Although many a fan touts the miracles of CBD, cannabidiol, many more are asking “How does CBD work?” The molecule in action has some basic pharmacology. Pharmacology, of course, being the study of how drugs interact with the body. Research into the organic compounds within the cannabis plant began in the 1940’s. Scientists and researchers in the UK and the US initially began isolating the cannabinol, CBN, cannabinoid. It was chemist Dr. Roger Adams from the US that finally isolated CBD in 1940. Brazen, considering hemp and cannabis had just been outlawed in the United States. Nonetheless, research continued. With the successful isolation of the CBN, THC, and CBD compounds, clinical trials on mice were underway. In the late 1980’s researchers first discovered the endocannabinoid system, ECS thus designating the cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2. Not for over 40 years though, would the presence of the CB receptors be confirmed.
How Does CBD Work – In the Endocannabinoid System
CBD, surprisingly, has limited direct interaction with the CB receptors. This is due to the receptors’ preference for certain “shapes” of molecules. CBD exhibits a certain “awkwardness of fit.” Conversely, CBD promotes an upregulation of endocannabinoid anadamide, AEA. It does so by blocking a specific fatty acid, FAAH, who generally serves to regulate anandamide levels. The AEA fits nicely at the endocannabinoid CB1 and CB2 receptors. Through CBD’s indirect activation, researchers are seeking to prove its efficacy returning varying systems to homeostasis. Additionally, through this indirect activation of the CB receptors, no euphoric high typically associated with THC rich cannabis consumption prevails.
How Does CBD Work – Outside the Endocannabinoid System
Despite its awkwardness at the ECS receptor sites, CBD readily binds in a number of other systems. A handful of orphan G Coupled Recptors like GRP55, a variety of Transient Receptor Potential ( TRP) receptors, the 5HT seratonin receptors all love cannabidiol. The discovery of each has lead to research on how binding aids in maintaining bone density, serving as an analgesic, and providing anxiolytic treatments respectively. Often, the signaling triggers a number of positive reactions, which is why CBD garners so much research. The wide cloak of treatments can be frustrating to some, as pinpointing a specific system is impossible. As a result, synthetic drugs are created that mimic the activity of CBD in the body. These tend to have more extreme side effects than CBD.
Thanks to brave researchers in the early 20th century, the study of how cannabidiol works within our bodies is a robust field. However, the world needs more double-blind clinical studies in both humans and mice/rats. Luckily, with the legalization of industrial hemp again in 2014 increase the availability of research opportunities both regionally and abroad abound.