In a recent study, researchers have gained critical insight into the mechanism behind cannabinoids, with a particular focus on the non-psychoactive cannabinoid CBD and how it works to reduce inflammation, New Atlas reports. Inflammation is responsible for everything from skin breakouts (hence CBD’s presence in beauty products) to medical conditions such as asthma, autoimmune disease, and even cardiovascular problems.
As a refresher, cannabinoids are a class of chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant (phytocannabinoids) and naturally produced in the human body (endocannabinoids). These compounds interact with the endocannabinoid system, a complex network of receptors and neurotransmitters that plays a crucial role in regulating various physiological processes, and make a great argument that the human body is naturally set up to benefit from partaking in the cannabis plant.
Cannabinoids interact with the CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are primarily found in the brain and central nervous system, while CB2 receptors are more prevalent in immune cells and peripheral tissues. The interaction between cannabinoids and these receptors affects a wide range of bodily functions, many of which we are still learning and understanding, including mood, pain response, fighting inflammation, and more.
While inflammation is crucial to the body’s defense mechanism, excessive inflammation can have adverse effects, such as chronic pain. CBD has an important role, especially from a harm reduction standpoint, in replacing opioids in pain management. Inflammation is the root cause of a plethora of medical conditions, and knowing that cannabinoids, especially CBD, can balance it will likely be understood as one of the most significant medical understandings of our time.
In part thanks to such research, cannabis continues to rise from the purgatory of the War on Drugs and into the medical community’s embrace.
The Department of Health and Human Services recently recommended in a leaked letter to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) that cannabis be reclassified from a Schedule I, a classification for substances that are considered to have a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, to a Schedule III, which demonstrate accepted medical benefits under the Controlled Substances Act.
This latest research continues to give cannabis more scientific merit as the U.S. inches towards, if not descheduling, and federal legalization, as most activists would greatly prefer, to at least downgrading cannabis from a Schedule I drug. This current classification becomes increasingly glaringly absurd as the body of research on the plant’s medical grows.
Cannabis plants contain over 100 different cannabinoids and counting, including cannabidiol (CBD), the all-star delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and the lesser-known cannabigerol (CBG). CBD has been legal since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized the growing of hemp plants containing less than 0.3 percent CBD.
While researchers already knew cannabinoids had anti-inflammatory properties, particularly CBD, the precise machinations behind their actions haven’t been fully understood. Researchers from Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany, set out to change that, embarking on a mission to explore eight bioactive cannabinoids, including CBD, THC, and CBG. Their mission is to unveil how these compounds work with essential pro-inflammatory enzymes and investigate their relationship with lipid mediators (LMs), the conductors of every inflammation stage, which can wreak havoc on the body if their presence becomes chronic. And they succeeded in helping us all understand why CBD, despite its frequent detractors, does play a vital role in inflammation reduction.
“We found that all eight cannabinoids we studied had anti-inflammatory effects,” said Lukas Peltner, the study’s lead author. “All the compounds we studied were found to inhibit the formation of pro-inflammatory messenger substances in cells while enhancing the formation of inflammation-resolving substances.”
And of all the cannabinoids they researched, CBD emerged as the winner regarding immune response regulation. Breaking down the science: The researchers pinpointed CBD’s activation of the 15-lipoxygenase (15-LOX) enzyme, which produces pro-resolving mediators (SPMs). These SPMs are responsible for halting the inflammatory process, aiding tissue regeneration, and restoring the body’s homeostasis. Their work also shows that CBD can suppress the production of inflammatory molecules known as leukotrienes.
The results were first demonstrated on cell cultures and then confirmed on mice. Although, plenty of humans who use CBD could tell you that it can, indeed, reduce inflammation, explaining the cannabinoid’s ability to do everything from make one’s skin glow to take the edge of pain.
“CBD thus induces a switch in the affected cells, so to speak, which steers the inflammatory process from the promoting to the inhibiting side,” said Paul Jordan, one of the study’s corresponding authors.
While this understanding is welcome to the cannabis community, it’s worth noting that many medical marijuana patients, especially those who use the plant for pain rather than a night cream, also enjoy and benefit from the psychoactive effects of THC. Remember, CBD has value but doesn’t come with euphoria, something many patients should enjoy guilt-free. This is why, more than ever; we need federal legalization so that folks can enjoy CBD from full-spectrum cannabis flower, which better allows for the entourage effect, the understanding that cannabinoids work better when they’re together.