New to CBD and want to know all the details what is it, how does it work where does it come from? how to tell good cbd oil from bad? read on
what is cbd and how does it work?
By now, it’s likely you’ll have heard a lot about CBD. Its undeniable ‘buzz word’ status has taken it from underground to the mainstream in a flurry of confusing and, sometimes, inaccurate write-ups. Although we’re delighted to see CBD and all its fellow cannabinoids making their way to the spotlight, we’re not so keen on misinformation – in fact, we’d like to put a stop to that.
Here at nabino, we’re all about accessibility and no-nonsense honesty. We want to help you be informed, so you can make informed decisions. We want you to really understand the role CBD can play in your life, so you’re choosing the products that are right for you.
So, the first place to start is: what is CBD? and how does it work?
CBD (short for Cannabidiol) is a powerful compound found in hemp plants that has been shown to have many therapeutic properties, partly due to the remarkable similarity to endocannabinoids naturally produced in the human body. You may be familiar with the term "runners high" - a blissful rush which occurs at a certain point during exercise. This wonderful feeling is created by the body generating endocannabinoids, which help bring the body back into balance after the strain of exertion. CBD (a phytocannabinoid) works much in the same way – although it doesn’t get you high like it’s sister cannabinoid THC, it can impart that same balance and elated sensation you get from exercise, which means you can reap some healthy rewards of the plants and still get on with your day.
CBD works on the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), a system found present in all humans and mammals after scientists decided to investigate how cannabis works in the body in 1992. Unlike many other superfoods, CBD has a unique pathway to act on to deliver the benefits throughout your body.
“by using a plant that has been around for thousands of years, we discovered a new physiological system of immense importance. we wouldn’t have been able to get there if we had not looked at the plant” - raphael mechoulam, dean, transnational cannabinoid research community
what is the endocannabinoid system?
Function: The ECS essentially is the warden of the immune system and nervous system. The ECS plays a key role in maintaining homeostasis, the bodies in-built mechanism to maintain balance. Because it works with these two systems it’s involved in many different aspects of health including mood, memory, appetite, pain, pleasure, sleeping and our ability to fight disease.
Receptor: A receptor is the part of a cell that communicates with the rest of the body.
It receives information from neurotransmitters, and then they tell the cell what to do from there. Different receptors are different shapes, and specific neurotransmitters fit into them like a lock fits into a key.
ECS receptors: The two main receptors that people speak of are the CB1 and CB2 receptors, and both have different functions.
CB1 receptors: These are one of the most abundant receptors found in the nervous system (the system we need for thoughts, movement and emotions). This receptor is involved with regulating synaptic transmission (the movement of neurotransmitters across to another nerve cell). It’s the CB1 receptors that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) binds to which gives people pleasurable feelings. CB1 also indirectly are involved in the immune system.
CB2 receptors: are mainly found in the immune system, and are also found in the gastrointestinal system, spleen, tonsils, thymus gland and the brain. Stimulation of this receptor does not cause any psychoactive effects but affects our immunity, so it has been of particular interest to scientists.
Related receptors: Other less spoken about receptors related to the ECS include TRPV1, GPR55 and PPAR as well as many more variations on these. GPR55 receptor was shown to be involved in mediating anxiety in mice (7 ) whereas TRPV1 receptors are involved with pain (6) .
Neurotransmitter: A neurotransmitter is the chemical language of cells. Neurotransmitters are fired between cells on a mission to send messages, and each of them has something different to say. They also have a specific receptor they bind to (as we said before, they fit specifically like a key and a lock). For example, dopamine is a neurotransmitter, that makes you feel good. It’s released when cannabis is smoked hence why it is often called “dope”.
ECS neurotransmitters: These are cannabinoids. There are 3 types, endogenous (produced naturally in the body), phytocannabinoid (found in plants) and synthetic (man-made).
Endogenous cannabinoids: better known as endocannabinoids include 2-AG and anandamide. Anandamide binds to CB1 receptors and is also found in cacao- this is part of the reason that chocolate gives you pleasure. The name comes from the Sanskrit word “ananda” which means bliss. Interestingly endocannabinoids are retrograde signallers, meaning they fire their signals backwards between cells when they sense some rebalancing is needed.
Phytocannabinoids: A Phytocannabinoid is a molecule from a plant that stimulates the endocannabinoid system with “Phyto” meaning plant. They are found in abundance in cannabis and hemp, for example, CBD and THC are phytocannabinoids. Other plants which have cannabinoids include echinacea, which is traditionally used to treat colds and flu.
Synthetic cannabinoids: include pharmaceuticals like Sativex which is used to treat multiple sclerosis and dronabinol which is used to stimulate appetite in patients with HIV.
so is CBD used in pharmaceuticals?
CBD has been acknowledged as a powerful compound by pharmaceutical companies and is used in medicines directly and as a facilitator at high doses of 200mg and above. There are set to be many more CBD based pharmaceuticals as research grows, however, the CBD we sell is non-pharmaceutical and is not approved by the FDA nor the MHRA as a medicine.
where does CBD come from?
You’ll probably come across many CBD brands trying to steer attention away from the word ‘cannabis’ due to the negative press this plant has received over the last 50 years or so. But in truth, CBD comes from cannabis and hemp, which are of the same family (hence their chemical similarities).
CBD and THC is found in the flowers of the female cannabis plant, but while full-spectrum CBD oil and cannabis remain illegal in the UK (THC must be removed to keep levels below the legal 0.2%) hemp is the plant of choice as it naturally contains very little THC. Cannabidiol oil with higher levels of CBD is derived from the flowers of the hemp plant, but oil is also extracted from the seeds and stalk of hemp which contain very little or no CBD. These parts of the plant simply produce hemp oil, which is often used in cooking.
Hemp also has a remarkable ability to absorb heavy metals and pesticides. It’s known as one of the most potent phytoremediative plants, meaning it can clean up toxins and contaminants in soils and water. In fact, masses of hemp plants were planted in Chernobyl to help counteract the effects of the nuclear disaster and this method of clean-up continues to be used around the world today. While an incredible resource for environmental safety, this does mean paying extra attention to the treatment and origin of the plants used to make your chosen wellness CBD product is essential. After all, it would be very counterintuitive to be consuming or absorbing these harmful, mopped-up toxins into your body.
whats the difference between full spectrum, broad spectrum & isolate?
Full spectrum - means that your product contains all the molecules of the plant as they are found naturally. Sometimes full spectrum products contain THC but below 0.2% for legal reasons.
Broad spectrum - means that you have most of the molecules in the plant, except THC has been taken out completely.
Isolate - this is the CBD molecule completely on its own with nothing else.
There are loads of different ways to extract the parts of the plants we want. For example, we can use carbon dioxide at super high pressure, in order to squeeze out the desired compounds. This is, in fact, the most gentle route of extraction and is the same process used to decaffeinate coffee. You can use solvents such as alcohol and butane to get out the active compounds, and then heat your solution till the solvents evaporate and leave no residue. These are just a couple of ways of many to extract CBD from the plants.
what other members are in the CBD family?
CBD is one of over 400 molecules found in cannabis and hemp and around 112 of these are known to be active in the body. Its most infamous sibling is of course THC - the psychoactive compound that makes people feel happy.
what is a terpene?
Plants have hundreds or sometimes thousands of different molecules or phytochemicals in them, which are categorised into different classes based on their structure and the atoms they have in them. Terpenes are one of these categories and these molecules are very important parts of hemp and cannabis plants.
The criteria for a terpene is that they have a ring made of 5 carbons, with 8 hydrogen molecules attached, or a multiple thereof. There are many different types of terpenes, so, for example, the formula C5H8 is a terpene, C10H16 is called a monoterpene and the list goes on. In fact, it is thought that there are over 200 terpenes in cannabis! For example, limonene, which has been known to chill people out is a terpene which is also found in juniper and peppermint. Myrcene is a terpene that in high doses puts you to sleep, also found in mangoes and hops- perhaps this is why beer makes us sleepy!
what about other molecules?
Another phytochemical class is the flavonoids which cannabis has plenty of. These work with terpenes to give cannabis its taste and scent. It also adds yellow colours to plants to increase chances of pollination. However, there are over 6000 flavonoids that we know of, so we are yet to understand the entirety of their impact. This is still a very young science with a relatively limited body of research, so there is still much to discover.
so, we know that cannabis and hemp contain lots of phytocannabinoids. But what do they do?
CBD interacts with our ECS system though not directly with our CB1 and CB2 receptors. It’s been shown to have effects on a range of issues that involve our immune system, our nervous system and our minds.
THC binds to our CB1 receptors which effects mood and is involved with our pain levels.
CBGa: Also known as cannabigerolic acid is thought to be involved with inflammation and pain.
CBC: Cannabichromene is a molecule that helps people get to sleep.
CBG: Cannabigerol helps slow down a racing mind
what’s the entourage effect?
It’s all well and good having individual special molecules with useful properties, but the real magic happens when these molecules come together. This is what’s known as the “entourage” effect.
When working as a whole, all the molecules do their bit for optimum potency and widespread effects. This is the way all plants work - the push for single actives and synthetics only really arose in the last 75 years as pharmaceutical companies grew.
For example, CBD works in synergy with THC by reducing unwanted side effects of THC (GW, 2019). CBD is a “negative allosteric modulator” of the CB1 receptor (Kelly et al., 2019), which basically means it affects this receptor indirectly and turns the activity down. When combined with THC, CBD reduces the peak of the high so people don’t get quite as stoned. However, the effects last longer, and the safety of the plant is increased (15). This helps you harness the plants full therapeutic effects with minimal side effects.
what don’t we know?
As the discovery of the ECS is so recent, there are still many unanswered questions about CBD in the scientific community. In fact, a survey done by Medical Cannabis Evaluations in Sacramento, California showed that only 13% of medical schools teach about the endocannabinoid system to future doctors (2) . There’s certainly a lot of work to be done!
At present, there’s conflicting evidence as to where CBD works in the body. Some say it works on CB2 receptors (4) whereas others say it does not interact with it at all (5) . We know that it blocks the GRP55 channel which is involved with anxiety (3) and interacts with the TRP receptors which are involved with pain (5). We also know that it binds to the allosteric site of CB1, ‘allo’ meaning other. So, it affects this receptor without directly binding onto it. However much more research is needed into its exact pharmacological routes.
is CBD safe?
“In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential(30)”-WHO
Cannabis has been used for 12,000 years and extracts for several decades. However, a study was conducted to see if there were any side effects at high doses and it was shown that there were some unwanted outcomes. CBD was administered at single doses (1500, 3000, 4500 or 6000 mg) or multiple (750 or 1500 mg twice daily for 6 days) showed that patients had issues with drowsiness, headache, nausea and diarrhoea (8) . Don’t worry too much though, these are extremely high doses. It’s just something to be aware of.
Another point of truth is that CBD is relatively new. This means it will take some decades for us to see if there are any long-term side effects of its use. But for now, it looks like we’re safe and sound.
so how can CBD help with my health?
As a wellness supplement over the counter, consumers find CBD can help at a low dose with many conditions from stress to acne, inflammation or aiding recovery from a party night. It’s even used by some to help deal with addiction and recovery (one study showed that mice voluntarily consumed less cocaine after being repeatedly administered with CBD(1)).
The top 5 uses include:
• Muscle recovery
CBD is frequently used for pain and animal studies show that its use could be valid. One study showed that CBD reduced the levels of several mediators associated with pain in rats such as nitric oxide (NO), lipid peroxide and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) (14) .Other data showed that CBD reduced levels of pain through the serotonin system which is involved in pain perception and pleasure (10).
Much scientific investigation has shown that CBD works on a wide array of immune system components, winding it down and reducing inflammation. For example, CBD has been shown to reduce levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines (17). These are the immune systems chemical messengers that call for other white blood cells to be activated and geared up to fight disease. Too many of these cells can cause harmful inflammation, which is when CBD can be helpful. It has also been shown to work more directly on reducing white blood cells such as T cells (3) and B cells (18) . However, there is a smaller body of evidence to suggest that CBD can be pro-inflammatory in some cases and so further scientific investigation is needed (11).
CBD has been investigated for its effects on anxiety, and human studies have shown it to be effective. For example, CBD was administered to people who were anxious about public speaking and it was shown to significantly reduce discomfort in their speech performance, anxiety and cognitive impairment when compared to placebo (12). Another study showed that CBD reduced ECD uptake (a brain imaging agent) in the hippocampus, parahippocampal gyrus and inferior temporal gyrus and increased ECD uptake in the right posterior cingulate gyrus. These are all important parts of the limbic system in the brain which controls emotions, fear and motivation (12). Overall these experiments showed that cannabidiol was useful in attenuating anxiety levels.
Insomnia is another condition people frequently use CBD for. A study shows that subjects who took 160mg of CBD reported having slept significantly more than subjects receiving placebo. Additionally, their quality of sleep was better as they reported less dream recall with three doses of CBD (13).The mechanism through which CBD affects insomnia is not yet entirely clear, however, it was shown to affect the circadian rhythm of microglial cells by deregulating circadian genes (16).The circadian rhythm is an internal process which regulates the sleep-wake cycle over 24 hours and microglial cells are important cells for regulating the nervous system.
is CBD useful for sports?
CBD has been approved by The International Olympic Committee’s World Anti Doping Agency WADA as a permitted supplement, as so many athletes use it to prepare, perform and recover. It’s useful for many different types of sports from high impact to more relaxed activities because its properties are so wide and varied. Sports CBD is used in include football, running, yoga, boxing, golf and mixed martial arts.
Prepare: Good sleep is crucial for healing, and improved sleep quality aids these processes. It also helps ensure the athlete has plenty of energy for the next event. CBD is often used by athletes for this.
Perform: The calming effects of CBD on the mind helps athletes get into a flow state for optimum performance. The painkilling effects also increases athlete’s endurance.
Recover: inflammation is often associated with high impact sports and affects joint mobility. CBD can help wind down this reaction and therefore promotes faster and more comfortable healing. The pain-relieving properties mean that athletes have an alternative to drugs like ibuprofen and opioids which are known to have side effects.
“CBD is a far healthier long-term solution than popping traditional pain relievers, many of which are in the dangerously addictive opiate family of drugs.”
- Nick Kovacevich, CEO of KushCo Holdings (19)
To sum up…
A vast source of anecdotal evidence, thousands of years of traditional use of cannabis and much scientific investigation has shown that CBD is a potentially powerful ally for one’s wellbeing. More clinical trials need to be conducted to understand exactly how it can be useful for different ailments, as well as how it works in the body and its safety profile. However, the accumulated evidence so far has agreed that CBD is a useful tool for many and has certainly sparked the interest of scientists and doctors around the world. Let’s hope the curiosity, validity and quality continue to grow.
Disclaimer of medical advice: This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
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