WHAT IS THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM?
In 1990, Israeli cannabis researcher Raphael Mechoulam discovered what became known as the Endocannabinoid System (ECS), a biological regulatory system that promotes balance and well-being in all mammals. Not only did it explain how cannabinoids work with the body’s receptors, the system was discovered to have involvement in numerous, vital physiological functions- including its ability to directly affect our body’s response to injuries and inflammations.
This profound discovery could be called one of the twenty-first century’s greatest scientific breakthroughs, and it ushered in a flurry of studies. In fact, there are now over 22,000 published studies or reviews in scientific literature pertaining to the cannabis plant and its cannabinoids – nearly half of which were published in the last ten years.
The ECS is always at work. The receptors are activated either by the body’s own endogenous (internal) cannabinoids or by plant cannabinoids (also called phytocannabinoids) like THC and CBD.
The cannabinoids and receptor mechanism is often described as a lock and key system. When the ECS is working properly, signals are firing and optimal functioning is happening in the body. When the endocannabinoid system is not functioning properly, phytocannabinoids can be introduced, plug in to the receptors, and switch the ECS on to do its job. The better the ECS is working, the more our bodies are in equilibrium, and the less likely we are to develop disease.
Here are some of the capabilities of the ECS that have been discovered so far:
- Balances and strengthens the nervous and immune systems
- Reduces migraines and headaches
- Initiates pain control
- Calms inflammation
- Initiate neurogenesis (production of new nerve cells)
- Involved in protective mechanisms against illnesses including neurological diseases and nerve damage
- Found to suppress numerous cancers and Alzheimer’s Disease
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO USE CBD?
There are many factors to consider when trying to determine the form of CBD that will work best for you. First and foremost, you want to consider what you’re using CBD for, and always make sure you get a quality product.
In general, there are five forms of CBD.
- Topical CBD comes in creams, oils, salves, and balms. Topicals are frequently used to relieve Migraines, joint pain, and sore muscles. There are many cannabinoid receptors in the skin, so this form of CBD is generally fast-acting.
- Tinctures are extracted using several techniques including the CO2 method and the ethanol method. All of the extraction techniques are designed to preserve as many of the cannabinoids as possible. Tinctures are generally taken orally, but can also be mixed into food or drink. The fastest acting tinctures are those taken sublingually (under the tongue). When taken in this fashion, the effects kick in after 15 to 45 minutes.
- Edibles are also very popular because they taste great, are easy to use and are also discrete. CBD is usually infused into a baked good or smoothie to transform it into an edible. Many patients find it is easier to dose CBD with an edible. Since edibles, in general, have a higher concentration of CBD, this is a great way to take higher CBD doses. If the edible has a sufficient quantity of another oil or fat, such as coconut oil, that formulation generally increases CBD’s bioavailability.
- Oral CBD in the form of drops, sprays, and capsules represent another ingestion method. They’re easy to use. Capsules are quickly digested, and drops or sprays of CBD under the tongue are very fast-acting. Many oils and oral sprays are flavored to mask the earthiness of natural CBD.
- Vaping is certainly another way to ingest CBD. While inhalation has been deemed a very effective method, there have been many recent serious lung health hazards attributed to vaping and vaping additives, so caution is warranted.
HOW DO I CHOOSE?
Unfortunately, the market today is flooded with CBD products. While many are excellent formulations from very reputable vendors, many products are of questionable quality. Here are some tips for how consumers can locate truth within the product packaging to ensure you choose a quality product:
- Make sure the amount of CBD in the bottle (in mg) is clearly displayed on the package or bottle.
- Make sure the total volume of CBD oil is clearly printed on the bottle.
- Determine whether the CBD is cannabis or hemp-derived. Also determine where the hemp is grown, and whether it is grown by a state-regulated supplier.
- Make sure to determine whether the hemp is organic or non-organic.
- Determine the reputation of the company and ensure the cleanliness of the product.
- The extraction method used to separate the CBD from the hemp plant should be plainly labeled; common extraction methods are ethanol, butane, and CO2. The CO2 extraction method is generally regarded as the “cleanest” method and the one that preserves the greatest quantity of cannabinoids.
- Third-party independent lab test results should always be available on the company’s website.
While additional research is underway, CBD is believed to help with anxiety, inflammation, headaches, head trauma, epilepsy, insomnia, arthritis, gut health, chronic and acute pain and several other health conditions. Athletes and performers are exploring CBD’s potential anti-inflammatory properties to aid in recovery while the medical community is even exploring the medicinal uses of CBD, including its potential as an anti-cancer solution.
While all of these potential remedies are exciting, it’s likely that additional studies need to be conducted on humans before the FDA will approve CBD as a supplement or medicine.
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