With the massive and sudden boom of the CBD industry it seems as if CBD is everywhere. We see it infused in products ranging from tinctures, creams, to toothpaste and beer, all boasting a wide array of benefits. It can be hard to believe that one single product can be effective in treating so many different conditions.
In an age of consumerism and misinformation, being a skeptical and discerning consumer is crucial. Understanding what your buying and why is necessary for keeping yourself safe and spending your money wisely. So, is CBD snake-oil? Just another health industry fad, destined to blow over once the next trendy thing takes its place?
In short, no!
In this blog, we’ll go over what makes CBD such a powerful and wide-ranging product, demystifying one of the most significant medical discoveries of this century- the endocannabinoid system.
Of course, it’s important to still be a discerning consumer. Check out this three part series about the drawbacks of the CBD boom, the benefits of CBD, and how to navigate through it all. Or jump straight to part 3, where I provide a quick and easy guide to buying CBD!
*At the end of this post you can find a short and informative video by Dr. Kellie Raydon, ALLAY'S science advisor, briefly explaining the endocannabinoid system.*
The Endocannabinoid System
It all begins with the endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system, also known as the ECS, is a complex molecular system found in the human body that works to maintain balance and homeostasis. It is composed of three main parts:
Endocannabinoids are molecules made endogenously in the human body, discovered by a group of scientists researching THC in the 1990s.
The two main endocannabinoids produced in the body are anandamide and 2-AG. While most other molecules in our bodies are produced, packaged, and then stored for later usage, endocannabinoids are produced on demand- meaning that they are immediately used to address specific needs, and then broken down by metabolic enzymes.
Cannabinoid receptors are found all over the human body. They are masters of transmitting information, relaying data to our body's cells and stimulating the correct cellular responses (Jikomes 2019).
The two main receptors are CB1 and CB2.
The majority of CB1 receptors are found in nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, although some CB1 receptors can be found in other spots throughout the body. CB1 receptors can be found specifically in the cerebellum, basal ganglia, hippocampus and dorsal primary afferent spinal cord regions (cite)- parts of the brain which are responsible for coordination and voluntary movement, memory, pain regulation, cognitive function, and mood regulation (Glass, Faull, & Dragunow 1997).
CB2 receptors are found in the immune system on white blood cells, in the tonsils, and in the spleen (Mayfeild Clinic). One key function of CB2 receptors in the immune system is the regulation of cytokine release, which plays a crucial role in inflammation. The regulation of this system is the reason CBD is such an effective and celebrated anti inflammatory!
Once the endocannabinoids carry out their function in our body, they are quickly broken down by metabolic enzymes. Enzymes play an important role in regulating our use of endocannabinoids- they ensure that these molecules don’t linger for much longer than they’re needed.
So, what does it do?
The ECS can be found in nearly every system in our body, including our central nervous system, our GI system, our bones, reproductive organs, hormones, immune system, metabolism, and muscles (link). It plays a vast and crucial role in maintaining homeostasis throughout our bodies.
Homeostasis: The Goldilocks Zone
Often referred to as the ‘Goldilocks Zone,’ homeostasis is that state of being ‘just right'. The human body has a relatively narrow range of conditions under which it is able to thrive. Any system that works to maintain homeostasis helps our bodies maintain balance in response to external conditions which may threaten to throw off this balance. It keeps things just right- not too hot and not too cold. For our bodies to function at peak performance- to stay healthy and feel good- we have to remain as close to homeostatic balance as possible.
The endocannabinoid system plays a crucial role in keeping the various systems of our bodies balanced. It is responsible for regulating organ function and maintaining homeostasis throughout the body.
How Cannabis interacts with the ECS
You may still be wondering what this all has to do with cannabis. How exactly does cannabis interact with this system?
While endocannabinoids are endogenous cannabinoids produced by our bodies, cannabinoids such as THC and CBD are simply non-endogenous cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. The reason we feel any effects from THC and CBD is because these cannabinoids interact with out ECS. THC, for example, binds to and activates CB1 receptors, producing a ‘high.’
The fact that cannabinoids interact with our own endocannabinoid system is the reason why the effects and benefits of cannabinoids such as CBD are so wide ranging. To be sure, THC and CBD interact with a number of receptors throughout our bodies- not just the receptors in our ECS. However- their ability to work in congruence with and support the ECS is the primary reason CBD has so many different, profoundly beneficial effects.
There’s still a lot we don’t know about the ECS, but the current research is promising. The role of the ECS is vast, and the potential of cannabinoids such as CBD is great.
Current research suggests that CBD may be effective in treating:
The list goes on and on. While more research is needed, countless studies have been published strongly suggesting the healing capabilities of CBD.
The discovery of the ECS has the potential to change the medical landscape as we know it, and the team at ALLAY is excited to be at the forefront of this change- educating consumers, spreading the word about holistic health, and providing conscious and transparent CBD products!
Glass, M, et al. “Cannabinoid Receptors in the Human Brain: a Detailed Anatomical and Quantitative Autoradiographic Study in the Fetal, Neonatal and Adult Human Brain.” Neuroscience, vol. 77, no. 2, Mar. 1997, pp. 299–318., doi:10.1016/s0306-4522(96)00428-9.
Grinspoon, Peter. “Cannabidiol (CBD) - What We Know and What We Don't.” Harvard Health Blog, 27 Aug. 2019, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-know-and-what-we-dont-2018082414476.
Jikomes, Nick. “What Is the Endocannabinoid System and What Is Its Role?” Leafly, 1 Oct. 2019, https://www.leafly.com/news/science-tech/what-is-the-endocannabinoid-system.
Mayfield Clinic. “Brain Anatomy, Anatomy of the Human Brain.” Mayfieldclinic.com, https://mayfieldclinic.com/pe-anatbrain.htm.
Last month, some of the team at Allay set up shop at the Body Mind Spirit Expo in Portland, Oregon, an event dedicated to promoting businesses working in natural and alternative health all across the States.
Inspired by BMSE’s ethos- their commitment to promoting personal growth through holistic medicine, metaphysics, and alternative health all while benefiting small businesses (like ALLAY☺)- we wanted to write something about the body-mind-spirit connection. What is it, and why does it matter?
In this post, we’ll go over some of the fundamental problems with Western Medicine (or allopathic medicine), and the importance of understanding the unity of mind & body.
First, a little history
In the 17th century, Descartes theorized that the mind and body are two entirely separate and independent entities, capable of existing apart from one another.
This theory, commonly called ‘mind-body dualism’ was immensely influential- we see mind-body dualism in every-day popular thought, religion, as well as modern science and medicine.
Being a Philosophy graduate, I have to add that the story is a little more complicated than this (if you have time, read Descrates’ letters to Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia). The takeaway, however, remains the same- that the Western model of medicine adopted mind-body dualism.
Our scientific and medical model has staked itself on a faulty and largely questionable philosophical point of view. The mind, as the seat of our reason and thought, is thought of as the thing which differentiates us humans from the rest of the animal world. We live now in the age of reason- where truth and the validity of an idea is determined by rationality and thought, while other means of knowledge (i.e. bodily knowledge, emotional knowledge, or observation) are considered unreliable, invalid, and inferior. Reason is king- for now.
The effect that this mindset has had on our healthcare (not to mention countless other aspects of our lives) is profound. Modern medicine has been structured in a way that denies, or at best ignores, the interrelation between mind and body, while bodily and emotional forms of knowledge are often disregarded or undervalued.
Of course, a lot of this is changing. Alternative medicine is on the rise, and the team at ALLAY is doing what we can to be at the forefront, educating consumers, helping other businesses grow, and offering conscious products for holistic health.
Allopathic medicine, or modern medicine, is an evidence-based model which treats or suppresses the patient's symptoms or pathophysiological processes. It treats diseases and patients in parts- looking at symptoms and individual diseases and things which can be treated on their own, without looking at the holistic whole of the individual.
I want to be clear that I’m not condemning modern medicine. We have made incredible strides in our ability to treat serious diseases and conditions, and our current model of medicine has tremendous benefits.
The problem arises when people turn to modern medicine without looking at whatever else might be out there. We turn to pharmaceutical and symptom-based treatment without ever considering that there may be better options. And there often are.
Holistic, ‘whole-person’ medicine
Holistic medicine, on the other hand, strives to treat the whole patient. This means not only treating the specific disease, but the underlying factors which may be causing, catalyzing, or worsening the condition.
It treats the person instead of the disease.
Holistic medicine not only considers physical causes and symptoms, but also social, mental, and spiritual causes. The foundational belief is that all of these factors are profoundly and unequivocally interrelated- if one part of your psyche (be it physical, mental, spiritual, or social) is off balance, it can affect your entire system.
One fascinating example of the way the social and mental can affect the physical is the condition of nostalgia, or homesickness. A severe bout of Nostalgia in the Union Army during the Civil War caused a handful of soldiers to die of gruesome symptoms, including strange sores, fever, and intense fatigue- all because they were feeling homesick. The social standards of the time (which valued family connections and community) along with the added stress of war gave rise to a condition where people could actually die of homesickness.
This type of psychosomatic experience, although strange to us today, is not rare. Psychosomatic illnesses caused by stress or other emotional factors can range anywhere from IBS, to migraines, to fever.
Moreover, The levels of specific hormones in our bodies, caused by our emotional and mental responses to stimuli, can also work to effect our immune system, the function of vital organs, and more.
Countless studies demonstrating the inter-relatedness of one’s mind, social setting, and physical health have been published, but large systems (like the modern health system) can be slow to change.
Mind over Matter- Rationalism vs Bodily Knowledge
Another consequence of Cartesian mind-body dualism is the idea of rationalism, mentioned earlier in this post. Rationalism is the idea that the mind, being not only separate from the body, but also truer and purer in essence, can control the body. Rationalism argues that what separates humans from animals is our ability to reason, to act and think with our mind alone.
The tragedy here is that it ignores other ways of thinking and knowing within our bodies. It poses the mind and reason over other more corporeal forms of knowledge.
There are other non-lingual, non-rational ways of understanding the world. We understand and know through emotion, through visceral feeling. This may sound overly esoteric. And yet studies are cropping up showing the countless ways we know and understand the world through our bodies, not just our brains. The ‘master-slave’ relationship between mind and body promoted by Cartesian rationalism is false.
Take, for example, your gut. Your gut has it’s very own neural network, called the enteric nervous system (ENS). The ENS plays a large role in regulating, producing, and receiving neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. So the common colloquialisms, ‘gut-feeling,’ ‘gut-wrenching,’ or having ‘butterflies’ are more than just metaphors. We feel, perceive, and understand things through our gut. We feel what is going on in our bodies, sometimes more accurately than we are able to think it.
You may know something is wrong in your body- not because you have any specific set symptoms or rational cause for belief- but because you can feel it. You sense that things aren't quite right. In the same way, you can often sense what treatment might be needed to get better. Our bodies know how to heal themselves, we just have to learn how to listen.
When we learn to listen to our body- to lean on our inherent corporeal and emotional knowledge, as well as our reason- we get a more complete, holistic picture of the problems that might be ailing us.
When we treat diseases and conditions, we cannot limit ourselves to the scope of rationalism and dualism. Understanding the unity of our mind and body is essential to seeing (and treating) the whole picture.
The team at ALLAY is proud to be part of a community striving for better, holistic, conscious health. Keep reading our blogs to learn more about holistic health and the power of CBD, and check out our own CBD Infused Body Butter.