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Can CBD Oil Benefit You?

Background

CBD (Cannabidiol) oil is derived from hemp. Many people confuse hemp with marijuana, but hemp is a very different plant. Marijuana and hemp may share the same scientific name, Cannabis sativa, but they are not the same.

Marijuana is cultivated primarily for its psychoactive cannabinoid, a chemical compound called tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, for recreational and medicinal use. Marijuana contains both THC and CBD isolate.

Hemp contains only a trace of THC, less than 0.3% compared to marijuana’s hefty 5-35%. The main cannabinoid in hemp is CBD, but there are over 100 other cannabinoids in hemp, as well as compounds that produce tastes and scents called terpenes (e.g. citrusy smell of oranges, unique aroma of pine trees, or sweet flower smell of lavender).

For thousands of years, hemp has been cultivated for food, clothing, fiber, and fuel. It is one of the world’s oldest domesticated crops. In the early days, hemp was a vital crop in the U.S. During the 1700s, colonial farmers grew hemp mainly for its strong fiber.

However, hemp production came to a screeching halt when the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was passed. Mainstream attitudes towards cannabis began to sway greatly towards the negative. Hemp became the “evil weed” because it shares the same species as marijuana even though it does not contain marijuana’s abundant THC.

Over the years, many have speculated that the real reason for the anti-cannabis campaign boiled down to the worry that hemp could become a low-cost substitute for paper pulp. American industrialist William Randolph Hearst and the DuPont family had major investments in the timber and newspaper industries. They initiated a smear campaign to destroy the lucrative hemp market for fear that the rise of hemp would undercut their profits. Nevertheless, years later, it became known that hemp does not contain a high enough concentration of cellulose to be an effective paper substitute.

Eighty long years later, hemp finally regained its legal status in the U.S. after the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. Hemp, defined as cannabis with less than 0.3% THC, is removed from Schedule I controlled substances. Hemp-derived products are legal as long as they come from licensed hemp growers. More and more universities and hospitals have begun to study it. Americans can now use CBD legally. It can be ordered online and shipped to all 50 states.

Marijuana laws are also changing at a rapid pace across America. Even though it is still illegal on the federal level, many states have legalized marijuana. For the remaining states, some have allowed it for medical use and some recreational use.

The Human Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

Cannabinoids made by our own bodies are called endocannabinoids (the prefix “endo” means within). In the 1990s, researchers made an astonishing discovery that the ECS plays a major role in our overall health.

The ECS maintains constant communication with every organ system in the body.

This communication involves messenger molecules called endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors on every cell that accepts them. Think of it as a “key and lock” system. The receptors are locks and the endocannabinoids are keys that bind to these receptors and unlock them.

There are two main types of receptors within the ECS – cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB2).

Researchers found more than 1,000 receptors in the body. CB1 receptors are located largely on nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, as well as the eye and retina. CB2 receptors are predominantly found in the immune system and in the organs and tissues, such as brain, spleen, blood cells, gastrointestinal, and urinary tracts.

The body produces two types of endocannabinoids – anandamide and 2-AG. These are transported into the cells through the CB1 and CB2 receptors. As we age, the body becomes less efficient in producing anandamide and 2-AG. The proper functioning of the ECS also depends on the adequacy of omega-3 in the diet.

Many people have experienced the feel good sensation or “high” after strenuous exercise. The lifted mood comes from the release of endorphins. Researchers now know that it is also from an increase in anandamide, which targets mainly the CB1 receptors and, to a lesser extent, the CB2 receptors.

The other endocannabinoid, 2-AG, transmits signals across the brain cells and activates both CB1 and CB2 receptors. 2-AG supports brain health, immune health, as well as insulin sensitivity.

Researchers have now discovered that both endocannabinoids, anandamide and 2-AG, have a considerable impact on a variety of functions including appetite, energy and balance, immunity, memory, metabolism, nervous system, sleep, and stress response.

Evidence For CBD Health Benefits

The Cannabis plant contains over 100 cannabinoids. These compounds closely resemble the human endocannaboids. The main cannabinoid in hemp is CBD, and in marijuana, THC.

Unlike THC, CBD does not bind directly into our cannabinoid receptors. Nevertheless, it does stimulate the activity of both CB1 and CB2 receptors without directly tapping into them. A study by the National Institute of Health found that CBD causes the body to release more endocannabinoids, especially 2-AG. Moreover, CBD inhibits the degradation of anandamide.

 

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