What, Exactly, is CBD?
CBD is short for cannabidiol. It is just one of many different molecules called cannabinoids that are found in the cannabis plant. It may surprise you to hear that CBD is not an acronym but has simply been shortened to CBD because cannabinoids are typically known by their three-letter designation, such as THC for tetrahydrocannabinol and CBG for cannabigerol. Most of you are familiar with, or have at least heard of, the marijuana high… that comes from THC and is likely the reason why it is the most famous member of the cannabinoids family.
What Are Cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are active compounds produced by all cannabis plants and they produce the benefits of cannabis. Cannabinoids found in plants are technically called phytocannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids mimic compounds which we call endocannabinoids that are produced naturally by all mammals.
- Phytocannabinoids — Cannabinoids produced by plants.
- Endocannabinoids — Cannabinoids produced by human or other mammal bodies.
What Do Endocannabinoids Do?
Endocannabinoids, those produced naturally by our bodies, are signaling molecules. They are neurotransmitters, just like hormones.
A vast array of neurotransmitters are produced by the nervous system in response to various states of health and environmental factors. They interact with receptors found on the surface of cells throughout our bodies. Their job is to instruct a cell to adjust its activities. This can include changing how cells react to other neurotransmitters.
In order to illustrate how neurotransmitters work, let’s use an analogy.
The brain doesn’t connect with every cell in your body, just like traffic officers can’t connect directly with every car on the road to be able to instruct individual drivers how to behave in every traffic situation. In order to manage traffic, we implement traffic signals. These include street signs, traffic lights, the lines on the road and so on. Traffic signals inform drivers where they can and cannot travel, when they should stop and when they should go and how fast they are allowed to move.
Some of these signals can sense what’s going on in the environment, such as when a car pulls up to a traffic light. The sensor triggers a controller, causing the light to change, thereby changing the behavior of the drivers approaching that intersection.
In the same way, your body’s nervous system connects to a wide variety of sensors to keep track of every system in your body. The signals from these sensors are decoded by the brain and the nervous system. If it is determined that a system has gone out of balance, the nervous system produces neurotransmitters, which travel through the bloodstream and interact with receptors on cells, instructing them to adjust their behavior.
The Human Endocannabinoid System (ECS)
Now that we understand how neurotransmitters work to adjust our cellular activity, let’s take a look at the role of cannabinoids in particular and their role in supporting homeostasis, a state of balance, within the body.
The human endocannabinoid system (ECS) has two components. First is the endocannabinoid receptors found on the surface of cells throughout the body. Second is the endocannabinoids themselves that interact with those receptors.
For example, a well-known endocannabinoid is called anandamide. Anandamide is responsible for the production and uptake of serotonin. Serotonin is often referred to as the “bliss molecule” because levels of serotonin in the body are directly associated with mood. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that is responsible for “runner’s high.”
The endocannabinoid system is vast and far-reaching. It regulates a wide array of bodily functions, from appetite regulation to sleep patterns, moods, metabolism, immune response, the lifespan of cells and much more.
This is just the beginning of an understanding of the incredible and unbelievably beneficial whole health supplement. There is so much more to come!
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