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The Anti-Inflammatory Effects of CBD & Why They Matter

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

Inflammation is a process that occurs as a natural protective response when the body is harmed. All inflammatory responses are classified into two main categories: acute and chronic. These are two very different responses and involve different cellular and bodily mechanisms. Acute inflammation occurs following an infection, injury, or illness, where the immune system releases immune cells to the affected area to heal and protect it, which causes an inflammatory redness and swelling in the area. Chronic inflammation, however, refers to a prolonged inflammatory response in the body, which can initially be triggered by a period of acute inflammation or can be as a result of other, lower-level stresses or triggers. Chronic inflammation can be detrimental to health as when inflammation lingers for a period of time in this way, it can harm tissues and organs. Today, chronic inflammation is an increasingly worrying global health problem. In fact, the World Health Organisation has listed chronic inflammation as the current greatest threat to human health, given its role in a variety of diseases, including diabetes, allergies, arthritis, cardiovascular diseases, and many more. Unhealthy habits like smoking and high-fat high-sugar diets that are leading to increased levels of obesity are thought to be significant risk factors for causing chronic inflammation. In spite of a large, growing, health and wellness movement, issues like increasing levels of obesity are prevailing, and there is still a long way for us to go as a society for improving our health so that we do not expose ourselves to further risk of developing inflammatory disorders and diseases.

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?

There are so many different ways to consume CBD today that it can be daunting and difficult trying to explore your options or find the perfect product for you. One of the most popular products, and the one you’re likely to have heard of even if you’re a newbie, is CBD oil. CBD oil is exactly what it sounds like, a supporting oil, also known as a ‘carrier oil’ that is infused with CBD. CBD oils are simple, effective, and versatile, which is why they have become so popular. CBD oils can be applied sublingually, dropped under the tongue and left for a few minutes to allow the CBD to absorb directly into the bloodstream, can be mixed into food and drinks or even applied topically, directly to your skin. When taken sublingually, CBD oils also have a high bioavailability (meaning a greater proportion of the CBD is absorbed into the bloodstream) compared to other methods of absorption. If you’re a beginner looking for a CBD oil that you can start out with, we recommend a low-strength oil like our 2.5% Peppermint flavoured CBD oil drops, that will allow you to start slowly while you’re still figuring out your optimum dose. If you’re a more experienced CBD user, our CBD oils come in strengths of up to 20%, and if you’re looking for a little something extra, we’ve even got oils that are combined with Vitamin D! CBD has made its way into many other types of products too, including into skincare products and ones designed for topical application. The beauty and skincare industry is one that never fails to follow the latest trends, and given that CBD is a hot topic right now, it is no surprise that a huge variety of CBD skincare, balms and creams, have emerged. Indeed, Meghan Christensen of Forbes magazine has talked about the growing ‘cannabeauty’ movement, by giving a brief description of the top tier CBD beauty products of 2019. In her review, she talks about how the cannabidiol rush has definitely lit a spark in the ever-growing eco consumer market, as it encourages conversation amongst “eco-conscious consumers” igniting debates and discussions about all the unethical ingredients in products, thus exploring greener alternatives with organic healing properties, like CBD. At Goodbody, we have meticulously formulated nourishing skincare products. These include our topical wellness balm, which contains 300mg of CBD and is a great way to nourish your skin while benefiting from CBDs properties. Topical CBD products are applied and absorbed quite differently to other CBD products and are best suited to those looking to benefit from CBD’s properties in a specific area, muscle or joint, or who are looking to incorporate CBD as part of a skincare routine. In addition to oils and products designed for topical application, CBD can also be infused in edible and drinks products. Whilst these have a slightly lower bioavailability, as a result of having to pass through the digestive system, edibles are great if you want a slow-release effect when taking your CBD, or if simply like combining it with a tasty treat! There are all kinds of edible products available, one of the most popular are CBD gummies, like our Goodbody CBD Gummies that contain 10mg of CBD each! If you’re not a fan of CBD oils or edibles, are looking to ingest and absorb CBD and don’t want to apply it topically, CBD capsules might be just the option for you. Our CBD capsules come in two different strengths and are precisely dosed so that you know exactly how much you are taking. Similar to edibles, CBD capsules have a slightly lower bioavailability but are perfect if you want to add CBD to your existing supplement routine. What also makes CBD incredibly appealing is that it is a 100% natural extract. In a time where more and more artificial and potentially harmful chemicals and ingredients are included in products, it is refreshing to see something all-natural rise in popularity. However, it is important to remember that there are also bad quality and potentially harmful CBD brands and products out there. When you’re searching for or purchasing a CBD product, you should always look out for a Certificate of Analysis (or COA) which demonstrates that a product has been tested by a third-party laboratory, confirming both the CBD content and the absence of other harmful chemicals and contaminants. At Goodbody, we strongly believe in testing and being transparent; that’s why all our Testing Certificates are easily accessible on our website. It’s especially important that you look out for testing certificates when it comes to CBD products because this market is rapidly growing and is not, as of yet, thoroughly regulated. In addition to this, hemp is what is known as a ‘bio-accumulator’ which means that it is prone to absorbing substances that are present in the soil. This means that if hemp is grown in the presence of harmful substances like pesticides or toxins, these can end up in the product that you can consume, which can be incredibly detrimental to your health.

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.  

About Goodbody

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.  

References

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