Inflammation. We’ve all heard of it, and we’ve all experienced it. Inflammation is hugely important for protecting our body from external threats and stimuli, including invasion by bacteria and viruses as well as dealing with damaged cells and other irritants. However, inflammation is increasingly also being seen in a negative light, given that overactive or dysregulated inflammatory responses can, themselves, also be damaging to our health. Disorders that are caused by excessive inflammation include inflammatory skin diseases like eczema and psoriasis, as well as auto-immune conditions and the likes of asthma and celiac’s disease. As a result, there is a widespread desire to understand the way in which inflammation is regulated by our bodies, what goes wrong in these disease states, and what therapeutic options there are for individuals who suffer from such disorders.
This is where CBD might become relevant. CBD, short for cannabidiol, is one of many cannabinoids that are compounds produced by the cannabis plant. It has gained recognition in recent years as it, alongside THC, is found in the highest concentrations in cannabis plant extracts. Unlike THC, it does not have any intoxicating effects, in fact, it is finding widespread consumer use for a variety of ailments and complaints, and research into the effects of CBD and how it interacts with the body is emerging as a result.
However, many questions still exist surrounding CBD and its effects. We’re going to delve into some of these today, specifically with regards to the reported use of CBD to target inflammation, and what the latest research into this topic is.
Back to basics: getting into inflammation
So, what is CBD?
CBD is a fascinating compound. People have been consuming and absorbing CBD for centuries, starting with cannabis use in ancient civilisations to recreational cannabis users today. What we now know, since CBD was isolated and its chemical structure characterised in 1940, is that CBD interacts with a system in our body that is known as the ECS or the Endocannabinoid system. The ECS is involved in our bodies in a variety of different ways which is how phytocannabinoids, cannabinoids that are found outside of the body, are thought to have their effects. The endocannabinoid system consists of the following: (1) the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2, which are located in both the central nervous system and periphery; (2) their arachidonate-based lipid ligands, e.g., 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) and anandamide (N-arachidonoylethanolamine, AEA) and (3) the enzymes that synthesise and degrade these ligands. The ECS regulates various functions in the body such as cardiovascular, nervous, and immune system functions inside cells. Therefore, it affects many aspects of our health, including sleep, appetite, mood, reproduction and fertility and memory.
Amongst the many functions that the ECS has in our bodies, it is also involved in inflammation. The relationship between the ECS and inflammatory processes and the regulation of our immune system is quite complicated, but there are some things that are already clear. Here are some of the key findings to date about the endocannabinoid system and the role it plays in inflammation in our bodies. When reading about these findings and the research investigations that are being carried out, it is important to note, however, that studies that are carried out outside of the UK are subject to further investigation in order to be fully validated with regards to UK research standards.
The ECS and inflammation
Although it was initially thought that the receptors that make up the ECS were only found in nerve and brain cells, it has since been shown that these receptors are actually found in cells throughout our body, organs and tissues. This has shown that the ECS has a much further-reaching effect than originally proposed, and has shown that it does, in fact, have a role in immune function and inflammation, given that ECS receptors have been found in immune cells.
Research has now also shown that the ECS is involved in processes of inflammation, for example, studies have identified the ECS as playing a role in the inflammatory and neurodegenerative pathways that are involved in multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Witkamp et al., 2014, Rossi et al., 2010).
Given the role of ECS in inflammatory processes and the way in which CBD is thought to interact with the ECS, the research community has begun to investigate if CBD could impact the outcomes of diseases usually accompanied or caused by oxidative stress and inflammation, including cardiovascular, neurodegenerative, and metabolic diseases. For example, studies have been carried out into the impact of CBD on diabetes, in both human and in animal studies. One such study found that CBD, by activating the cannabinoid receptor, CB2, has been shown to induce vasodilation in type 2 diabetic rats (Atalay et al., 2019). As this body of research and knowledge continues to grow, we will hopefully be able to understand CBD’s interactions with such diseases more fully. Currently, CBD’s prospects for further investigation look bright, but only time will tell if it has the potential to be a certified therapeutic agent for treating these kinds of illnesses.
However, research goes beyond just diabetes and is investigating CBDs effects in all kinds of inflammatory conditions, including skin conditions and those affecting the heart.
Your skin and inflammation
Many common skin disorders and conditions are caused by underlying inflammation. These include cystic acne, atopic dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis and eczema. Such skin disorders are often characterised by itchiness and redness and can be incredibly uncomfortable and painful. Although there are many existing treatments out there for such conditions, it can often be difficult for individuals to find a treatment that works for them, as conditions are very individual, are caused by different factors, and respond differently to treatments.
Excitingly, the first studies are also emerging into CBD and how it interacts with and affects certain skin disorders. This has also been driven by findings that the ECS has been found to be present and involved in regulating and maintaining our skin health(Toth et al., 2019). ECS receptors and ligands have been found to be expressed in the skin, and are thought to impact the processes of the skin. In addition to this, it has been suggested that when the ECS is disrupted, this can have downstream effects on skin health, and may play a role in causing or exacerbating skin disorders. Research into the potential for CBD for treating skin disorders is still very new, although initial findings are promising enough to prompt further investigations (Palmieri et al., 2019).
The role of inflammation in cardiovascular health
We all know that our heart is one of our most important organs, pumping blood throughout our body to supply our organs and cells with the oxygen that we need to survive. We also know that to keep our hearts healthy, it’s crucial that we take regular exercise and eat a healthy, balanced diet. What many of us might not know as much about is how inflammation can impact our cardiovascular system.
In fact, chronic inflammation can irritate blood vessels, as well as promoting the buildup of harmful substances in your arteries, like cholesterol, that form into plaques. If plaques break off and travel through your bloodstream, heart attacks or strokes can be triggered, which can lead to very severe disease or even death. Inflammation is, therefore, also incredibly relevant when it comes to your heart health.
Of course, the cardiovascular system and cardiovascular disease is an incredibly well-studied aspect of human health, and there are well-established treatments and recommendations for those with heart problems. Nevertheless, research continues to drive forward and seek out new treatments, therapies and preventative agents, and as a result, there is a collection of studies into the effects of CBD on our heart health (Stanley et al., 2012). Findings from these studies were also overwhelmingly positive, and many pointed to interactions between CBD and inflammatory processes that are involved in such disease. However, it is important to remember that these studies are far from providing extensive conclusive evidence and that CBDs effects on heart health are by no means fully determined.
Inflammation and pain
Inflammation is correlated with pain. The most typical symptoms of inflammation include pain, redness, swelling and heat. Typically, excessive, damaging or painful inflammation is tackled with prescribed anti-inflammatory medications, both non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and steroid medications. However, due to the ever-growing awareness and availability of CBD, there is a large body of people that actually take CBD to support their pain management, including individuals suffering from chronic pain conditions. Medical cannabis has a history of use for pain conditions, and so carrying out research into CBD and whether or not it has pain-relieving effects seems logical.
However, findings to date have not yet definitively demonstrated that CBD can relieve pain. Existing studies have often focussed on the combinatorial effects of THC and CBD for pain relief, so more research is needed before any recommendations can be made (Boyaji et al., 2020). Nevertheless, the growing community of individuals who take CBD for pain relief, and the anecdotal evidence that is growing alongside this, does speak volumes.
CBD and Inflammation: the verdict
So, what’s the verdict? Overall, it’s clear that inflammation is a prevalent process in our bodies that, although incredibly important for protecting us from disease, can also cause disease and discomfort itself. It is also clear that the ECS has a role in modulating and regulating inflammation in our bodies. Where everything gets a bit murky is regarding the role of CBD in all of this, both how it interacts with the ECS and any corresponding impacts on inflammatory responses and on health. Although we can talk about the many preliminary findings that are emerging from the scientific literature, nothing is concrete yet.
At the same time, CBD is known to be safe for human consumption, as confirmed by the WHO. That is why CBD products are also entirely legal in the UK; the only existing restrictions are on the THC content of products, which is limited to 0.2%. CBDs effects on our body, and specifically in treating disease, might not be fully established yet, but it is thought that CBD can be incorporated into your routine to support and maintain our health and wellbeing. It’s estimated that between 4 and 6 million people have already tried CBD in the UK alone. So, why not give it a go?
How can I take CBD?
Hemp & CBD: what's the difference?
We just mentioned hemp, so let’s make sure we all know what hemp is. Many misconceptions seem to be floating around, including regarding the definition of hemp, and how it differs from CBD. To further facilitate existing confusion, products are also often falsely labelled or marketed.
Let’s get this straight. CBD is an extract of the cannabis plant, as we’ve mentioned previously. Hemp, on the other hand, is a term used to describe cannabis varieties that contain less than 0.3% THC, and instead usually contain higher CBD levels. Correspondingly, marijuana is the term used to describe and group varieties that have higher THC levels, usually above 15%, and usually contain lower levels of CBD. The CBD that you will find in products today is usually extracted from hemp plants. Depending on extraction and refinement processes, CBD extracts can be full-spectrum, broad-spectrum or CBD isolates. Full-spectrum products are extracts of the hemp plant that contain all of the components naturally occurring in the plan, including low levels of THC. Broad-spectrum extracts are processed further to remove any traces of THC, and CBD isolates are made up of pure CBD.
When people refer to hemp oil, they are talking about the oil that comes from the seed of the hemp plant itself. Importantly, all CBD extracts are taken from the leaves, flower and stalk of the hemp plant, not the seeds. Hemp seed oil does not contain any cannabinoids, i.e. there is no CBD or THC in hemp oil such as cold-pressed hemp seed oils. Instead, the ingredient contains a range of healthy fats which contain remarkable moisturising qualities and is therefore used in very different ways.
Goodbody Botanicals trading also as Goodbody Wellness is a UK-based retailer that specialises in the highest quality CBD and wellness products. Goodbody Botanicals carries out manufacturing and distribution to high street stores and pharmacies, and our Goodbody Wellness brand is focussed on the health and beauty sectors and is the UK’s first prestige CBD wellness centre brand.
Goodbody Botanicals is UK-based and we are owned by Sativa Wellness Group Inc, which we are proud to say is the first UK listed Medicinal Cannabis Company. At Goodbody, we strive to provide the highest quality CBD products, which we demonstrate by our stringent quality control and rigorous testing by PhytoVista Labs, an independently managed laboratory working with ISO standards. Our products are made and lab-certified in the UK, and are also gluten-free, non-GMO and organic, and several are fitting for vegans and vegetarians.