You can’t pull up social media, read a magazine, or listen to the news without hearing about cannabis or cannabinoids. Many don’t even know what cannabinoids are or what effect they have on the body and brain. People are afraid of trying the substance to relieve pain and anxiety for fear they’ll get high.
Relax. Using cannabinoids without the psychoactive ingredient, THC, is safe and beneficial. What are cannabinoids and how do they benefit the body and brain?
What Are Cannabinoids?
Every living thing is made up of chemical compounds, including the human body. These compounds perform a specific function. When applied to the body, the body uses cells to process these compounds. Then the compounds are sent to the organs, tissues, muscles, bones, or the bloodstream to perform their function.
With that said, the cannabis sativa plant contains hundreds of these compounds, only about 113 of which are identified as being beneficial to the body. Additionally, cannabinoids are also found in other plants such as Echinacea purpurea, Helichrysum umbraculigerum, and Radula marginata.
What Cannabis Compounds Are Used the Most?
Cannabinoids come in three classifications: phytocannabinoids (or those compounds found naturally in plants), endocannabinoids found in animals and humans, and synthetic cannabinoids made in a lab. The two most famous compounds are THC and CBD, both phytocannabinoids found in the cannabis plant.
Synthetic cannabinoids have been formulated to help with HIV/AIDS patients as well as relieve the nausea and other symptoms of cancer. These often have the equivalent of or exceed the amount of THC in the cannabis sativa plant with the goal of easing these disease symptoms.
Cannabinoids begin with cannabinoid acids. These are produced by the plant to protect it from predators that eat it. These acids are processed. When they lose the “acid” part, they morph into other cannabinoid products. For example, when THC breaks down, it’s turned into CBN or cannabinol. This compound has anti-seizure and anti-inflammatory properties.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is notable for many things. The most important among them are chronic pain relief, anxiety soothing, and sleep aid. CBD is often extracted from the cannabis plant as the essential oil and is used for dozens of benefits. It’s made into creams, tinctures, edibles, and sprays, among other applications.
Another cannabinoid called CBN, or cannabichromene, has strong effects on cancer cells and tumors. It was found in studies to inhibit the growth of tumors as well as inflammation. Do you have osteoarthritis? CBN blocks the pain as well as the swelling. CBD also supports healthy brain function.
How Do Cannabinoids React in the Body?
Science has known about and studied the endocannabinoid system for almost 100 years. This system has receptors in the body that react with cannabinoids when they enter the body. One receptor in the brain is called CB1. This is the receptor that, when THC hits it, gives you that happy feeling or feeling high.
CB2 is the receptor-based in the immune system. When the body is injured, it sends pain messages through the nervous system to the brain. The brain then tells the immune system to rush pain relief in the form of fluids to the injury site. The fluids pack around the injury to protect it from further trouble.
When CBD, for example, is applied to the injury, the pain receptors send a message to the brain that it’s okay, no need for any pain control methods here. The immune receptors recognize the healing properties of CBD, and they send no fluids to pack around the injury. Pain relief is, in lots of cases, instant.
CBD’s job is to stimulate the endocannabinoid system and support homeostasis or the body’s natural state of being. Along the way, it also stops temporary and chronic pain, promotes sleep, shuts down anxiety, stops inflammation cold, and gets rid of fungi (think toenails and fingernails.)
Benefits of Cannabinoids
Cannabinoids do a lot of good for the body such as:
- Cannabis users usually aren’t overweight. Cannabinoids regulate the body’s insulin as well as effectively managing calorie usage.
- Lung capacity. Cannabinoids in the form of smokable cannabis improves lung capacity, unlike smoking cigarettes, which decreases it.
- Cannabinoids interact with insulin, stabilizing blood sugar levels, lowering blood pressure, and increasing blood circulation.
- Studies have shown that, as cannabinoids ease depression, they also calm autistic persons and ease their moods.
- Those with ADD and ADHD have trouble focusing. Cannabinoids have been shown to help them focus, much better than Ritalin.
- Cannabinoids have been shown to slow the progression of cognitive diseases by fighting brain inflammation leading to Alzheimer’s disease.
- Cannabinoids have also been seen to help those with PTSD, because it keeps the fight or flight instinct from going around the bend.
- Cannabinoids are much safer than alcohol, which makes it a smart response to weaning alcoholics off the juice.
- Broken bones. Cannabinoids are being studied for their relationship to broken bones. Apparently, they help heal the break as well as strengthening the bone so any future breaks would be harder to manifest.
- This is pressure on the optic nerve that sends pictures to the brain. This pressure causes pain and damages the eye. Cannabinoids help alleviate the pressure.
- Multiple sclerosis, over 100 types of arthritis, as well as chronic pain are helped by cannabinoids in topical applications. They ease the pain of tight muscles and arthritis.
One of the main reasons for cannabinoids’ explosion is that they’re natural. Those who have taken chemical medications for health reasons have suffered the side effects and now seek natural remedies. As long as you stay away from synthetic cannabinoids – which, not being natural, have side effects – you too can benefit from cannabinoids’ effect on the body’s health.
Cannabinoids can be found in dozens of applications, including edibles. CBD is one of the most popular cannabinoids, because it includes no THC to get you high. Although THC can be combined with CBD to lessen the high, thus benefiting from the health advantages of both.