Posted by Joshua Standifer & Luis N. Pacheco, MD, FAAFP on 29th Oct 2019

Cannabidiol (CBD) is exploding across the supplement market. But where does it come from? What does it do? Is there any scientific proof to back it up? Who should take it? How can it help? We'll get to all of that, but let's start with CBD, itself.

CBD comes from the L. Sativa plant, is generally sourced from the stems of industrial hemp, and is the most prevalent compound found in hemp stalks. Unlike THC, the "high" compound concentrated in the flowers of L. Sativa, CBD is completely non-intoxicating. When combined with the 400-plus other lipids, terpenes, and phytocannabinoids, CBD can be refined into the oil you've been seeing all across the news.

But supplement fads come and go.

What makes CBD different?

Cold, hard facts--for starters. Not only has the FDA just approved the patent for Epidiolex, the first hemp-derived anti-seizure medication, but scientists have been studying the possible pharmacological application of this treatment-diverse plant for decades.

Here are some of the interesting facts observed in the lab, and cited appropriately.

  • CBD could be an effective analgesic (pain moderator)(Costa et al., 2007). The non-psychoactive cannabis constituent cannabidiol is an orally effective therapeutic agent in rat chronic inflammatory and neuropathic pain.
  • CBD lessened the anxiety level in rats by increasing the receptivity of 5-HT1A receptors. 5-HT1A receptors are involved in the cannabidiol-induced attenuation of behavioral and cardiovascular responses to acute restraint stress, blocking the panic response (Resstel et al., 2009; Soares Vde et al., 2010).
  • CBD could hold promise for impacting depression, a phenomenon in which the 5-HT1A receptors are also involved (Zanelati et al., 2010).
  • CBD displays characteristics of a neuroprotective antioxidant, (Hampson, et al., 1998) helping to combat oxidizing factors in the brain.
  • CBD displays anti-nausea properties(Parker et al., 2002).
  • CBD acts as a cytotoxin to unregulated growth cells in rats, while remaining a cryopreservative to normal healthy cells (Parolaro and Massi, 2008). Cyto means cell.
  • A CBD extract showed greater anti-pain response over pure compound in a rat model with decreased allodynia (a pain response from something that usually shouldn't cause pain), improved thermal perception and nerve growth factor levels, and decreased oxidative damage (Comelli et al., 2009).
  • CBD even showed heightened activity in combatting MSRA, a dangerous infection (Appendino, et al., 2008)
  • CBD functions as an antagonist (working against) on GPR55, and on GPR18, possibly supporting a therapeutic role on cell migration (McHugh, et al., 2004).
  • In a recent study still awaiting publishing, and therefore lacking proper citation, it was found that CBD lowered the immobility/recovery time in rats forced to swim, lending to the long-claimed theory that CBD might be useful with athletic recovery.

CBD works in the body in a variety of ways now undergoing more rigorous investigation. The most emphatic effect might lie in CBD's interaction with your body's Endocannabinoid System.

You have cannabinoid receptors practically everywhere. Your cells, immune cells, neurons, bones, organs, and glands are filled with receptor sites that can cooperate with CBD. These receptor sites respond to the natural cannabinoids your body already produces. The most prevalent of these endocannabinoids is called anandamide.

*These statements and images have not been approved by the FDA, and are for educational purposes only.

Anandamide comes from the sanskrit word ananda, which means bliss, joy, or happiness. This neurotransmitter regulates mood, digestion, cognition, cell growth, and a variety of other important jobs that support balance and homeostasis. CBD seems to work by possibly interacting with the production of FAAH, the acid that decreases your body's natural reserves of cannabinoids. Think of CBD as a cup of coffee that gives anandamide and other natural cannabinoids a boost so they can stay up longer and do their job in your body.

CBD and other cannabinoids found in Broad-Spectrum Oil resemble the neurotransmitters your body naturally produces. The phytocannabinoids in hemp fit like little plugs into the outlets of your Endocannabinoid receptors. CBD doesn't fit perfectly the way THC does (which is one of the reasons THC makes you feel high). CBD might have a much more subtle effect in the way it limits the production of harmful compounds and benignly communicates with other receptor systems in the body, including dopamine, opioid, and serotonin. The below chart is from a working theory of how CBD might impact those other receptor systems. 

These statements and images have not been approved by the FDA, and are for educational purposes only.

This holistic, system-wide approach is a hot topic in the world of science. Researchers want to pin down exactly how, at what point, and by what processes CBD performs the natural feats it appears to assist with. What we do know is how powerful and necessary the Endocannabinoid System is, and that CBD appears to support the maximum efficiency of that system.

The more you know

When it comes to understanding CBD, you should always refer to data. The more you know, the easier it will be to make a decision if CBD might be the right addition to your self-care regimen. Research suggests CBD is non-habit-forming and may hold promise in the future areas of pain, inflammation, calm restoration, nausea, wear-and-tear oxidation, cell protection, athletic recovery, cognitive support, and overall mood. You be the judge of whether or not CBD is just another fad.

The data is promising.

*These statements and images have not been approved by the FDA, and are for educational purposes only.