Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of many cannabinoid molecules produced by cannabis. These plant-derived phytocannabinoids are characterized by their ability to act on the cannabinoid receptors that are part of our endocannabinoid system. CBD stands out because it’s both non-intoxicating and displays a broad range of medical applications.
CBD is known for the promise it holds for healthy treatment-resistant forms of childhood epilepsy. A number of clinical trials testing the efficacy of CBD in human epilepsy patients, are underway. But there is also evidence, that CBD may have neuro protective, anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, and potential therapeutic value in treatment of motivational disorders like depression, anxiety and addiction.
What’s the biological basis for potential medical uses?
What’s the biological basis for this wide range of potential medical uses? A key part of the answer lies in CBD’s promiscuous pharmacology—its ability to influence a wide range of receptor systems in the brain and body, including not only cannabinoid receptors but a host of others.
CBD can increase levels of the body’s own naturally-produced cannabinoids (known as endocannabinoids) by inhibiting the enzymes that break them down. Even more intriguing: CBD also influences many non-cannabinoid receptor systems in the brain, interacting with receptors sensitive to a variety of drugs and neurotransmitters. These include opioid receptors, known for their role in pain regulation. Opioid receptors are the key targets of pharmaceutical painkillers and drugs of abuse. CBD can also interact with dopamine receptors, which play a crucial role in regulating many aspects of behavior and cognition, including motivation and reward-seeking behavior.
A remarkable range of therapeutic possibilities
CBD’s ability to target a specific serotonin receptor, the serotonin 1A receptor, is associated with a remarkable range of therapeutic possibilities. It’s apparent ability to enhance the activation of serotonin 1A receptors supports the possibility that it could be used to ameliorate disorders that include: opioid dependence, neuropathic pain, depression and anxiety disorders, nausea and vomiting (e.g. from chemotherapy), and negative symptoms of schizophrenia.
Over the coming years, researchers will continue to further understand this complexity and uncover the full scope of CBD’s therapeutic potential.
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