. Today, it is regarded by many as an elixir of wellness, but what exactly is cannabidiol and how is it able to tackle the kind and number of illnesses it’s credited with treating? Let’s find out.
Cannabidiol is a unique compound found in the cannabis plant. It is a member of the larger group of compounds called cannabinoids, all of which are produced by the cannabis plant. Cannabidiol occurs naturally on the leaf, seed, stalk, and flowers of the cannabis plant and is easily extracted from them. Of the over 60 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, cannabidiol is arguably the most promising in terms of health and therapeutic benefits. CBD unlike THC, is non-psychotic. If you are interested in the many health benefits associated with the cannabis plant, then cannabidiol might just be your next best friend forever.
What does it do?
Over the last few decades, numerous scientist and researchers have undertaken studies on CBD. What they have discovered is that CBD acting on its own or in the company of other cannabinoids, shows promising prospects, as:
- An antioxidant
- An analgesic compound
- An antidepressant and mood enhancer
- An anti-inflammatory agent
- A protective agent for the brain
- An antipsychotic and an anxiolytic,
- An anti-seizure agent.
The 'entourage effect'
Entourage in English means “in company of”, and according to scientists, CBD works better when it's in the company of its other cannabinoid compatriots. That’s not to say it doesn’t perform well alone; it just means that when taken along with other cannabinoids, its effects are more obvious and strong.
How does CBD work?
Cannabidiol shows its many positive effects on the body by modulating an essential mechanism in your body – the endocannabinoid system. This system, which is made up of an extensive network of cell receptors – your body’s miniature messengers, is responsible for keeping your body in top notch conditions for best functioning. When there’s a change from good-to-bad in the system of things in your body, the endocannabinoid system kicks into action and works to bring everything back to normal. Cannabidiol influences the endocannabinoid system by linking to the following groups of receptors:
- The serotonin receptors which are mainly responsible for our moods and state of mind
- The adenosine receptors which control your sleep-wake cycle
- The vanilloid receptors which determines how our bodies feel pain
- And the CB1 and CB2 receptors, which help our bodies to maintain a constant state of wellness.
One other unique way CBD works, is through its effect on your body’s supply of CBD like molecules called endocannabinoids. Like CBD (which is a phytocannabinoid), these molecules (anandamide and 2-AG) activate the endocannabinoid system; the problem with them, however, is that they are rapidly broken down by the body. Interestingly, in the presence of CBD, anandamide persists much longer because CBD inhibits the fatty acid enzyme FAAH which is responsible for degrading anandamide in our bodies.
CBD and Health
In the medical world, lots of skepticism always comes into play for any drug or chemical substance that claims to cure many diseases, CBD inclusive. In fact, it wasn’t until recently, following the sensational and widely reported case of DR Sanjay Gupta, that CBD was granted a legal status in many states. Since that time, CBD, unlike various other miracle drugs, has gone on to demonstrate its efficacy at handling a broad range of diseases and disorders. Today, it is a well-known compound that has stood the test of time and more importantly the test of public scientific scrutiny and criticism. In light of these recent scientific proofs, here are the significant health benefits and disease conditions known to improve with CBD treatment:
CBD’s success as a possible therapy for treating epilepsy was what placed it in the much needed scientific spotlight it so rightly deserved. The compound has been shown to be effective against drug-resistant epilepsy, with one survey citing an improvement in 84% of all drug-resistant epilepsy cases, handled with CBD. The parents of the children involved in that clinical trial also noted that the mood, alertness and sleeping schedules of the affected children, improved significantly.
What’s more? CBD has been shown to improve the efficacy of other conventional epilepsy drugs. In combination with these drugs, the success rate of CBD as a treatment option for epilepsy is increasingly increased and different organisations demand the systematic use of CBD for treating serious cases of epilepsy, given its many proven beneficial properties.
Schizophrenia is a severe medical condition that distorts the mind and thinking functionality of affected individuals. Sufferers lose contact with their environments and are in a constant state of delusion. Like epilepsy, current treatment for this disorder has been less than effective. CBD’s antipsychotic activity at two regions of the brain; the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, the same areas affected by schizophrenia, makes this compound a viable treatment option for schizophrenia patients. Although the actual mechanism of how it leaves its antipsychotic effects on these areas haven’t been fully clarified, clinical trials where it was administered in the company of other anti-schizophrenic drugs, were very successful with fewer side effects.
Have you ever been faced with the challenge of speaking to a large crowd and became so scared that you literally shivered? If yes, then you know what it feels like to be anxious. What you might not know, however, is that it is a verified fact that CBD helps overcome the phenomenon and magnitude of anxiety in both healthy individuals and those suffering from anxiety disorders. So, next time you’re asked to deliver that inspirational speech, step into the podium with your CBD oil or E-Liquid in hand and don’t forget to recommend it to everyone. Further studies have also credited CBD with restricting several other anxiety-linked diseases like obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
- CBD as a Painkiller
Are you tired swallowing pills like aspirin to reduce pain? Well, you're in luck as recent studies have suggested that CBD may be the new kid on the block with regards to pain management. In mammals’ models, CBD effectively reduced the pain associated with chronic inflammation and neuropathy (damage to the neurons that transmit signals, including pain, through your body).
- Preventing Diabetes
A 2013 study, successfully demonstrated that marijuana use which fills the body with high doses of CBD, was linked to a smaller waist circumference and a 16% decrease in fasting blood insulin levels (two factors known to show up clearly at the onset of diabetes) in over 4600 men and women. In animal models, the evidence is more conclusive, as CBD was shown to reduce the risk of developing diabetes to 30% in mice treated with CBD; down from 86 % in the untreated mice population.
As was with epilepsy, the actual mechanism through which CBD does this is still vague, but one study suggests that it prolongs the lives of pancreatic cells, which are responsible for producing insulin – the chemical that helps your body assimilate carbohydrate. For patients with type 1 diabetes characterized by loss of pancreatic cell function.