The cannabis plant has different types of cannabinoids, and the main cannabinoid that gives cannabis a bad rep is Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC.
But not all the effects of THC are bad.
Take away their psychoactive effects and you have a compound so powerful it can inhibit the inflammatory process.
Inflammation is good. It’s normal. It’s how our body fights diseases.
But did you know that inflammation is one of the causative factors that worsen many diseases?
- Epilepsy is worsened by neuroinflammation and release of excitatory neurotransmitters.
- Multiple sclerosis, a disease that destroys the myelin sheath of axons, starts from an abnormal immune response to the axon’s myelin.
- Arthritis, especially rheumatoid arthritis – the culprit is an abnormal immune response.
THC inhibits the pro-inflammatory process by stopping the recruitment of more immune cells and inducing immune cell death.
Other effects of THC include modulation of physiological processes responsible for mood, sleep, appetite, memory, anxiety, etc.
But THC, when it stimulates the CB1 receptors, produces psychedelic effects and is responsible for the “high” and addiction associated with marijuana use. It is precisely because of these effects that our legislators demonized marijuana and deemed marijuana use illegal…and why some of them still hesitate legalizing medical cannabis.
Enter Cannabidiol. CBD.
You will fall in love with this cannabinoid just like I did.
I’d like to think that CBD is THC’s gentle sister, but I would be doing THC an injustice because THC, though it has side effects, has so many medicinal potentials. Together, and with the right proportions, CBD can even boost THC’s benefits while counteracting its negative effects.
I’ll tell you more about how CBD does that in a while.
CBD offers the same benefits that THC has, but it does not produce the ‘high” and it is not addictive. It has little binding affinity with the endocannabinoid CB1 receptors like THC does to produce psychoactive effects.
But CBD says “If I can’t directly activate the CB1 active receptors, I’ll bind with other receptors and influence them!”
Because that’s what CBD does. It binds with other receptors and stimulates them.
- In pain? Here…let me stimulate your capsaicin receptors. Let me overstimulate them so desensitization happens sooner. Think of applying a capsaicin ointment on your skin. You’ll first feel a painful, burning sensation…then blessed pain-free numbness.
- Anxious? Here…let me tell your serotonin receptors to slow down its reabsorption of serotonin. With more serotonin in your system, you’ll feel better soon. Oh, and I can also help your depression by keeping your serotonin level up.
- Stressed? Relax. Breathe. Hey, GABA receptors, let me help you by enhancing your affinity with GABA. With this inhibitory neurotransmitter activating more of you, you’ll soon calm down.
- Spastic? Here…let me calm your motor activities down. Glutamate receptors, speed up your reuptake of glutamate already! Too much of this excitatory neurotransmitter in the synapses worsen spasticity.
- Cancer? I’m sorry. Hey, orphan receptors, please tell the cancer cells to stop proliferating. Oh, and PPARs? Could you please help the orphan receptors and do your thing to stop cancer cells from growing. And epithelial cells, stop giving life to cancer growth. Don’t proliferate and build them blood vessels.
- Alzheimer’s? PPARs, activate! Inhibit neuroinflammation. Block amyloid-beta from building plaques!
The best thing about CBD, in addition to influencing so many receptors, is that it protects healthy and non-transformed cells. This means that while CBD works its magic, it’s protecting the healthy cells…which makes it the perfect add-on treatment for chemotherapy. It does not kill the normal cells like chemotherapy does but protects them.
CBD also stops the side effects associated with chemotherapy. It can control pain, nausea, and vomiting.
Inflammation? Oh my dear overactive immune cells. Let me stimulate your CB2 receptors and induce caspase signaling to start your programmed cell death. Don’t worry, I’m not hurting all immune cells. Only those of you who worsen the inflammatory process. With these gone, the tissues will have more time to heal.
Oh, I nearly forgot!
Inflammation, when it worsens that it can no longer be controlled by the immune cells that regulate the proinflammatory response, damages healthy tissues. The proinflammatory cells are left to recruit more immune cells to the area. More immune cells mean more cytokine production. Because cytokines send signals to recruit more immune cells, this will ultimately lead to tissue necrosis because the damaged cells also leak destructive enzymes and proteins that destroy neighboring cells, even the healthy ones. Because the cells are damaged…yeah, you get the drift. More immune cells.
CBD also induces cell death, but through a process called apoptosis or programmed cell death. Here, only the damaged cell itself is affected, so it will not leak destructive enzymes and proteins. Once it’s dead, the macrophages will come and get rid of it.
The beauty of CBD is that it induces apoptosis of proinflammatory cells, the immune cells that produce cytokines. It can stop inflammation from worsening.
Okay. Let’s now go to CBD and THC and how they can work together.
For THC to produce its medicinal effects, it has to activate the CB1 receptors. But activating these receptors will make you “high.”
How then can CBD stop the psychedelic effects of THC when it has little affinity with the CB1 receptors and has no way of influencing it?
Here’s how CBD becomes sneaky.
Listen carefully because this is one of my favorite CBD effects…and I bet you’ll love it, too.
CBD can bind with CB1 receptors, but not with the receptor’s active site which THC binds with. CBD – this sneaky, beautiful cannabinoid – binds with the receptor’s allosteric site. And when it does this, it changes the size and shape of the active site, making it difficult for THC to fit into it. Nice, eh?
Here’s another way how CBD stops THC’s bad effects. THC, to produce its hallucinogenic effects, has to be degraded into its metabolite form by the cytochrome p450 enzymes of the liver. In its metabolite form, THC becomes an even more potent hallucinogenic compound.
But what CBD does is to compete with THC by binding with the cytochrome p450 enzymes and then deactivate them. With fewer cytochrome p450 enzymes to bind with, THC isn’t broken down into its metabolite form. It can create its wonders but produce less psychoactive effects.
Want to know CBD more?
It can help your endocannabinoids stay longer in your system!
It stops the transport of endocannabinoids toward the enzymes that break it down by binding with the transporters themselves. With these inhibited, there will be more endogenous cannabinoids doing their thing!
There are other cannabinoids worth mentioning, but for now, let’s focus on these two. They are, after all, the most studied.
Medical cannabis can do wonders to people who are suffering from diseases and disorders. Maybe even better than the medications they have right now, which, let’s be honest, sometimes don’t work and have very serious side effects. Cannabis has a very good safety profile, effective, and is very well-tolerated by patients.