Inflammatory reactions keep the body safe from bacterial threats, but unchecked inflammation caused by dysfunction in the body can create more problems than it solves.
The good news is that there are some powerful anti-inflammatories out there—and not all of them are necessarily found in drugstores. One of these is cannabidiol or CBD. Although more researchers constantly discover new information about how CBD affects the body, its anti-inflammatory properties are relatively well-documented.
Highlighted below is an overview of some of the anti-inflammatory benefits of CBD.
CBD Anti-Inflammatory Benefits: Understanding Inflammation
Inflammation is a reaction caused by the immune system in response to a perceived physical attack. One small problem is that the immune system works on a hair-trigger and the smallest things can seem like a serious threat. The inflammatory response can be called in as a result of injuries, illness, cuts, and burns, as well as environmental factors like air pollution, diet choices, and even chemicals in food, cleaning agents, cosmetics, or pharmaceuticals.
A malfunctioning inflammatory response can potentially lead to immune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, or systemic lupus erythematosus.
Tissue damage triggers the immune response. When normally healthy tissue becomes damaged, it releases cytokines, the signal molecules for the inflammatory response. These cytokines cause nearby blood vessels to dilate and allow more blood to flood 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.
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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 begins, it progresses quickly. Fortunately, it operates under the supervision of the endocannabinoid system, (ECS) which ensures that once the threat has been lifted and the damage addressed, the inflammation subsides so proper healing can ensue.3
The problem for many people suffering from chronic inflammatory conditions and lifestyle habits that contribute to inflammation is that the response is never fully called off. This can lead to inflammation becoming the source of damage rather than the appropriate, beneficial response.4
Some people call it good health, but “balanced homeostasis” is a more specific term to describe 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: 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 as soon as it determines that the inflammatory response is no longer necessary. Then, the CB receptors in immune cells bind with 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 1–10µM, 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 result in inhibition of 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.
Adenosine is a naturally-occurring drug 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 but can further contribute to inflammation by releasing cytokines, spreading neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs), or releasing other inflammatory chemicals. In chronic 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
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 the 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 effects. Researchers determined this when they observed that chlorpromazine (CPZ), a known TRPV1-specific antagonist also antagonizes the effects of CBD on hyperalgesia in carageen-induced inflammation.13
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 more and more well-documented. With time, this can offer great promise for a range of inflammatory conditions without the side-effects associated with other anti-inflammatory medications.
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