CBD reacts with the body in a variety of ways to help people with their sleep, their pain, their energy levels, stress and anxiety, and athletic recovery.
One of the most important ways that CBD works in the body is to regulate inflammation, but what does that mean? In this article we explore CBD’s role in inflammation, how it can help with general well-being and some everyday symptoms of inflammation, and the research which over time may make CBD an approved treatment for some diseases.
What is CBD?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a compound found in cannabis and hemp plants. Hemp and cannabis are technically the same plant, but the cannabis plants commonly known as marijuana have significant amounts of the psychoactive compound THC, whereas hemp plants have only small amounts of THC, allowing the CBD to shine. Hemp-derived CBD will not make the user high or impaired.
CBD works by interacting with the endocannabinoid system. That is a huge, complex system in the body of every human (and most animals, by the way!). The discovery of the endocannabinoid system is recent. In fact, it is called the endocannabinoid system because the cannabinoids were discovered in plants before the system to receive them was discovered in humans.
Why would humans and other animals have receptors for compounds produced by plants like hemp? It turns out that humans make their own cannabinoids. There are at least four cannabinoids in humans. One is called Anandamide, and to give you an idea of the effect these compounds have on the body, Anandamide is named for the Sanskrit word for joy and it works with endorphins to produce the “runner’s high.
Because they endocannabinoid system is relatively newly discovered, scientists are still learning a lot about it, and much is not yet known. But scientists do know that the endocannabinoid system is involved in regulating a variety of physiological and cognitive processes, affects pain sensation, it helps our memories, and it has a role in regulating the immune system.
CBD operates by chemically binding to receptors on the surface of your cells. The two receptors which are important for CBD are called CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are found primarily in nerve cells, especially in the brain. CB2 receptors are mostly in immune cells. These receptors normally receive Anandamide and 2-Arachidonolgycerol but when plant cannabinoids are introduced into the body the receptors are happy to bind to them, too.
What is Inflammation?
When we see the word “inflammation,” we think about pain, itching, or a rash. Those are all possible outcomes of inflammation, but inflammation itself is really just the process of white blood cells protecting the body from possible threats like bacteria, a foreign particle like a splinter, or viruses.
Sometimes inflammation is obvious to the person experiencing it. If you get a cut on your finger, you can see the white blood cells go to work, creating a sensitive red area around the wound and causing pain or itching. Other times you may not be specifically aware of inflammation, as when it occurs inside the body.
In most cases, inflammation is a good thing – it is your body fighting against a threat. But occasionally the immune system overreacts to a threat and causes more inflammation than is good for you. Other times, the immune system makes a mistake – it attacks things which it sees as threats, but which are not.
Sometimes, we cause the immune system to make those mistakes. A variety of environmental factors can induce inflammation, and scientists are looking at causes like stress, poor diet or the additives in processed foods, chemicals in the environment and more as potential triggers of inappropriate inflammation. Sugar, alcohol, processed meat products, common cooking oils and refined carbohydrates are all associated with excess inflammation.
Other known causes of excess inflammation are obesity and smoking.
Inflammation also causes side effects. Pain or itching, swelling, redness, body heat, and more can result from inflammation. It can also cause exhaustion, a general feeling of being sick, and fever. It is in this area in particular that CBD may be able to help many people.
CBD and Inflammation for General Well Being
With a better understanding of CBD and of inflammation, we can move on to how CBD interacts with the body to help with inappropriate inflammation.
CBD fights inflammation by binding to the CB2 receptors in immune cells and in other cells. Once it does so, the CBD instructs the cell to moderate some of its inflammatory activity. Some studies indicate that CBD also helps with vascular dilation. This helps the immune system to work better by increasing the natural effect of the immune system’s efforts to widen small blood vessels to get more white cells to the affected area. The vasodilation effects of CBD help the immune system to do its job.
In turn, you may see relief from some of the side effects of inflammation. Specifically, you may find reduced pain, less swelling, and less inflammation-related stress. The stress relief can combine with other interactions with CBD in the body, specifically the signals which CBD gives to nerve cells which are more directly stress-related.
What common conditions might CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties help?
Many common skin conditions such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, or sensitive skin react well to CBD. The pain, redness, swelling, and rashes are all artifacts of your immune system doing its job in fighting a threat. Some users prefer to use a cream, lotion, or balm to apply CBD directly to the affected area. Other people prefer to take CBD orally as a tinctures.
CBD also gets good reports from many users for treating back or joint pain and arthritis early research backs up their experiences. Much of that pain is a result of inflammation. Again, some users apply a CBD balm or lotion directly to the affected area if possible, while others prefer to use a tincture and cream combined.