Recently, there has been an influx of scientific research about all of the therapeutic properties of cannabis. Everywhere you go, there is an advertisement urging consumers, “Got anxiety? Try CBD!” Commercials persuade you, “Nausea? Look no further than your local dispensary!” But why is this extraordinary plant constantly being touted for having so many health benefits? The answer is in its cannabinoids.
Discovered in the 1940’s, cannabinoids are natural chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant. To clarify, cannabis is not a synonym for marijuana, rather marijuana is a kind of cannabis species, along with the hemp plant. Perhaps the biggest fundamental difference between the two is that hemp contains less than .3% of THC, while marijuana plants contain over 0.3% of THC.
As of now, there have been around 113 different kinds of cannabinoids identified in nature. The two most notable and well-researched cannabinoids are THC and CBD. Currently, the possession and consumption of THC are not legal on a federal level, however, due to the Farm Bill of 2018 signed into law by the President, CBD is now legal nationwide.
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is a psychoactive compound that has been shown to contain therapeutic properties that can help increase appetite, as well as reduce motor issues, nausea, pain, and inflammation.
CBD, also known as cannabidiol, on the other hand, is non-psychoactive. In other words, CBD, derived mainly from hemp plants which contain a high CBD content and extremely low THC levels, won’t cause a “high” feeling. CBD has also been shown in research to address pain, inflammation, and mental disorders. CBD is also well-known for treating epileptic seizures. Studies have shown that not only is CBD effective for humans, but it may be effective in the health of some animals, too.
While CBD and THC are some of the most abundant compounds found in cannabis, there are other lesser-known cannabinoids that also have health benefits, such as cannabichromene (CBC), cannabigerol (CBG), and cannabinol (CBN).
Cannabinoids enter the body through whichever method you are using cannabis: whether it is through an edible, a smoking device, or a topical application. When introduced into the system, cannabinoids will bind to cannabinoid (CB) receptors, which are mainly found in our body’s natural endocannabinoid system (ECS). Interestingly, the ECS and cannabinoid receptors are not just in humans, they have also been found in all living vertebrates.
Cannabinoid receptors have been split into two categories: CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors mostly reside in the brain, while CB2 receptors are found in the immune system — however, no matter where they are located, both classes of CB receptors play a vital role in helping our ECS maintain the proper regulation of important bodily functions. By binding to CB receptors, cannabinoids have the ability to affect these different bodily functions, which include appetite, pain, mood, memory, and many more. While research is still in its infancy, with continued research, the importance of their use will become more apparent in the medical sector.
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