Photo by John Fowler on Unsplash

By Lisa Profera MD

It seems that CBD products are flooding the market now that the Farm Bill has passed. As of December 2018, any cannabis/hemp product that contains less than 0.3% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is legal. Everyone seems to be jumping on the CBD bandwagon. There are so many types of products, and it can be overwhelming. People are looking for more natural solutions to many chronic health problems. CBD may be one of the answers. 

CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of over a hundred phytocannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Unlike its more famous cousin, THC, it does not get you high. CBD is considered safe and non-addictive. Phytocannabinoids mimic our own endogenous cannabinoids produced in our endocannabinoid system.

What is the endocannabinoid system (ECS)? Think of it as a “master regulator” of all of our body systems. Our endocannabinoids are responsible for regulating many functions in the brain and body—body temperature, sleep, energy, pain, pleasure, stress response, immune function, digestion, and much more. When we are stressed from an injury or infection, our endocannabinoid system helps us “get back to normal”—back to a state of homeostasis. Deficiency or dysregulation of the ECS literally throws us off balance. When systems are unbalanced, we develop disease over time. Dysregulation of the ECS has been shown to play a role in almost all disease pathology. According to scientists Pal Pacher and George Kunos from the National Institutes of Health, it makes logical sense that “modulating endocannabinoid system activity may have therapeutic potential in almost all diseases affecting humans” (2014).

Before 1990, not much was known about this. While studying the effects of THC on humans, researchers found that THC was able to bind to a specific receptor in our nervous system. If a receptor exists, then there must be a compound that our bodies make naturally that binds to it. This is how the endocannabinoid system was discovered. 

Our bodies naturally make two main endocannabinoids: 

  1. AEA (Arachidonoyl ethanolamide) or anandamide, which binds to CB-1 receptors (as does THC). Anandamide is derived from the Sanskrit word ananda which means “bliss”.
  2. 2-AG (2-Arachidonoyl glycerol) binds to CB-2 receptors. Cannabinol (CBN) and β-Caryophyllene also bind to these receptors.

CB-1 receptors are primarily located in the brain and central nervous system, while CB-2 receptors are mostly located in the peripheral nervous system, organs, and areas associated with the immune system. Take note that CBD does not directly bind to either receptor; it exerts its powerful beneficial effects by allowing the body’s own natural neurochemicals to be longer-acting. It is a master chemical that not only potentiates anandamide—it also positively influences the serotonin pathway (antidepressant effect), the PPAR-gamma pathway (regulating gene expression in cholesterol and inflammatory cascades), the TRPV1 pathway (anti-psychoactive effect), and the GPR55 pathway (anti-cancer and osteoprotective). 

An excellent resource for all things CBD can be found at Project ( I like how they refer to CBD as the “multi-purpose molecule.” CBD is not a panacea, but it is certainly close. The market has been flooded with CBD products that promise to help with all kinds of ailments. There are even products for your pets. But not all CBD products are created equal. In my next article, I will help guide you through the CBD maze and help you figure out what is best for you. 

The science is finally catching up with what people have known and experienced for thousands of years. These are exciting times. Although CBD and THC are the most-studied phytocannabinoids, they are not alone. Research is being done on many others such as CBN, CBC (cannabichromene), and CBG (cannabigerol). Scientists in Israel are decades ahead of what is being done in the USA, so stay tuned. This is just the tip of the iceberg.



Owner and Founder of PROJUVU MD

Aesthetics and Lifestyle Medicine in Ann Arbor, MI

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