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CBD 101: How It Works

CBD 101: How It Works

CBD. That three letter acronym means different things for different people.

For some, CBD is a wonder-molecule of the most promising kind. For others the term brings up connotations to marijuana. And despite becoming hugely popular in recent years, for many people CBD remains surrounded by at least a little mystery.

Though pretty new to the medical world, CBD is gaining a grass-roots reputation for enhancing health and wholeness. It’s helped children with seizures, vets with PTSD, elders with Alzheimer's, and many more. On a broader level, CBD has helped countless people get their lives back.

We think these kinds of results warrant a little more attention! In this article, we’ll take a look at why CBD has exploded onto the scene -- and hopefully lay a foundation from which your appreciation for the plant compound can deepen and grow. Together we’ll cover:

  • Exactly what CBD is
  • Where it comes from
  • What CBD does in the body

We’ll also detail what CBD is not -- it’s definitely not a drug or an illegal compound, nor is it just another fleeting fad,


Here’s our super simple guide.

CBD 101: What It Is & Where It Comes From

First and foremost, CBD is a plant compound. That just means it’s a collection of ingredients that are important to a plant’s life cycle and metabolic health.

In this case, the plant is called hemp, and its primary metabolic compound, CBD, is also important to the health of us humans. Talk about symbiosis!

While all plants contain compounds, the ones found in hemp are especially beneficial to us. Of these compounds, CBD is the most prevalent -- hemp’s ‘active ingredient’, if you will. CBD is made within hemp as the plant grows to full maturity.

CBD is also an acronym -- the compound’s full name is Cannabidiol. The “Canna” prefix derives from the plant family cannabis, of which hemp is an important member. (The suffix refers to CBD’s chemical structure, which isn’t critical to get to now).

Understanding Hemp: Cannabinoids

The most important group of compounds in hemp are its cannabinoids, and the most important cannabinoid is -- you guessed it -- CBD.

There are at least 113 other cannabinoids in the cannabis plant family, though many are only present in very small amounts. Despite their small presence, these other cannabinoids synergize with CBD to create big effects.

Compared to ‘normal’ cannabis, hemp is unique in that it contains high CBD (Cannabidiol) and low THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). By law, industrial hemp must contain less than .3 % THC by dry weight. That’s not very much!

This unique cannabinoid ratio -- high CBD and low THC -- allows the CBD contained in hemp to gently regulate the body without causing any strong mental effects.

Understanding Hemp: Terpenes

CBD is also the most important of hemp’s terpene molecules. Terpenes are basically scent molecules, similar in nature to essential oils. They’re light, small, and delicate (which means they evaporate easily-- allowing you to smell them). 

Hemp is usually rich in linalool, the terpene more commonly found in lavender, limonene, a scent molecule from lemons, and pinene, from pine trees. This diversity of ingredients is rare in nature, but it allows the hemp plant to accurately ‘hit’, or activate, a number of the body’s main biological systems.

To put it simply, hemp works! It’s an incredibly unique plant with amazing, but complex effects on the human body. We realize that understanding these complexities can be daunting...but just know that learning the basics will help.

The most important concept to grasp is that CBD, along with hemp’s other biomolecules, seamlessly interacts with the human body to improve and remediate health. We’ll get to how it does that a little later!

CBD and the Human Body: A Match Made in Biological Heaven

CBD is growing in popularity for reason. And that reason is its amazing health and wellness benefits.

From arthritis to scoliosis, from autism to Alzheimer's, first-time users are reporting impressive results. Only 6% of users don’t notice health benefits, while over 35% of users experience relief just from using CBD by itself!

CBD is helpful in alleviating the symptoms of many different diseases, which is a large part of why it’s so intriguing. Why does CBD lower the blood pressure of the person that needs that, while leaving a healthy individual’s blood pressure alone? Why does it calm down the overly anxious while allowing an already calm individual to stay energized? In short, how can its effects seem so incredibly adaptive?

More than just a band-aid solution, CBD is a true remediator of the underlying causes of many health problems. And it attacks these causes of disease by directly boosting the Endocannabinoid System.

Endocannabinoid System: A widespread signalling system involved in protecting the nervous system, improving brain flexibility, and ensuring healthy response to stress

- Adapted from An introduction to the Endogenous Cannabinoid System

If you’ve never heard of the Endocannabinoid System, you wouldn’t be alone. And even if you have, there might still be some lingering confusion.

Confusion would be understandable; the emergence of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) took scientists by surprise in the early 90’s, and the medical world is still lagging behind to this day. Most health professionals aren’t aware of the system’s importance, so they’re hardly impressed by the related claims that accompany CBD. This lack of awareness has carried over into mainstream culture, too, strengthened by social stigmas and misinformation.

Thankfully, though, that’s all changing. And with these changes come the demand for insight and education!  We’ve made it our goal to help with that.

Going back to the ECS definition above, the qualities of the Endocannabinoid System can be summed up in four parts:

  1. It’s a widespread signaling system. 

    The ECS sends and receives messages. While that’s easy to say, the actual importance of this quality runs surprisingly deep. Think of the endocannabinoid system’s signalling ability almost like an automated inbox that always sends the right message to the right recipient. For the body’s health and healthy function, this means a whole lot.

    Not only that, but the endocannabinoid system sends signals simultaneously, in nearly all areas of the body, nearly all the time. Leading researchers describe the ECS as “literally a bridge between body and mind.”

  2. It protects the nervous system. That means that it maintains nerves, and their messages, from decay and aging. As usual, the endocannabinoid system takes a comprehensive approach: it relays messages, as mentioned above, and protects the pathways along which they’re carried. This type of neuroprotection is so significant that the US government has a patent on CBD’s activation of it. 
  3. It improves neuroplasticity (aka brain health). The ECS helps form beneficial feedback loops in the brain -- potentially leading to more optimism and clarity of thought. This makes anything that improves endocannabinoid health (like CBD!) an excellent candidate to help those with anxiety, depression, or PTSD. Indeed, many people taking CBD for the first time report an improved outlook on life.
  4. It ensures that strength overcomes stress. 

    This is a big one: the health of our endocannabinoid system dictates whether we’ll break down in the face of stress... or get stronger from it. As you’ve probably experienced, modern life can be full of stress, whether in the form of overloaded work schedules or dysfunctional relationships or poor diets.

    Not all stress can be avoided. And that means it’s up to us to successfully manage and address these challenges head on. It turns out that the ECS helps determine how you’ll respond to such stressors -- will you get stuck in the past and falter, or look ahead (thanks in part to neuroplasticity) and get stronger?

To simplify things further: A healthy Endocannabinoid System = Homeostasis = Balance within the Body and Mind.

The state of one’s endocannabinoid system determines much about what their physical, mental, and emotional health will look like.

But as dynamic as the ECS is, it’s not bulletproof. It does get broken down sometimes, and this is where CBD comes in.

CBD: An Antidote For Stress

CBD directly boosts the Endocannabinoid System. And that, in turn, directly reduces stress. In a very real sense, CBD reverses the chain reaction of stress > breakdown > illness that’s often seen in chronic disease states. It actually operates ‘upstream’ of individual symptoms and enables the body to heal itself.

CBD’s ability to maintain full-body homeostasis carries over to a wide variety of other areas. The compound even appear to help with fitness and workout performance! That’s the theory, at least.  CBD’s ability to reduce stress (especially the oxidant stress that limits athletic recovery) does make it a very exciting new fitness and wellness tool. At the very least, CBD could soon come of age as America’s favorite wellness product.

Stay tuned for more on this topic.

These same principles make CBD useful for anyone who views life as an opportunity for self-improvement. Together with the innate healing capacity of our bodies, CBD presents a chance to live a more vital, more natural life. By boosting a system that plays a role in regulating all things biology, CBD shows larger-than-life promise.

Though this article covers much of the basics about CBD, we wouldn’t be surprised if you still had some questions! Below are some of the most common ones. We’ll tackle more questions -- and more topics -- in future articles.

 

Is CBD a drug?

No. CBD is a naturally occurring plant compound, not a drug. It helps the body make gentle changes that come with virtually no side effects. In some ways, it behaves more like an internally produced (endogenous) molecule than an external one.

While CBD isn’t a drug, the US Government does have a patent on Cannabidiol as it relates to the targeted treatment of several specific diseases, meaning CBD could feature in more pharmaceutical drugs in the future.

In the US, CBD is sold as a nutritional supplement, which means that anyone can use it freely without needing a prescription. It also means that CBD cannot be expressly marketed as a cure for any disease.

Is CBD legal?

Yes! CBD is legal in all 50 states. Though certain states have stricter regulations and qualifications for the types of CBD they allow into retail markets, CBD is more legal than ever. 2018’s Federal Farm Bill made this completely clear. It’s likely we’ll see CBD, and the hemp plant it’s derived from, become much more normalized in the future.

Is CBD’s Popularity just another health fad?

Unlikely. CBD has the backing of some of this century’s most significant medical findings behind it. That’s no exaggeration either -- take it from leading researcher Dr. Ethan Russo:

“The endocannabinoid system is an essential regulator of bodily function in its many facets. There is hardly any physiological process that is not affected by it to some degree.”

It’s not everyday that a plant compound is found to activate a biological system to such an extent that it seems made for it. But CBD does exactly that. As scientific findings accumulate and research continues to gain momentum, CBD’s popularity will continue to rise.

CBD’S Projection Sales through 2022, courtesy of Business Wire.

Is it like marijuana? Will it cause a mental high?

No, not at all! Remember how CBD is found mostly in the hemp plant, which is low in THC? ‘Marijuana’ is virtually the complete opposite; its high THC content is what causes its psychoactivity. CBD use, on the other hand, presents the opportunity for healing without a high.

Will CBD help with my _______ [health condition]?

While we can’t make any definitive claims, we’re hopeful. CBD does cause pretty extensive positive shifts in nearly anyone’s body, something you will hopefully experience, too.

Will CBD become instrumental to your personal wellness routine? We encourage you to find out as you optimize your health and pursue your best life.  Check out future articles for more info about CBD for your specific health challenges!

 

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