The topic of the endocannabinoid system is evolving and expanding…
Along with it, the growing interest in natural substances that nurture it and how they might benefit health. It also factors in other more commonly known human physiological systems, such as nervous, endocrine, circulatory, or immune systems.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a cellular level communication network. Current research suggests that it regulates bodily systems and maintains homeostasis across physiological processes. Furthermore, it may play a role in the moderation of pain, your mood and sense of well-being, modulation of brain functions, your appetite, and how well you sleep. (To name a few areas).
The ECS consists of
- Cannabinoids (some of which self-synthesize in the body and are called endogenous cannabinoids) and
- Cannabinoid receptors: Some resources also include the enzymes that break down endocannabinoids and cannabinoids in a description of the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The two key endocannabinoids are anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG). Within the receptors, there are categories CB1 and CB2. Receptor sites are throughout the body. CB1 receptors are mostly found in the central nervous system (CNS) while CB2 within the peripheral nervous system. Some scientists believe the body may house yet another, undiscovered, receptor group. However, to date, this has been unconfirmed.
A healthy diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids boosts the natural formation of endocannabinoids in the body. Herbs and spices may also play a role. Phytonutrients (from plants) can also enhance CB2 receptors contributing to a healthy inflammatory response. Meanwhile, other healthy behaviors, such as exercise and stress-reduction techniques, can also help to keep the endocannabinoid system in check.
Phytocannabinoids are chemically similar to the endocannabinoids produced by the human body. They can be used as targeted supplements to either activate cannabinoid receptors or block enzymes that break down endocannabinoids.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the most popular out of at least 90 known phytocannabinoids…
It may be derived from hemp or cannabis. A little more is known about tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), concerning how it engages with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). THC is the compound from cannabis that makes you “high.” However, cannabidiol (CBD) has gained much more mainstream attention due to its non-psychoactive effect.
Research on exactly how CBD influences the ECS is ongoing. One direction suggests that CBD may prevent endocannabinoids from breaking down. Studies suggest that CBD may influence pain, nausea, and a range of health conditions.
CBD is available through multiple applications, including creams and topical treatments, infused in food and beverages, gummies, and, one of the most popular options for use, oils. See Trusted Nutrition’s CBD Oil for Beginners blog to learn more.
When to Consider Long-term Use of CBD
Scientists believe that the endocannabinoid system (ECS) affects almost every part of the body in some way. Nurturing this system through healthy behaviors and lifestyle is widely supported.
The health and wellness applications of cannabis and hemp are not new to human history. However, medicinal use of the plants has had a roller coaster when it comes to social approval and regulation. These nuances may have also indirectly biased the availability of sound research. Medical use for health conditions or outcomes continues to evolve.
To date, much of the CBD-related research has focused on chronic pain (both neuropathic and inflammation-related), cancer and chemotherapy, and anxiety disorders. While, for severe pediatric epilepsy and seizures, one of the first cannabis-derived medicines was approved by the FDA in recent years and, therefore, represents a more definitive long-term application of CBD.
The possibility that cannabidiol (CBD) influences chronic pain has piqued the curiosity of both researchers and health consumers. Furthermore, the potential of CBD to ease the symptoms related to conditions such as Fibromyalgia and Multiple Sclerosis (M.S.) has been compelling.
Also, an indirect effect of better pain management may be improved sleep. Sufficient sleep supports the body in many ways and is critical to good health.
Many more health conditions are under scientific review and may benefit from long-term use of phytocannabinoids, including CBD. Research is emerging in neurodegenerative diseases and other brain-related conditions. Also, arthritis is of interest due to the inflammatory circumstances within the different types of arthritis. Other mental disorders, such as post-traumatic stress, have less conclusive scientific evidence, but research interest is evolving.
It may be that indirect effects of these natural substances, such as their role in modulating inflammation, represent some of the best health effects overall. Many modern diseases are rooted in elevated inflammation and adverse oxidative stress.
The euphoric calm that users report may also prove to be a great compliment to other stress-reduction or mood enhancement tactics.
Best Things to Know when Using CBD
Many naturopathic professionals and those medically-trained in hemp and cannabis prefer a full-spectrum product since it most closely represents the natural, phytochemical composition.
Studies across the plant and human health sciences have observed positive effects of consuming whole food forms. A similar rationale is at play here. However, isolated forms of CBD or compounds with THC may be appropriate depending on the person taking the products.
Also, increasing familiarity with the manufacturer’s strategies on sourcing, processing, and quality testing is a common recommendation.
How much to take is a common question with a less definitive answer from leading experts in the field. The reality is that, much like nutrition, phytocannabinoid use has bio-individual influences. Also, there are differences in medicinal dosages vs. those approved for mass-market.
Leafly.com is one of the most trusted resources for information. Their Complete Guide to CBD answers many questions related to CBD use, including a comparison between hemp- and medical cannabis-derived CBD.
Some applications may be less clinical and more for beauty and relaxation. Mind Body Green shares eight ways to use hemp and hemp seed oil.
Despite the current attention and uptick in ongoing research, the legal framework for CBD is a bit tricky. Be sure to also look into regulatory aspects, including state guidelines and CBD labeling regulation.
Health consumers who take other medications or have underlying health conditions will want to obtain appropriate clinical guidance. Doing so would help ensure that the use of phytocannabinoids avoids unintended adverse health effects.