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Cannabidiol (CBD) is a naturally occurring compound found in the resinous flower of cannabis, a plant with a rich history as medicine going back thousands of years. Today the therapeutic properties of CBD are being tested and confirmed by scientists and doctors around the world. A safe, non-addictive substance, CBD is one of more than a hundred “phytocannabinoids,” which are unique to cannabis and endow the plant with its robust therapeutic profile.


CBD is closely related to another important medicinally active phytocannabinoid: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound that causes the high that cannabis is famous for. These are the two components of cannabis that have been most studied by scientists.


Both CBD and THC have significant therapeutic attributes. But unlike THC, CBD does not make a person feel “stoned” or intoxicated. That’s because CBD and THC act in different ways on different receptors in the brain and body.


CBD can actually lessen or neutralize the psychoactive effects of THC, depending on how much of each compound is consumed. Many people want the health benefits of cannabis without the high – or with less of a high. The fact that CBD is therapeutically potent as well as non-intoxicating, and easy to take as a CBD oil, makes it an appealing treatment option for those who are cautious about trying cannabis for the first time.


CBD: The Multipurpose Molecule


Many people are seeking alternatives to pharmaceuticals with harsh side effects – medicine more in synch with natural processes. By tapping into how we function biologically on a deep level, CBD can provide relief for chronic pain, anxiety, inflammation, depression and many other conditions.


Extensive scientific research and mounting anecdotal accounts from patients and physicians highlight CBD’s potential as a treatment for a wide range of maladies, including (but not limited to):






~ CARDIOVASCULAR DYSFUNCTION (Atherosclerosis, arrhythmia)

(Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Huntington’s chorea, stroke, traumatic brain injury)

~ AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES (inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis, eczema)

~ METABOLIC SYNDROME (diabetes, obesity)

~ GUT DISORDERS (colitis, Crohn’s)

~ SKIN DISEASE (acne, dermatitis, psoriasis)


CBD has proven neuroprotective effects and its anti-cancer properties are being investigated at several academic research centers in the United States and elsewhere. A 2010 brain cancer study by California scientists found that CBD “enhances the inhibitory effects of THC on human glioblastoma cell proliferation and survival.” This means that CBD makes THC even more potent as an anticancer substance. Also in 2010, German researchers reported that CBD stimulates neurogenesis, the growth of new brain cells, in adult mammals.



How Does CBD Work?


CBD and THC interact with our bodies in a variety of ways. One of the main ways is by mimicking and augmenting the effects of the compounds in our bodies called “endogenous cannabinoids” - so named because of their similarity to compounds found in the cannabis plant. These “endocannabinoids” are part of what scientists refer to as the “endocannabinoid system.”


The discovery of the endocannabinoid system has significantly advanced our understanding of health and disease. It has major implications for nearly every area of medical science and helps to explain how and why CBD and THC are such versatile compounds – and why cannabis is such a widely consumed plant, despite its illegal status.


Cutting-edge science has shown that the endocannabinoid system is dysregulated in nearly all pathological conditions. Thus, it stands to reason that “modulating endocannabinoid system activity may have therapeutic potential in almost all diseases affecting humans,” as Pal Pacher and George Kunos, scientists with the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), suggested in a 2014 publication.


By modulating the endocannabinoid system and enhancing endocannabinoid tone, CBD and THC can slow – or in some cases stop – disease progression.



What Is the Entourage Effect?


While cannabinoids and terpenes have been studied for their individual effects, proponents of the entourage effect are interested in the way these compounds work when combined with each other. They insist that consuming whole-plant marijuana produces a different effect than consuming individual cannabinoids or terpenes in isolation. The term “entourage effect” was coined by Mechoulam and Shimon Ben-Shabat in a cannabinoid study from 1999. In the study, Mechoulam and Shabat suggested that this phenomenon explains why botanical drugs (containing the entire spectrum of compounds within a plant) can sometimes be more effective than the plant’s isolated components.


Because most cannabinoids and terpenes are present in marijuana in such small concentrations, this makes it difficult to judge the effects that these individual compounds have when the plant is consumed as a whole. The exception to this rule is THC and CBD, the two cannabinoids found in the highest percentages in most marijuana strains. It’s the interaction between these two cannabinoids that provides one of the strongest arguments for the entourage effect.



Individual Effects of THC


Although the effects of THC can vary from one person to another, it’s well-known for causing a euphoric high. It’s useful for a variety of medical purposes, from calming pain and nausea to stimulating appetite. THC may also have negative side effects; it can cause short-term memory loss, an increased heart rate, and anxiety.


While these effects can be uncomfortable for some recreational marijuana consumers, they may be absolutely intolerable for medical marijuana patients. That’s what some people discovered about dronabinol, a synthetic THC medication marketed under the name of Marinol and used to quell nausea and vomiting and stimulate appetite. The THC side effects are too strong for some patients, however, causing them to feel anxious and unable to concentrate and function while taking it.


Individual Effects of CBD

CBD also has a whole host of medical uses. In addition to working as an effective painkiller, it’s also good at calming anxiety and lifting depression. Researchers have also found that CBD is effective at treating seizures in people with rare forms of epilepsy.


Unlike THC, CBD does not cause an intoxicating high and its side effects are generally mild. High doses of CBD can result in lightheadedness and a dry mouth, but it’s usually well-tolerated.


Combining Cannabinoids

Researchers and patients have noticed that in addition to its usefulness as an individual medical treatment, CBD is particularly effective at combating some of the more unpleasant side effects of THC. As mentioned before, this combination is one of the easiest ways to see the cannabis entourage effect at work.


The effects obtained by combining CBD and THC depend on the ratios of each cannabinoid. The most noticeable effect created by consuming CBD with THC is the reduction in THC’s psychoactive high. At a 1:1 CBD-to-THC ratio, the high is greatly reduced. At a 2:1 CBD-to-THC ratio, THC’s psychoactive effects disappear altogether. CBD also counteracts the extreme anxiety THC can cause in those who are sensitive to its effects.


By understanding and utilizing the entourage effect to their advantage, medical marijuana patients are able to choose strains or products with the proper THC-to-CBD ratio to offer relief without creating discomfort. A 1:1 THC-to-CBD ratio was used to create nabiximols (marketed under the name Sativex), a medication used for neuropathic pain and muscle spasticity in multiple sclerosis.


The endocannabinoid system plays a crucial role in regulating a broad range of physiological processes that affect our everyday experience – our mood, our energy level, our intestinal fortitude, immune activity, blood pressure, bone density, glucose metabolism, how we experience pain, stress, hunger, and more.


What happens if the endocannabinoid system doesn’t function properly? What are the consequences of a chronically deficient or overactive endocannabinoid system?


In a word, disease.


Endocannabinoid system (ECS)

The endocannabinoid system is a complex network of lipid-based endocannabinoids (cannabinoids which are produced naturally in the body), cannabinoid receptor proteins. The system is distributed throughout the body, including in the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. The reactions that take place in this system are extremely important for many bodily functions, including brain functions.


Interactions between endocannabinoids, cannabinoids, and receptors play an important role in physiological and cognitive processes including fertility, pregnancy, during prenatal and postnatal development. They also influence mood, emotions, appetite, pain sensation and memory. Cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant (the most well-known being CBD and THC) interact with this system in similar ways to endocannabinoids.






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