WHAT IS CBD?
“We need more research but CBD may prove to be a helpful, relatively non-toxic option for managing anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain.”
Harvard Health Publishing — SEPTEMBER 24, 2021
CBD is the abbreviation for cannabidiol, which is the non-psychoactive constituent in the Cannabis sativa plant. In the past 25 years CBD has been found to have significant antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, anxiolytic, and antipsychotic effects. Other research studies have revealed that CBD oil can reduce pain, improve memory, and inhibit cancer growth. Below is a summary of the history and use of this remarkable relatively newly-discovered traditional herbal remedy.
HISTORY AND MEDICINAL USE OF HEMP
Preparations made from the Cannabis sativa plant have been in use in medicine as early as 2900 BC, when the Chinese emperor Fu Hsi noted that it possessed both yin and yang healing qualities. Later another Chinese emperor and herbalist, Chen-Nung, wrote extensively about the medicinal use of hemp, while in Africa it was reportedly used for dysentery, fevers, snakebite, and to ease the discomfort of childbirth. In the 16th century, China's Li Shih-Chen documented the antibiotic and anti-nausea effects of cannabinoids from the hemp plant.
In the early days of the United States it was considered patriotic to grow hemp. George Washington wrote: “Patriotic farmers should make the most of the Indian hemp seed, and sow it everywhere.” Thomas Jefferson further noted that: “Hemp is of the first necessity to the wealth and protection of the country.” From across the Atlantic Dr. William O’Shaughnessy of the British East India Company published an article in 1839 entitled, “A Case of Tetanus, Cured by a Preparation of Hemp.” This British doctor further reported that he found it beneficial in the treatment of rabies, rheumatism, and epilepsy. Later in the 19th century Queen Victoria relied on CBD to relieve menstrual cramps. Jacques-Joseph Moreau, a French psychiatrist, found that marijuana suppressed headaches, increased appetites and aided sleep.
Following the lead of their European ancestors, preparations from the cannabis plant became part of the United States Pharmacopeia in 1850, and were available as both an over-the-counter and prescription medicine for neuralgia, tetanus, typhus, cholera, rabies, dysentery, alcoholism, anthrax, leprosy, incontinence, gout, convulsive disorders, tonsillitis, insanity, and menorrhagia (excessive menstrual bleeding).
RECENT RESEARCH DISCOVERIES ABOUT THE HEMP PLANT
In the early 1990’s it was discovered that besides the known receptor sites for the brain neurotransmitter dopamine that regulates movement and our emotional responses, as well as serotonin which is a natural mood stabilizer, there also existed receptor sites for cannabidiol in our body. This new central regulatory neurotransmitter system was named the endocannabinoid system since the endogenous (naturally-occurring in our bodies) neurotransmitters—N-arachidonoylethanolamine (anandamide) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG)—were nearly identical to the cannabidiol (CBD) compounds found in the hemp plant. These CBD receptor sites that were isolated in both humans and animals were found to be instrumental in neuromodulation in the body, that is, the regulation of the nervous system. Two types were detected: CB1 receptors found primarily in the brain and nervous system, and CB2 receptors found mainly in the immune system, organs, glands, and tissues.
CB2 Receptors in the Body Reduce Inflammation
CB2 receptors are predominantly located in the periphery outside of the brain (there are especially high levels in B cells and natural killer cells of the immune system), however they do also have an influence on the microglia cells of the CNS (the immune defense cells of the brain and spinal cord) and in the brain stem. These CB2 receptors have neuroprotective benefits primarily through the down-regulation of inflammation in the body. In particular CBD stimulates the production of glutathione—the master antioxidant in the body—to reduce the toxic effects induced by glyphosate (Round-Up herbicide) and other toxic chemicals in our environment linked to cancer. This reduction in neuroinflammation has had a positive effect on numerous chronic syndromes and diseases including pancreatitis, hepatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, insulin resistance, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, ALS, MS, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and cardiovascular disease.
CB1 Receptors Help Regulate Brain Responses
The CB1 receptors are primarily, but not exclusively, in the central nervous system (CNS, the brain and spinal cord). However, they have also been found in gastrointestinal and reproductive tissues, the superior cervical ganglion, the heart, blood vessels, lung, bladder, and adrenal glands. These CB1 receptors help to mediate learning and memory, decision-making, emotional reactions, pain response, and food cravings.
The Vast CBD Receptor Site Network
Based on the extensive influence of this immense network, it is no wonder that CBD oil has been found to have clinically positive effects on obesity, anxiety, epilepsy, PTSD, depression, bipolar tendencies, ADHD and autism, and chronic pain. The following quote from the editor of the journal Cerebrum summarizes the importance of this vast system:
“The endogenous cannabinoid system—named for the plant that led to its discovery—is one of the most important physiologic systems involved in establishing and maintaining human health.”
Hemp Legalized in the US
In 2014, President Obama signed into law the Industrial Hemp Farming Act that was sponsored by a bipartisan group of US senators. This new law amended the previous Controlled Substances Act in that it excluded industrial hemp from the definition of “marihuana.” Thus “industrial hemp” was now defined as the plant Cannabis sativa L. with a THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) concentration of not more than 0.3 percent. This then allowed American farmers to grow and cultivate industrial hemp, as long as their grow sites were certified by—and registered with—their state. The Oregon farmers who produce Organic Tuscany Gold (OTG) CBD are certified and registered in their state to grow industrial hemp.
The Whole Is Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts
Whole plant extractions of the hemp plant include the cannabinoids CBD, CBC, CBGa, CBN and more than 400 trace compounds. Hemp plant constituents such as these cannabinoids as well as terpenoids, flavonoids, and nitrogenous compounds interact synergistically to create what researchers refer to as the “entourage effect.” This refers to the synergistic effect that occurs when the whole plant is cultivated and the various phytoconstituents therein complement each other much more than just the individual sum of their parts. Dr. John McPartland, a University of Vermont professor, has written extensively on this subject:
“A central tenet underlying the use of botanical remedies is that herbs contain many active ingredients. Primary active ingredients may be enhanced by secondary compounds, which act in beneficial synergy. Cannabis is inherently polypharmaceutical, and synergy arises from interactions between its multiple components.”
Unfortunately, most animal studies on cannabidiol have utilized synthetic, single-molecule CBD produced by chemical laboratories, which is not the same at all as studying whole plant extractions that contain all the cannabinoids and over 400 other trace compounds.
For example, there are more than 200 different aromatic terpenes in the Cannabis sativa plant that have wide-ranging therapeutic effects. One of these, beta-caryophyllene, is a sesquiterpene also found in black pepper, oregano, and green leafy vegetables that is both anti-inflammatory and gastro-protective, and therefore has great promise in the treatment of ulcers and gastritis. Additionally, both the cannabinoids and the terpenoids in CBD increase blood flow and enhance cortical activity to aid in memory and cognition. These plant constituents have also been found to be microcidal, and thus have the ability to kill pathogenic bacteria including potentially the antibiotic-resistant MRSA bugs that claims the lives of thousands of hospitalized Americans.
Modern research studies on CBD made from the Cannabis sativa hemp plant clearly reinforce the numerous traditional indications and benefits historically recorded for this herbal remedy. It should be further noted that the laboratory findings of what these endogenous cannabinoid-like compounds do in our bodies was made relatively recently in the mid-1990’s. Thus, the profound effects of this botanical remedy are still very much in the infancy stages of research. Despite these challenges, CBD derived from hemp has been found in modern research studies, as well as clinically in thousands of patients over time, to be exceptionally effective in healing a wide variety of chronic symptoms.