The Inside Story About CBD and Your Body

How does CBD affect the body and the science that exists.

If you’re thinking of trying a topical, edible, tincture, vape distillate or other CBD product, you should learn the latest scientific research about how CBD might affect your body. Fortunately, you won’t need a medical degree because we’ve simplified this information.

1. How does CBD work with my body?

All mammals, including humans, have an internal “communications network” that helps regulate bodily functions. Sleep, memory, mood, appetite and digestion, coordination, immunity and reproduction functions, to name a few. If your body senses something out of balance, such as pain or anxiety, the network sends chemicals into your nervous system to alert you of this imbalance and help bring things back to normal. In other words, this is your body maintaining homeostasis. This network is the endocannabinoid system (ECS). It includes an extensive array of receptors in the brain and peripheral nervous system that react to endocannabinoids (eCBs) the body creates.

The ECS is not completely understood. What we do know is: ECS receptors CB1 and CB2, respond to eCBs that the body produces. The two most common eCBs are anandamide and 2-AG. These fat- and oil-based molecules (what we call “lipids”) act like signals that can bind to the ECS receptors, which are themselves like signal receivers for a cell.

When the body doesn’t produce enough eCBs to maintain homeostasis, it remains in distress. Some people may reach for an over-the-counter remedy. Others might take CBD– with or without THC. These cannabinoids can interact with the ECS receptors in the same way as eCBs. For example, THC binds to CB1 receptors and activates them throughout the body, creating the experience of a “high.” CBD doesn’t bind to receptors but can block other, unwelcome signals from binding. Customers look to CBD for relief of body pain, anxiety, inflammation or skin irritations, and it might affect these beneficially. But, CBD hasn’t been approved by the FDA for any medical condition, except for rare forms of childhood epileptic syndromes. The FDA has approved brand-name prescription drug Epidiolex. Manufacturers and sellers of CBD can’t make claims that it’s medically effective.

2. What happens when I apply a CBD topical to my skin?

The body contains CB2 receptors throughout the skin’s surface. Some of these might receive signals from eCBs that trigger the onset of pain. Applying a CBD topical to the right location can interact with these receptors, potentially reducing the intensity of these signals. Receptors absorb the topical, which may provide relief.

Everybody is unique, and CBD affects people differently. A particular topical might help ease pain for you, but it may not work for someone else. And there are different types of topicals that work with the body differently: A light CBD lotion sits atop the top skin layers, while a waxy, oily salve or balm can penetrate CBD into the top epidermal layers as well as the sebaceous glands beneath. CBD from a transdermal patch can steadily enter the bloodstream and the ECS through the skin’s capillaries.

3. What happens when I swallow a CBD edible?

An edible is first broken down by acids in the stomach and enzymes in the liver. Then, the CBD makes its way to the bloodstream and the ECS. A special concern of edibles is bioavailability. Some studies suggest that only about 5 to 30 percent is actually bioavailable. The majority of CBD dissolves, or changes chemically. Given that CBD is fat-soluble in the body, many processors add a “carrier oil” to CBD that increases the bioavailability level and speeds it into the body’s ECS. A CBD capsule or pill with coconut oil may be a preferred type of edible because it can be taken during a meal, when more digestion is occurring.

4. What happens when I take a CBD tincture?

CBD oil from a dropper is typically referred to as a tincture. It’s taken under the tongue and swished around for a minute or two. CBD absorbs into the mucous membrane and capillaries in the tissues below the tongue and in the cheek. In other words, when ingesting CBD oil sublingually, it is absorbed buccally. The tincture bypasses the digestive system as it enters the bloodstream and the ECS. Not all of the CBD is immediately bioavailable. You usually swallow the tincture afterward, and it gets processed by the stomach and liver.

5. What happens when I vape CBD distillate?

When you take a puff from your CBD vaporizer, a large percentage of cannabinoids are instantly bioavailable to the body. CBD flows into the veins and arteries of the lungs, then through the ECS. Since vaping is a relatively new CBD delivery method, there’s not much evidence about its safety. Most of the reported dangers are related to additives in the distillate. So, avoid any CBD product containing thinning agents. Thinning agents include things like like Vitamin E acetate, propylene glycol, polyethylene glycol, or vegetable glycerin, which have been known to cause respiratory damage from long-term or overly frequent use.

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