America is in the middle of a health epidemic - an epidemic of epidemics, if you think about it. Between opioids, obesity, autoimmune issues, and the like, we are sicker than ever before. Could it be that we’re missing something?
At the same time this crisis is raging, a plant molecule called Cannabidiol (CBD for short) is sweeping the nation, gathering up positive reports as it does. From arthritis to autism, from cancer to diabetes, people of all ages and backgrounds are taking CBD, and nearly all of them experience freedom from conditions that once limited their lives.
Why does CBD seem to work so well for so many people, almost regardless of their age or health status? The answer lies within, in a physiological system all of us have: the Endocannabinoid System.
Comprised of several endocannabinoids - literally internal “cannabis-like” compounds - and their corresponding receptors, the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) helps maintain balance and communication between other bodily systems. In a word, the ECS helps maintain full body homeostasis. If the body is a temple, than the ECS can be compared to its continually adjusted thermostat, masterfully controlling both inputs and outputs in order to regulate the entire system.
Could it be that there’s a link between the state of our Endocannabinoid Systems and this health crisis we’re facing?
The answer is yes! Though the science behind the Endocannabinoid System is fairly new - it was only discovered in the early 90’s, after all - more and more doctors and medical professionals are catching on to this link. Dr. Ethan Russo even has a name for the connection between ECS problems and poor health: Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Syndrome, or CECDS.
A little wordy, but the analogy is clear. Some people are deficient in vitamin D, others in vitamin C, but upstream of it all, countless people are deficient in endocannabinoids, cannabinoids that would otherwise be playing a vital role in maintaining balance and synchronicity within the body. And when the ECS loses its regulatory oversight, widespread dysfunction can result.
Several things can cause this, and modern-day environmental mismatches likely play a huge role. Poor sleep and poor diet are some of the most likely problems - and any kind of chronic stress can eventually deplete the Endocannabinoid System enough that its positive feedback loops are broken.
This is where CBD comes in. CBD is a plant cannabinoid that can essentially take the place of its internal equivalents, endogenous analogues like 2-AG and Anandamide. Basically, if a person is deficient in endocannabinoids (eCB’s), the best thing they can do is supplement with phytocannabinoids (pCB’s).
The principle of replacing eCB’s with pCB’s is intuitive enough. CBD brings the body back to a place where it is more likely and more able to heal itself. The science behind it is where things get a little more complex. Welcome to the world of retrograde signaling!
Retrograde signaling is how the Endocannabinoid System transmits important chemical messages. When a neurotransmitter, like the serotonin molecule, for example, needs to send a signal to it’s 5-HT1A receptor, a lipid-based endocannabinoid like Anandamide first travels backwards across the synapse, communicates with the serotonin molecule, and relays to it the exact signaling strength and frequency needed.
Behind the scenes, CBD works quietly to make all this possible. It ‘opens up’ endocannabinoid receptors so that they receive messages more clearly, a process called conformational change. In the above example, receptors from the ECS and serotonin systems might even join forces, forming a multi-complex receptor called a heterodimer! CBD aids this process, too, strengthening what researchers call ‘cross-talk’ between the Endocannabinoid System and other receptors.
Ever wonder why CBD has shown such amazing effects on those with epilepsy? It turns out that much of the ECS’s intrasystem communication is electrical in nature. Electrical impulses are what propel neurotransmitters to their destination, after all.
Retrograde signaling is unique in that it uses pressure gradients, not electrical ones, to transmit messages, meaning that it can operate independent of other chemical messengers.
If electrically-induced messengers are too erratic, as seen in epilepsy, the entire system can break down and ‘short circuit’. Cannabinoids, on the other hand, bypass this process and help to smooth out the flow of other, more electrically-derived signals.
To summarize, the Endocannabinoid System is integral when it comes to modulating pleasure, energy, and wellbeing, as well as helping the body recover from injury and disease. And a molecule from the hemp plant called Cannabidiol is integral to modulating the ECS! A recent study from Pacher and Kunos concludes that “modulating endocannabinoid system acting may have therapeutic potential in almost all disease affecting humans...”.
For many of us, CBD presents the opportunity for freedom from health problems and the stressors that cause them. Taking CBD allows a person to take charge of their health and experience life elevated.