We talk a lot about the cannabinoids naturally present in the hemp plant, like CBD and THC, and their therapeutic value. It turns out that the human body is hardwired to interact with these compounds because it naturally produces its own cannabinoid-like compounds, which are neurotransmitters called endocannabinoids.
Along with our body's natural ability to manufacture cannabinoid-like compounds, there's also an extensive network of receptors throughout the human body that works to maintain internal stability and prevent disease -- the Endocannabinoid System (ECS).
As the naturally produced neurotransmitters navigate through our bodies, they stimulate the Endocannabinoid System's CB1 and CB2 receptors. These specialized receptors span the entire body, and once activated, the ECS begins working to restore balance and stability. This state of biological equilibrium is formally termed homeostasis
The cannabinoids found in the hemp plant, like CBD and THC, are referred to as phytocannabinoids, and also have the ability to stimulate the CB1 and CB2 receptors throughout the body. In mimicking the messenger role, phytocannabinoids stimulate the ECS, which in-turn activates the critical functions our bodies rely on to maintain homeostasis.
So, what exactly do these CB1 and CB2 receptors do once activated? The short answer – A LOT.
To start, the CB1 receptors provide relief from pain and anxiety. They also work to stabilize your mood and produce feelings of calm and well-being.
When the CB2 receptors are stimulated, they initiate a localized anti-inflammatory response.
On the ever-growing list of therapeutic benefits attributed to cannabinoids, this anti-inflammatory response may be the most significant.
We now know that many neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, PTSD, multiple sclerosis, and cancer have been linked to chronic brain inflammation. The potential for the use of cannabinoids in the treatment and prevention of these diseases will be a primary focus of scientific studies for years to come.
Another interesting and advantageous characteristic of cannabinoids extracted from the hemp plant is the extended period of time their effects are realized. The endocannabinoids naturally produced by your body are quickly broken down by enzymes. There are no enzymes in our bodies that can immediately break down phytocannabinoids (plant-derived cannabinoids), so their effects last much longer.
Over the past 10-15 years, the vast majority of scientific trials and studies have focused on determining the therapeutic value of the two most mainstream cannabinoids – CBD and THC. You should be excited to hear that there are more than 100 compounds naturally present in the hemp plant, and our understanding of the therapeutic properties of these lesser-known compounds is far from complete.
Konieczny, Eileen, and Lauren Wilson. Healing with CBD: How Cannabidiol Can Transform Your Health without the High. Ulysses Press, 2018.
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