How does CBD affect the human brain?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a chemical compound (or cannabinoid) found in the cannabis plant. CBD is the second most occurring cannabinoid after Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) -- the psychoactive compound that gives off that “high” effect commonly associated with recreational cannabis use.
CBD affects the human brain through its interactions with the human endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system -- commonly referred to as the ECS -- is an in-built network of neurotransmitters that interact with endocannabinoids -- cannabinoids produced by the body. When cannabinoids in the cannabis plant are consumed, they interact with the ECS the same way internally endocannabinoids do, granting access to controls that essentially produce the many effects associated with cannabis use.
The ECS is made up of two types of receptors that interact with cannabinoids in order to influence bodily activity. These interactions regulate and balance the internal environment of the human body; a state known as homeostasis. The two cannabis receptors are:
- Cannabis Receptor - 1 (CB 1) and;
- Cannabis Receptor -2 (CB 2).
CBD interacts with the CB 2 receptors. This is attributed to the fact that the structure of CBD is highly similar to an endocannabinoid 2-AG, which interacts with these receptors. CB 2 receptors can be found primarily in the immune system, but are also located in the spleen and gastrointestinal system. CB 2 receptors are able to influence numerous bodily functions, such as:
- Immune System Functions;
- Motor Control;
- Pain, amongst others.
The endocannabinoid system highlighting the location of cannabinoid receptors and how they interact with the human body. Source.
Is it safe to use CBD?
In a report on cannabidiol by the World Health Organisation, it was stated that CBD “...exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential.” The report continues, stating that, “To date, there is no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”
If you were to go by this report, then you could conclude that CBD is indeed safe to use. That would be a reasonable conclusion, considering the excellent credibility of the World Health Organization. However, this is solely based on the research available today on the cannabinoid, which is quite limited.
Are there any negative side effects at all associated with using CBD?
CBD research is limited, given the longstanding global cannabis prohibition. Such prohibition has limited scientific research and clinical studies into all cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, making cannabis-related questions a bit difficult to answer with absolute certainty.
However, although CBD has found support in the idea that it is indeed safe to use, there are a few known negative side effects -- risks, more than anything -- associated with consuming the cannabinoid.
As reported by the World Health Organisation, “CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile.” The side effects of CBD oils are generally benign, and some of these effects include:
- Appetite Changes; and
- Mood Changes.
An article published in the Harvard Health blog expressed that CBD oils can interact with medications in “the exact same mechanism that grapefruit juice does.”
Studies, although ongoing, have noted that CBD -- particularly CBD oils -- can exacerbate the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Until concluded, it is advisable for patients who suffer from Parkinson's disease to steer clear of CBD altogether.
Final Words: The real risk of CBD oils
Some risk factors associated with the consumption of CBD have been listed here. However, these factors are neither life threatening nor fatal. The biggest risk associated with the consumption of CBD is a lack of attention to the purity of the concentration.
CBD oils are often contaminated -- predominantly by THC. A research letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) analysed 84 CBD products sold across 31 different online companies. The research concluded that 1 in 5 oils contained components such as THC, which could lead to intoxication – especially in children.
Given these factors, it is important to purchase CBD products from a vetted and reliable source. Pay close attention to the concentration, as well as additives. Perhaps the preferable source for CBD oils are hemp plants, but even those might not be quality checked and vetted. Given the largely under-regulated nature of CBD oils in areas where it is legal, it’s hard to keep a tab on their actual sources and quality. Therefore, exercise due diligence by purchasing your CBD from authorised establishments to reduce the chances of any adverse or unpleasant effects.