More than 100 years ago, scientists discovered not everything injected into the bloodstream would reach the brain or spinal cord.
Through research, scientists discovered the blood-brain barrier is semi permeable; in other words, it allows some materials to cross into our neurological system, but prevents others.
The importance of the blood-brain barrier to the health of our neurological system cannot be overstated. One portion of the system is formed by endothelial cells lining the microvasculature, which feeds our brain. This protects it from circulating agents and substances capable of disturbing your neurological functioning.9
The endothelial tissue in other capillaries in your body have small spaces allowing substances to move between the inside and outside of the vessel. In the brain, these cells fit together so tightly that many substances cannot leave the bloodstream and enter the brain.1
Additionally, glial cells form another layer around the blood vessels and are involved in a 2-way communication affecting physiology and pathology. This barrier mechanism is vital for normal functioning and providing a stable internal environment.
One compound known to normally pass the blood-brain barrier is CBD.
In Greek mythology, the Trojan War was fought between the Greeks and the city of Troy. To gain access, the Greeks used a massive wooden horse constructed to hide a select force of men. It was presented as a gift, thereby allowing the Greek warriors to enter and destroy the city.
Researchers believe CBD can act as a Trojan horse, helping move restricted chemicals across the blood-brain barrier.1
Researchers were interested in using CBD as a means to an end. They attached CBD, resembling endocannabinoids made by both mice and humans, to the outside of nanocapsules loaded with fluorescent molecules.
The fluorescence enabled the researchers to track the particles with the hope the experiment would mimic what occurs in the blood-brain barrier of humans. They demonstrated the CBD nanocarriers could transport fluorescent molecules across the blood-brain barrier in mice.1
When added in vitro to human cells mimicking the blood-brain barrier, the nanocarriers with CBD were more successful in passing through the cells than those without the CBD.
Researchers also found when CBD nanocapsules were injected into healthy mice, 2.5X more of them entered the animals’ brains than nanocarriers of equal size lacking the CBD coating.
The ability of CBD to naturally move across the blood-brain barrier indicates there are endocannabinoid receptors in the brain, which our neurological system uses to maintain optimal health.
One of the benefits of CBD on our neurological system is reducing anxiety.
A meta-analysis evaluated the potential for CBD as a treatment for anxiety-related disorders. They found pre-clinical evidence strongly supported it for the treatment for panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
A 2nd large retrospective study looked at cases in psychiatric clinics involving the application of CBD for anxiety and sleep complaints. It too found the data supported the use of CBD for anxiety-related disorders.
In a small study involving 24 patients with generalized social anxiety disorder who, while diagnosed, had never been treated, 50% received CBD while the other 50% received a placebo. Another 12 healthy control subjects performed the test without receiving either medication or a placebo.
Each volunteer participated in a double-blind procedure. The researchers compared the effects of a simulation of public speaking on the 36 individuals, finding CBD pretreatment significantly affected cognitive impairment, anxiety and discomfort in speech performance.
The participants in the placebo group experienced higher anxiety, cognitive impairment and alert levels than the control group. No significant differences were observed between those taking CBD and the healthy control subjects who took nothing.1
These results piqued the interest of Dr. Esther Blessing, psychiatrist and researcher at NYU. She obtained funding from the National Institutes of Health, and along with collaborators are beginning a clinical trial to test if CBD helps those with PTSD and moderate or severe alcohol use disorder.1
The researchers plan to use pharmaceutical grade CBD or a placebo daily on 50 participants with the goal of evaluating alcohol intake in those who take CBD.
A 2nd study now in Phase II is exploring whether CBD may help prevent relapse in opioid addicts. As explained by Blessing, CBD is different from cannabis. Although it’s extracted from cannabis, it does not lead to altered perception or cognition.
She commented“Drugs can be non-psychoactive and still have an effect on the brain. CBD does have an effect on the brain, but it seems to affect the brain in possibly medicinal ways.”
The healing properties of medical cannabis come primarily from high levels of CBD and critical levels of other medicinal terpenes and flavonoids.
But, THC, responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis, also has medicinal benefits. Growers are able to use selective breeding techniques to increase CBD and lower levels of THC for medicinal use.
While CBD has gained the most attention, CBD alone cannot fully support the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS).
Cannabinoid receptors in the human body were discovered in the 1990’s which in turn led to the realization our body makes endogenous cannabinoids that influence these receptors.
It was also discovered the ECS orchestrates communication between other bodily systems, such as your respiratory, digestive, immune and cardiovascular systems.
The ECS does this via receptors found in every organ, including the skin. The use of medicinal CBD is aimed at the health benefits derived from providing your ECS with sufficient support.
Since CBD oil became a focus of popular holistic medicine overnight, the rapid innovations in the market have been impressive. But, while products quickly enter the market, effective control has not caught up.
Despite CBD being sold as a food supplement, it is often used for significant health problems. The WHO analyzed available scientific data and concluded CBD does not require drug scheduling. Nevertheless, CBD manufacturing may benefit from a preparation analysis to reduce contaminants and ensure the product in the bottle is what’s on the label.3
Researchers believe the methodology to achieve this goal already exists and the approach would hold the producer accountable for quality and safety. Until a system is in place, if one lives in a state that has legalized CBD, it is important to purchase any products from a trusted source.
The cannabis plant contains at least 60 other cannabinoids and 400 other chemicals, and many of these other phytocannabinoids and terpenes are needed to fully support our ECS.
CBD oil has demonstrated use in the treatment of pain, which represents a significant threat to the sale of opioids responsible for a large piece of the financial growth of Big Pharma in the past decade.
Purdue Pharma went further, trying to position the company as an “end-to-end provider” of opioids and the treatment for addiction.
The cannabis plant also poses economic threats to the lumber, energy, food and other US and Canadian industries as the fiber may be used to make paper, bio-fuel, building materials, food products and oil, clothing, shoes and even jewelry.
Low levels of endocannabinoids in our system results in ill health. As we age, the human body becomes less efficient in creating endocannabinoids needed for optimal health. And cannabinoids may be used as biological markers for specific conditions and illnesses.
Endocannabinoid deficiency has been identified in those with migraines, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and neurological conditions, for example.
Research has also discovered an intimate relationship between ECS and your omega-3 status, as omega-3 fat improves our cannabinoid receptors.
Other conditions associated with low levels include stress, anxiety, insomnia and eye health.
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