Massage & Bodywork

SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2019

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LET'S START WITH SOME PHYSIOLOGY To understand how CBD works, it's important to start with the human endocannabinoid system, often called the "master regulator." The role of this recently identified system, in simplest terms, is to maintain homeostasis in the body. When there is stress or trauma, for example, our endocannabinoid system kicks in and, through its regulation of various body systems, brings us back to a state of balance. This system is also responsible for everything from maintaining healthy bone density 2 to controlling immune cell function. 3 It keeps us on an even keel, in both literal and figurative terms. Within the body's endocannabinoid system, there are signaling molecules (neurotransmitters) called endocannabinoids, as well as endocannabinoid receptors and the enzymes that process the endocannabinoids. According to Martin Lee, cofounder and director of Project CBD (a nonprofit that keeps its finger on the pulse of the CBD industry), the endocannabinoid system is the reason why cannabis has an effect. It's also the system that modulates how we experience pain, stress, hunger, sleep, mood, metabolism, memory retention, and much more. 4 This endocannabinoid system has only recently been discovered (the first endocannabinoid in the body was identified in 1992), and only because scientists were looking to find out more about the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—marijuana's psychoactive compound, which is also a cannabinoid. The scientists' reverse engineering on THC eventually brought about the discovery of receptors in the brain that have a pharmacological response to cannabis, and that the body, in fact, makes its own cannabinoids that act much the same as those cannabinoids that come from the cannabis plant (namely CBD and THC). With the discovery that we each have our own unique molecular signaling system that controls how we experience pain and stress, and that this system responds positively to cannabinoids of all kinds, it grew to reason that cannabinoids from the cannabis plant would have similar effects on us. Some explain it by saying the receptors have a keyhole that both endocannabinoids and cannabinoids fit into. It is important to understand what the endocannabinoid system comprises and what we suspect it does. Let's look at what we call "runner's high," for example. This is the result of anandamide, an endocannabinoid the brain produces that is released into the body. This triggers the release of dopamine, serotonin, and the fatty acid amide hydrolase (FA AH) enzyme, which breaks down the anandamide to bring the system back to homeostasis. Think of the endocannabinoid system as a symphony conductor or even an air traffic controller—it cues other systems to perform. And now, researchers are finally able to study this complex system in greater detail than ever before with the passage of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the Farm Bill, which legalized the growth and sale of hemp and opened the doorway for advanced research opportunities into cannabis. Now entering on center stage—CBD. THE NEW KID ON THE BLOCK Until recently, not much attention was given to CBD. Its current popularity and acceptance brewed only over the past couple of years. A few factors helped create a favorable landscape for the conversation: 1. The media began running mainstream stories about CBD helping children with seizure disorders such as epilepsy. 5 2. CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta, MD, did a four-part series detailing what he learned about cannabis and why he is now an advocate of its medicinal properties, and, in particular, CBD. 6 3. The opioid epidemic opened the door wider to a public conversation on cannabis. As we look toward finding answers to address the opioid crisis, CBD has offered hopeful alternatives. Making the Connection Cannabinoid receptors are present throughout the body. They are embedded in cell membranes and are believed to be more numerous than any other receptor system. Our bodies release endocannabinoids that bind to these receptors and trigger chain reactions with other systems in the body. CBD and THC "light up" the same receptors. 48 m a s s a g e & b o d y w o r k s e p t e m b e r / o c t o b e r 2 0 1 9

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