There is perhaps nothing more debilitating as chronic pain. In many ways, pain is the ultimate teacher. For ages the first step in treatment of pain has been Nonopioid Analgesics such as Aspirin (salicylate), acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), and NSAIDS. According to Marchand, “the reduction of postaglandin synthesis will decrease the inflammatory response by blocking the accumulation of substances such as bradykinin and histamine which activate or sensitize the peripheral nociceptors.”
In layman’s terms these treatments provide pain relief by reducing inflammation at the source of the discomfort. Pain management has been a major topic of discussion lately because of the opioid crisis. Opioids are very effective in interrupting and shutting off pain signals but are highly addictive and over prescription has resulted in the current Opioid crisis.
Recent scientific research has shown promising treatments for pain management via the body’s endocannabinoid system. In the 1990’s, scientists discovered endocannabinoids, natural molecules produced by the human body. It appeared that the main function of the endocannabinoid system is to maintain bodily homeostasis—biological harmony in response to changes in the environment.
Homeostasis and the Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system is incredibly old, having evolved over 500 million years ago and is present in all vertebrates (mammals, birds etc).
The endocannabinoid system (or ECS) is a complex physiological system present in all mammals. Recent research has highlighted the complexity of the endocannabinoid system and suggests it is involved in managing various homeostatic processes.
There is a solid body of research exploring the role of the endocannabinoid system. Up until now, studies show that it is involved in managing pain, inflammation, immune response, appetite, metabolism, memory, mood and emotion, and much more.
The endocannabinoid system is made up of 3 main components:
1. Cannabinoid receptors (such as CB1 and CB2), which are found in various sites around the brain and body, as well as in specific cells of the immune system.
2. Endocannabinoids like anandamide and 2-AG which are produced in the brain and bind to either of the 2 cannabinoid receptors.
3. Metabolic enzymes that break up endocannabinoids after they’ve been used. The two main enzymes in the endocannabinoid system ar FAAH, which breaks down anandamide, and MAGL, which breaks down 2-AG
Unlike other molecules in the body, anandamide and 2-AG are synthesized and used when they’re needed, not produced and stored to be used later.
How can CBD promote homeostasis?
CBD is a natural compound derived from hemp. Unlike some other plant-derived cannabinoids, CBD doesn’t actually fit into any of the cannabinoid receptors in the body. However, it is still able to stimulate activity in the receptors without directly binding to them.
Instead of binding either to CB1 or CB2 receptors, CBD has 2 very unique effects on the body. First, it promotes the synthesis of 2-AG which, in turn, stimulates activity in the receptors. Secondly, studies show that CBD also inhibits the activity of FAAH, the enzyme responsible for breaking down anandamide.
CBD has been shown to bind another G-protein coupled receptor known as TRPV-1. This receptor is known to play an active role in regulating body temperature as well as pain and inflammation.
By interacting with TRPV-1 and provoking an increase in both anandamide and 2-AG, CBD indirectly promotes healthy endocannabinoid activity. And since the endocannabinoid system is directly involved in so many homeostatic processes, CBD may help give your system the boost it needs in order to continue functioning properly.
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