First, all humans have an endocannabinoids system or ECS. Before we knew about the ECS, however, scientists discovered CBD around 1940.
CBD and ECS history
Cannabis as medicine has a long and storied history. China, Egypt, Greece, India and parts of Europe recognized its medicinal properties. Eighth century practitioners used it to treat gout, rheumatism, migraine, cough, asthma, female issues, pain, sleep problems and epilepsy.
CBD is one component of the cannabis plant—for the purposes of this blog, the hemp plant. So, CBD is nonpsychoactive, which means you don’t get high if you ingest or apply it. But, here’s the problem. Two factors converged to discredit hemp. First, William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper giant, worked to defame hemp to make way for trees to provide paper. Money talks, right?
Second, according to Martin A. Lee in his book “Smoke Signals,” Harry Jacob Anslinger became the director of the newly formed Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) in Washington, D.C.
Because money was tight, Anslinger needed a cause to save the failing FBN. As a result, he focused on Mexicans bringing in weed, smoking it and “becoming raging rapists, ax murderers, criminals, etc.” became the scapegoat.
So between the FBN and Hearst, reefer madness was touted throughout America by yellow journalism. Journalists used sensationalism and crude exaggeration to sell newspapers. The rest is history. Hemp, although a distant cousin of marijuana, was tarred with the same brush and banished from U.S. agriculture by 1958.
Discovering the ECS
Morphine was isolated from opium and cocaine from cocoa leaves in the early 19th century. But, it wasn’t until the 1940s that scientists extracted CBD and THC from cannabis. However, scientists focused mostly on THC because of its psychoactive properties.
In the 1970s, CBD came to the attention of scientists conducting tests on animals. Epilepsy symptoms seemed to abate when they administered CBD. Studies in the ‘80s meant to discredit CBD, inadvertently gave it distinction.
“By using a plant that has been around for thousands of years, we discovered a new physiological system of immense importance,” says Raphael Mechoulam, the dean of the transnational cannabinoid research community. “We wouldn’t have been able to get there if we had not looked at the plant.”
Today, experts recognize that the ECS monitors appetite, sleep, mood and memory and possibly other systems. The ECS has three components: receptors, enzymes and endocannabinoids.
How CBD affects the ECS
Here’s how they work. Two receptors, CB-1 and CB-2, travel the body and endocannabinoids bind to them. There are many enzymes in the body, but two break down cannabinoids. They are arachidonylethanolamine (AEA), nicknamed anandamide from the Sanskrit word for bliss, and 2-arachidonylglycerol (2-AG).
CB-1 is found mostly in the nervous system and brain. CB-2 is found outside the brain and tends to monitor and regulate the immune system. Both are found throughout the skin. Once enzymes break down cannabinoids, the resulting endocannabinoids search for receptors to bind with.
When the ECS functions optimally, you’ll have a general sense of well-being and good health. Our bodies create endocannabinoids to stimulate the receptors. When the balance is off, the receptors can’t do their jobs. As a result, illness or imbalance can occur. The good news is that by ingesting CBD you can help kick-start the system.
When an imbalance occurs in the ECS, it’s usually because of overproduction of an enzyme or protein, or an overexpression of receptors. So, when the ECS doesn’t function properly, your body can’t efficiently regulate its emotions, appetite, memory and all the other things the ECS monitors. Introducing CBD helps increase the amount of endocannabinoids in your system. It alters how the fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) enzyme works.
FAAH removes excess andanamide by breaking it down. Remember andanamide, the bliss molecule? CBD stops FAAH from breaking down the andanamide, leaving more endocannabinoids in your body. More endocannbinoids means your body is able to deal with pain, depression and other conditions.
Why CBD topicals?
CBD comes in many forms. For example, you’ll find tinctures, oils, edibles, smokables and topicals. All of them, except topicals, must travel through the bloodstream to work. On the other hand, topicals applied to the skin, absorb directly into an affected area. That’s why CBD topicals are so effective for pain or skin conditions. In fact, CBD topicals are great for:
- Bacterial infections
- Eczema, psoriasis, rash
- Itchy bug bites or poison ivy
- Inflammatory skin conditions
- Joint pain (arthritis)
In topicals, CBD combined with essential and carrier oils, creates chemical-free topicals that nourish and protect skin, muscles, nerves and tissue. Used as medicine, topicals can reduce pain; relax muscles; relieve spasms; reduce inflammation; and relieve headaches and migraines, eczema, psoriasis, and burns among other things. CBD is permeable, so it can focus on a specific area, penetrating quickly to help heal wounds or relieve pain, neuropathy, itching, burning—again, a long list. In addition, its moisturizing properties are unparalleled for use in beauty and cosmetic skin products.
There you have it, what CBD topicals and the endocannabinoid system have to do with you.