Inflammatory reactions keep the body safe from bacterial threats, but unchecked inflammation caused by dysfunction in the body can cause issues. The good news is that there are some powerful anti-inflammatories out there—one of these is cannabidiol or CBD.
Highlighted below is an overview of some of the anti-inflammatory benefits of CBD.
CBD Anti-Inflammatory Benefits: Understanding Inflammation
Inflammation occurs when the immune system triggers a response to a perceived physical attack. One small problem is that the immune system works on a hair-trigger, and it may perceive the smallest things a serious threat. The inflammatory response can occur as a result of injuries, illness, cuts, and burns, as well as environmental factors like air pollution, diet, and chemicals in food, cleaning agents, or pharmaceuticals.
Tissue damage triggers the immune response. When normally healthy tissue becomes damaged, it releases cytokines, signal molecules for the inflammatory response. These cytokines cause nearby blood vessels to dilate and allow more blood flow to the area, resulting in redness or swelling. 1, 2
The blood flowing into the affected area carries with it white blood cells called neutrophils that have been attracted to the cytokine. These neutrophils attack bacteria.
The cytokines also play a role in raising the temperature of the wound, and if the infection seems especially severe, they raise body temperature to fever levels.
Once the inflammatory process begins, it progresses quickly. Fortunately, it operates under the supervision of the endocannabinoid system, (ECS) which ensures that once the threat has passed and the damage addressed, the inflammation subsides so healing can ensue. 3
For people suffering from chronic inflammatory conditions and lifestyle habits that contribute to inflammation, this response is never fully called off. This can lead inflammation to become the source of damage rather than the appropriate, beneficial response. 4
Anti-Inflammatory Actions and the Endocannabinoid System
Homeostasis describes the state of the body when it is functioning optimally. Some of this responsibility falls on the ECS. Here’s how the ECS works to control the inflammatory response and maintain homeostasis: 5
As white blood cells flow to damaged tissues as part of the inflammatory response, the ECS recognizes these excess lymphatic signals and begins to modulate them once it determines that the inflammatory response is no longer necessary. Then, the cannabinoid (CB) receptors in immune cells bind to cannabinoids, reducing the inflammatory response.
Furthermore, the binding and stimulation of CB1 receptors in the brain increases levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid, which reduces the pain that accompanies inflammation.
This is where CBD offers an effective route for boosting anti-inflammatory action. At 1–10 µM, CBD functions as an inverse agonist at CB1 and CB2 receptors, as well as an inhibitor of fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH).6
When it comes to immune modulation, these, and other, mechanisms of action inhibit proliferation and migration of immune cells to affected areas. This inhibition results specifically from CBD acting as an antagonist at abnormal cannabidiol receptors (Abn-CBD) at concentrations < 1 µM.
CBD and the A2A Adenosine Receptor
Adenosine is a naturally-occurring molecule that affects many physiological processes. Over three decades ago, researchers discovered that adenosine functions as an anti-inflammatory by inhibiting the actions of neutrophils. 7
As mentioned previously, neutrophils are the white blood cells sent to fight infection. These cells typically die when their work is complete. However, they can further contribute to inflammation by releasing cytokines, spreading neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs), or releasing other inflammatory chemicals. In inflammatory conditions, neutrophils can target healthy tissues. 8, 9
CBD modulates the activity of A2A receptors, potentially serving as a weak or partial agonist that increases adenosine levels. This can, in turn, increase the inhibitory effects of adenosine on neutrophils and reduce inflammation. 10
CBD and the Vanilloid/Capsaicin Receptor TRPV1
Receptors in the transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily V (TRPV1) are also called vanilloid or capsaicin receptors. 11 They are activated by vanilloids—compounds with a vanillyl group—like capsaicin. This activation results in a flood of sodium and calcium into the cell, causing depolarization.
The functions of these receptors include regulation of body temperature and nociception, detection of heat and pain. 12 A few studies have shown that CBD may lead to the desensitization of the TRPV1 receptor, resulting in analgesic—pain-relieving—effects.
This indicates that CBD also provides modulatory effects at the TRPV1 receptor, which researchers postulate contribute to some of its anti-inflammatory and analgesic benefits.
Although research into the wide-ranging effects of CBD is only beginning, its anti-inflammatory potential is becoming increasingly well-documented. With time, this can offer promise for optimizing health.