CBD and the Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system (ECS), as well as CBD (cannabidiol), was discovered in the early 1990s. A researcher named Lisa Matsuda and her team worked to find out how CBD and the human body interacted.

In her research, she discovered in 1990 that a G-protein receptor worked with the CBD to have it pass through to the cells in the body.

A G-protein receptor, also known as a seven-(pass)-transmembrane (7TM) domain receptor, is a set of protein receptors in the body that detect molecules outside of a cell and form pathways to accept these molecules into the cell to receive them. These receptors are called 7TM receptors because they pass through the cell membrane 7 times. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2165569

Her further work with mice in 1992 set the foundations for the existence of the ECS when she ran a study with mice where she essentially “turned off” G-protein receptors in the brains of mice that allowed them to consume THC without the psychoactive effects. http://grantome.com/grant/NIH/R29-DA008104-01

While mapping how cannabinoids such as CBD and THC worked their way through the human body, researchers led by the person who first isolated THC in the 1960s, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, discovered an unknown molecular signaling system that regulated a number of functions throughout the body. This system strived to create a balance in the body when an imbalance occurred. This system generates a chemical response that creates endocannabinoids within the body to work with cannabinoid receptors. This became known as the endocannabinoid system or ECS.

What is CBD?

CBD or cannabidiol is one of 113 known cannabinoids contained in cannabis plants. Cannabis is best known as the source for marijuana, but not all cannabis is marijuana.

Marijuana comes from the Indica plant which contains high concentrations of THC. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol in the psychoactive chemical in marijuana that provides the person consuming the marijuana a euphoric or “high” feeling.

CBD is present in the Indica strain of cannabis but is also present in higher quantities in the Sativa strain. Most (but not all) Sativa plants tend to have negligible THC content. This strain is commonly known as hemp.

Hemp is one of the most versatile plants in human history. Not only has the plant been used for medicinal purposes, but has been used as food, clothing, rope, construction of homes, and a myriad of other uses. As a matter of fact, the document that’s the basis for British and American law, the Magna Carta, was written on paper made of hemp.

Hemp was so important in the economic life of England in the Middle Ages, that in 1535, King Henry VIII passed an act requiring that all landowners sow 1/4th of an acre of hemp, or risk a fine.

CBD is extracted by pressing and then steeping the hemp plant and seeds in a solvent, the most common being grain alcohol. Once the alcohol is evaporated, all that’s left is CBD liquid. Many manufacturers will then filter out the plant material and then pit the CBD through a “winterization” process that removes any plant waxes or residue to create a pure form of CBD known as a CBD isolate. The isolate is in powder form and what’s left is more than 99% pure.

In the United States, any hemp that’s processed for commercial purposes must contain less than 0.3% THC, therefore, CBD manufacturers that wish to sell nationally (and legally) use hemp strains with the least amount of THC content possible.

Medical CBD

Cannabis has been known as an effective treatment for many conditions for centuries. These treatments were considered “folk” remedies until the mid-1800s when the first serious research on the use of cannabis was done.

An Irish physician and scientist who was working in Calcutta, India started researching local folk remedies and came across a plant that locals used for a number of issues.

The scientist, William Brooke O’Shaughnessy, was a professor at Calcutta Medical College. In addition, he was part of the Medical and Physical Society of Calcutta. While a member of the organization, O’Shaughnessy published his first paper of the use of cannabis for medical purposes.

The paper contained information gathered from interviews and experiments he conducted on folk remedies that utilized cannabis.

While he was conducting his cannabis studies, he successfully treated patients that had rheumatism and infants that suffered from convulsions (which is now classified as epilepsy).

He eventually returned to London and brought the cannabis Indica with him. Within a decade, all of Europe and North America had started using the plant for medical purposes.

The plant was first mentioned in the 1850 version of the United States Pharmacopeia. And for almost a century it was listed in the book as a treatment for such diseases as:

  • Alcohol addiction
  • Arthritis
  • Bacterial infections
  • Cholera
  • Convulsions
  • Dysentery
  • Gout
  • Leprosy
  • Menstrual pain
  • Mental disorders
  • Nerve pain
  • Opiate addiction
  • Rabies
  • Snakebites
  • Spastic convulsions
  • Tetanus
  • Tonsillitis
  • Urinary incontinence

The use of cannabis started falling out of favor in the early 1900s when propaganda campaigns against the plant started appearing. All states had removed the “over-the-counter” status of cannabis by 1936 and by 1937, the federal government passed laws regulating its use via taxes. In 1941, it was removed from the United States Pharmacopeia. As a result, the research on cannabis was severely reduced.

But that‘s not to say it stopped altogether. In 1963, the first CBD was isolated from cannabis. The theory that CBD existed was postulated in the 1940s.

By the 1980s, research on the effect of cannabis on seizures led to the introduction of new drugs to combat the condition.

As medical marijuana became a popular issue in the early 2000s, researchers started looking at cannabis, and specifically THC and CBD as treatments for a number of conditions.

As of today, CBD has been found to at least anecdotally have positive effects on people affected by:

  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • AIDS
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis/Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS)
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Anorexia
  • Anxiety
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Autoimmune Diseases
  • Bipolar
  • Cancer
  • Colitis
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Endocrine disorders
  • Epilepsy and Seizures
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Glaucoma
  • Heart Disease
  • Huntington’s Disease (HD)
  • Inflammation
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disorder (IBD)
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Kidney Disease
  • Liver Disease
  • Migraines
  • Mood Disorders
  • Motion Sickness
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Nausea
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Obesity
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Osteoporosis/Bone Health
  • Pain
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Rheumatism
  • Schizophrenia
  • Sickle Cell Anemia
  • Skin Conditions
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Stress
  • Stroke
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

CBD has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, neuroprotective, and analgesic properties, which makes it a substance that can effectively treat numerous conditions.

CBD Products

CBD can be consumed in a number of forms. Some forms are more conducive to treat certain conditions. For example, a person with localized pain may consider using a topical CBD agent or a person with migraines may consider vaping to control the issue.

For this reason, CBD comes in a number of forms. These include:

  • BeveragesCBD infused drinks such as energy drinks, teas, water, coffee are commercially available.
  • E-Cigarettes or Vapes – An electronic cigarette or vape is a device that’s used to simulate smoking. The device heats CBD liquid to generate a vapor or aerosol that the user inhales.
  • Edibles – CBD can be used as a food additive. Users have the options of using CBD in recipes or buying a premade product. Suppliers sell CDB in a number of forms such as gummies, candies, and baked goods.
  • Pills – Much like any other medication, CBD comes in pill form. Pills can come in the form of tablets, capsules, and soft gels. The user will swallow the pill and allow the pill to be absorbed into the bloodstream via the digestive system.
  • Suppositories – CBD in solid form can be used as a suppository. These can come in a rectal or vaginal form and are dissolved and absorbed quickly into the bloodstream
  • Tinctures – The most popular way to consume CBD is via a tincture. Tinctures are liquids that are taken by placing drops under the tongue using a dropper. Tinctures come in a variety of potencies based on the company that manufactures it.
  • Topical creamsTopical creams and ointments are used for both skin conditions, topical analgesics, and as a beauty treatment. The CBD can be mixed with other creams or oils such as aloe or coconut oil. It can also be paired with other known remedies such as capsaicin.
  • Transdermal patches – A patch that adheres to the skin with a mild adhesive that is treated with CBD is absorbed through the pores.

The Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system is found in humans and most vertebrate animals. It contains neurotransmitters that connect to special protein receptors in the body. These receptors are located in the central nervous system and the surrounding areas. These neurotransmitters regulate many physiological and cognitive processes in the body. Among these processes are:

  • appetite
  • pain
  • mood
  • memory
  • pregnancy
  • pre-natal development
  • post-natal development
  • fertility
  • effects of exercise on the body

In the study of the ECS, both genetic and pharmacological effects have been observed. The results are that cannabinoids, such as CBD act as neuromodulators. Neuromodulators are neurotransmitters that spread out through neural tissue to affect slow-acting receptors of many neurons.

Among the most common neuromodulators are:

  • dopamine
  • serotonin
  • acetylcholine
  • histamine
  • norepinephrine

Neuromodulators control such processes as motor learning, appetite, and pain sensation, as well as other cognitive and physical activities.


Despite years of interference and propaganda that have maligned cannabis, the last 3 decades of research have shown that not only is cannabinoids healthy for humans but are necessary for keeping the body in balance.

CBD, in particular, can have healing effects on a number of conditions. The body is able to naturally process CBD and cannabinoids without the side effects usually associated with synthesized prescription medications.

As a matter of fact, CBD has only been found to cause drowsiness to the user. Otherwise, it has been deemed a completely safe alternative to many medications. It also allows for more experimentation on conditions that haven’t been studied to date.