There are more than 80 cannabinoids found in hemp, and each of these has a different impact on the human body. The most well known cannabinoid is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. This is the psychoactive part of the plant, the part that gets people high, and that is the reason that cannabis is considered to be a controlled substance in so many parts of the world.
There are other cannabinoids that are also psychoactive, and that contribute to the ‘high’ feeling, but CBD is not one of those substances. CBD does, however, have many beneficial effects on the body. Cannabinoids work by acting on different receptor cells in the body, and in the brain. The main receptors are the CB1 receptor, which is found in the brain, on neurons and glial cells,a nd then the CB2 receptor, which is primarily found in the immune system.
THC acts on the CB1 receptors, and helps to cause euphoria. CBD has 100-fold less of an affinity for those receptors, and even when it binds with them it produces almost no effect. It does, however, appear to act on other parts of the brain, and that’s why it has such a powerful therapeutic effect.
There has been a lot of research done on CBD and its ability to help people suffering from various medical conditions. To date, there is not a sound base of clinical studies, but pre-clinical research is promising and suggests that CBD has a useful impact as an anti-seizure medication, an anti-oxidant, a neuroprotective, and an anti-inflammatory, as well as being potentially able to work as an analgesic, and even having anti-anxiety and anti-psychotic effects. There are some who have claimed anti-tumor properties as well, but it is important that those effects in particular are researched carefully before they are marketed, to avoid the potential of giving false hope to people who might turn to CBD when there may be other more traditional treatments that could be more beneficial.
The anti-seizure effects are something that have a strong “albeit anecdotal” evidence base. Children who have drug-resistant epilepsy are often given medical marijuana in states where it is legal, and it is thought, from small randomized trials, that CBD could help to control seizures. Many studies have been done on this with positive results over small sample sizes, but there is still the need for more blind studies to be done. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke is looking at ways of using purified CBD to treat epilepsy in children, and GW Pharmaceuticals hopes to make a drug treatment following those trials.
The anti-inflammatory effects and the neuroprotective effects are something that people are watching closely. It is thought that CBD could help to protect against alzheimers, and even reduce symptoms of MS and Parkinson’s disease, as well as offer some help protection against strokes. Again, these are things that will need extensive medical trials before the benefits can be marketed and doctors can prescribe CBD for those issues.