A Brief Look into Cannabinoid Chemistry

Among the many systems within the human body is the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This complex and intriguing system represents a “signaling network” within the body that works with cannabinoids to interact with various receptors and enzymes. These specialized compounds control and modulate a broad range of body processes.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is known as a “phytocannabinoid” and can be derived from a number of plants, with cannabis and hemp being the two most prevalent.

Phytocannabinoids and Bodily Processes

A variety of chemical compounds that affect the body in myriad ways are contained in phytocannabinoids. These cannabinoids have the potential to affect appetite, pain sensation, inflammation, thermoregulation, vision, memory, metabolism, mood, and more.

Phytocannabinoids refer to any plant-derived product that is able to interact directly with cannabinoid receptors, or any plant-derived product which is chemically similar to cannabinoids, allowing them to interact with other components of the ECS.

CBD – Cannabidiol

The Cannabis sativa l. plant contains cannabidiol (CBD) alongside THC. While possession of the latter is illegal still in many states, CBD can be legally purchased under a wider number of jurisdictions, and that which contains under 0.03% of THC is generally legal across all 50 US States. CBD can also be frequently found as sourced from hemp.

Unlike THC, cannabidiol has no psychotropic effects on those who consume it. CBD is swiftly gaining popularity as a non-toxic way to treat or alleviate the symptoms from a variety of illnesses and ailments, from pain and muscle spasm relief to treating anxiety, triggering neurodegeneration, relieving autoimmune disorders, and improving heart and liver health.

cannabinoid chemistry graphic
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Cannabinoid Receptors and Hormones

Interestingly, the human body naturally has cannabinoid receptors that work in conjunction with cannabinoids. The reason for the presence of these receptors is scientifically debated, but one thing is certain, they are there, and they work perfectly with CBD and other cannabinoids to cause various changes or alterations within your body.

A great many botanical compounds have a degree of chemical similarity to other hormones in the human body. Some of these are labeled as “phytoestrogens”. They exist in plants, but they can interact with hormone receptors in humans to cause similar effects as the natural bodily hormone itself.

However, unlike other neurotransmitters in your body, endocannabinoids are produced naturally upon demand, being biosynthesized from endogenous membrane components and enzymes. These endocannabinoids are also characterized by a slower timeframe of action,

Drug Discovery and Therapeutic Efforts

Pharmaceutical opportunities and research efforts related to the endocannabinoid system have largely focused on two primary cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2.

The exciting discovery of CB1 and CB2 sparked a new era of specialized research efforts focused on uncovering the ways in which physiological roles and processes may be influenced, modulated, or controlled by these endocannabinoid receptors, enzymes, and endocannabinoid ligands.

While research is an ongoing effort, CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors continue to excite both scientists and the medical community as promising targets for future drug development and therapeutic interventions.

Current research is particularly promising as it relates to:

  • Reducing inflammation
  • Preventing or slowing neurodegeneration
  • Addressing and alleviating neuropsychiatric conditions
  • Therapeutic impact on metabolic disorders
  • Addiction treatments
  • Treatment for epilepsy
  • And more…

Closing Thoughts

The potential to modulate physiologic systems is exciting science, and one at the forefront of researchers’ minds.

CBD’s ability to interact with multiple physiologic systems demonstrates its medical capabilities and potential for medical and therapeutic use cases. Safe and non-toxic, many Americans are choosing CBD as an alternative to traditional medicine and harsh chemicals.

With demand for CBD surging and regulations easing around the world, we expect to see a continued effort to better understand how CBD may be able to help millions of individuals worldwide.


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