Cannabinoids and the Endocannabinoid System
One of the most fascinating findings related to cannabis was the discovery of the human body’s endocannabinoid system. This system of microscopic appendages on the exterior of mammalian cells helps different cells in the body communicate. The endocannabinoid system helps regulate sleep, hunger, pain response, and general homeostasis. What makes this little known system in the body so interesting is that it’s uniquely suited to interact with the unique chemicals in cannabis known as cannabinoids. In fact, our bodies naturally produce chemicals very similar to the ones found in the plant; they’re called endocannabinoids. Cannabinoids can help the endocannabinoid system perform its essential functions. That’s why cannabis is used effectively to treat symptoms as diverse as nausea and neuropathy.
Different cannabinoids have different pharmacological effects. To illustrate this we will examine the two most prevalent cannabinoids: THC and CBD. Though there are over 100 cannabinoids, each with their own unique properties, THC and CBD represent the bulk of the cannabinoid content by weight and are the best studied.
THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is a cannabinoid found in high concentrations in cannabis plants that would be considered medicinal or recreational quality. THC is the cannabinoid that produces the psychoactive effect associated with cannabis. Patients who consume cannabis products with THC should not drive or operate heavy machinery.
When taken carefully on a standardized and consistent regimen, THC can ease a variety of symptoms without significant intoxication. Starting with doses as low as 5mg THC can begin to alleviate pain, nausea, and insomnia.
CBD or cannabidiol is a cannabinoid found in high concentrations in cannabis plants that would be considered medicinal or hemp quality. Since cannabis that is high in CBD does not produce an intoxicating effect, it’s unattractive for recreational consumers. Because of its medicinal qualities, CBD remains in high demand among medicinal users.
CBD becomes effective in doses as low as 10mg and can treat a wide range of neurological and inflammatory symptoms. CBD has shown remarkable effectiveness in treating epilepsy, PTSD, anxiety, and neuropathic pain.
THC or CBD can be taken alone to great effect (though natural cannabis extractions will always carry at least trace amounts of both THC and CBD). However, they show a powerful synergizing effect when used in concert. Patients tend to report more symptom relief when these cannabinoids are taken together.
In addition, CBD appears to temper the intoxicating effects of THC, so patients can enjoy THC’s therapeutic qualities without the more pronounced psychological effects.
Cannabis, Chronic Pain, and Sleep
One of our targeted areas of treatment is chronic pain management and associated sleep disorders. Pain management is an important aspect of overall healthcare. Studies have consistently shown that when an effective pain management regimen is integrated with other treatments, it improves the overall prognosis.
Cannabinoids can play a crucial role in pain management for several important reasons:
- Cannabinoids can ease the inflammatory response. One of the primary functions of the endocannabinoid system is to regulate the inflammatory response. The right combination of cannabinoids can help the body adjust its inflammatory response.
- Cannabinoids can improve sleep. One of the most problematic aspects of chronic pain is its effect on the sufferer’s sleep. Certain formulations of cannabinoids can help induce restful sleep while easing inflammation. Improved sleep not only improves the quality of life, it also improves overall health.
- Cannabinoid therapy is very safe. Unlike other types of pain and sleep medication, cannabinoid therapy is very safe. Tens of thousands of Americans die every year from overdoses of pain and sleep medication. Some medications can suppress the central nervous system, reducing heart and breathing rates to dangerous levels, while others pose toxicity risks. In all of recorded history, there has not been even one documented case of a cannabinoid overdose. This is because cannabinoids are non-toxic and do not interfere with the body’s essential functions such as breathing and heart rate.
- Cannabinoids carry a low risk of dependency. Prescription drug dependency is a large and growing problem. Not only do sufferers of chronic pain become dependent on their sleep and pain medications, but their tolerance for these drugs can become very strong, requiring them to take larger and larger doses. Cannabinoids carry no risk of physical dependence and tolerance plateaus very quickly. In addition, patients can often manage their pain with cannabinoid formulas that do not produce any psychotropic effects.