How cannabis products affect human physiology is an area with plenty of room for research. We know a lot more about it than we used to, but there is still much to learn. We could always use more research into THC, CBD, and the human endocannabinoid system (ECS).
Medical cannabis users are pretty aware of the basics of THC and CBD. But they might not always understand how the two chemicals impact the mind and body. Without such knowledge, it can be difficult to determine which medical cannabis products are most appropriate. That is where cannabis pharmacists can be immensely helpful.
If you were to visit one of the doctors at Utahmarijuana.org for help in obtaining a medical cannabis card, they would strongly encourage you to work with a cannabis pharmacist upon obtaining your card. A fully trained pharmacist knows the details of how THC and CBD might affect you.
The Endocannabinoid System
The first thing to know is that the ECS is one of the many cell-signaling systems found in the human body. Each of these systems serves to regulate one or more bodily functions. Research indicates that the ECS influences multiple functions ranging from sleep to memory and appetite.
How does it work? The ECS relies on three components:
- Cannabinoid receptors
Cannabinoids are molecules naturally produced by the human body. They bond to cannabinoid receptors. In so doing, they signal the body to perform a particular function. Once that function is complete, enzymes kick in. They get rid of the molecules in order to stop the process.
There are two kinds of cannabinoid receptors in the human body. They are known as CB1 and CB2. The former are found mostly in the central nervous system and relate primarily to pain management. The latter are found in the peripheral nervous system and affect everything from inflammation to appetite.
THC and the ECS
Perhaps the most well-known component found in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It is the primary cannabinoid found in marijuana. It is also the cannabinoid that produces the feelings of euphoria marijuana is associated with.
What makes THC so powerful is that it can bind to both types of cannabinoid receptors. That allows it to have a larger range of influences on the body than most other cannabinoids. It can reduce pain and stimulate the appetite. It can cause anxiety and paranoia.
Many of the conditions for which medical cannabis is prescribed can be treated with products containing THC. And given that the majority of medical cannabis use is related to pain management, most patients are using THC.
CBD and the ECS
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabinoid found in nearly all plants in the cannabis sativa family. Interestingly enough, it does not produce those euphoric feelings. In other words, patients cannot get high on CBD. It might not even have any negative side effects at all. Although negative side effects are possible, none have been reported and proven to date.
CBD is also curious in that it does not bind to CB1 or CB2. Research suggests it may be beneficial only by preventing other cannabinoids from being broken down by enzymes. Another possibility is that CBD binds to a receptor science doesn’t yet know about.
At any rate, CBD is believed to help relieve nausea. Some users say it also reduces pain. Because science knows so little about CBD, a lot more research is warranted.
THC, CBD, and the human endocannabinoid system are all fascinating subjects, especially when studied together. There is still a lot for us to learn about them.