The cannabinoid Cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD, is growing in popularity and listed as an ingredient in so many products, all the while invoking associations with cannabis or marijuana. It’s an unavoidable association to make, but CBD medical research is changing this notion quickly and has increasingly demonstrated how vital it is to recognize that not all cannabinoids (active elements in cannabis plants) are alike. THC, the psychoactive and largely illegal compound found in marijuana, is totally distinct from CBD, meaning many governments around the world permit CBD manufacturing and sales. Now, these non-psychoactive cannabis derivative products are increasingly being sold over-the-counter.

Medical research has revealed some very curious and eye-opening things about how CBD interacts with our bodies—which is how we know that CBD doesn’t induce a “high” and THC does. There’s a reason that the many cannabinoids in cannabis have different effects, just as there’s a reason why Valerian root can make you feel calmer, for example. A key takeaway has been that CBD is unique because it can help to address bodily symptoms that are both physical and mental.

The Endocannabinoid System Explained

Man touching cannabis CBD plant
Man touching cannabis CBD plant

Discovered in just 1988, cannabinoid receptors in the brain were found be the reason why cannabis compounds (in whatever form it’s consumed) have their specific effects. They were also found to be the brain’s most abundant receptors. In 1992, other cannabinoid receptors were found in the nervous and immune systems, along with neurotransmitters produced by the body called endocannabinoids. Body receptors are constantly reacting to the body’s naturally produced endocannabinoids—a nice synergy that is derived from internal brain and body conditions.

This crucial system, recognized for its role in maintaining each body’s homeostasis, was called the endocannabinoid system (ECS) by researchers after it was accidentally discovered by scientists who were exploring the effects of THC on the human body. Interestingly, the correlation between the naming of ECS and cannabis is not a coincidence, but rather because cannabis was used as a way to verify that the ECS already exists. The ECS is involved in numerous processes in the body and mind such as sleep, appetite, mood, and inflammation. With an external condition throwing the body out of stasis, the ECS synthesizes endocannabinoids that are received by proteins to re-stabilize certain processes.

CBD is a Chemical Multi Tool

CBD pills for pain
CBD pills for pain

Imagine that one endocannabinoid (of the hundreds) produced by cells in your body’s ECS is meant to address tension, pain, inflammation, aches and the like. Since CBD is a cannabinoid like the ones produced by our body, it stimulates the ECS like our body’s own endocannabinoids do. When our body cannot produce sufficient ecannabinoids on its own because of stress, poor diet, or illness, we can supplement our system with non-psychoactive and harmless external cannabinoids. Because of appropriate legislation in Europe and the US, promising medical research, and surety about the qualities of CBD, we are increasingly seeing properly manufactured providers like CBDMedic offering oils, gels, and creams. These products can be obtained over-the-counter to help relieve pain, tension, aches in muscles and joints, and common conditions like arthritis. The body’s reaction with CBD cannabinoids, whether through oral or topical application, is promising.

Science is Unclear

CBD oil in a bottle
CBD oil in a bottle

That said, despite cannabinoid studies continuing for over 30 years, much is unknown about the extent to which products like CBD can properly address what they claim to treat. Given the association with cannabis, and the obvious ensuing legal quagmire, CBD studies have operated at the fringes of the law and at very small scale.

Small studies have found how CBD is effective in treating opiate addiction, for example, in that it reduced cravings and related anxiety issues among long-term users. It is reminiscent of another study related to how CBD impacts PTSD sufferers, who were shown to have decreased symptom severity and fewer nightmares related to their illness after daily doses. Research also shows the benefits that topical applications have on joint and body pain. However, these are relatively isolated studies that sampled a relatively small number of patients and, while promising, don’t yet provide unequivocal evidence of CBD’s medical purpose.

Despite its commercial success, CBD does come with drawbacks. When taken in high doses, diarrhea, nausea and fatigue can occur, and CBD can also alter the effectiveness of existing medication. It can also dissuade patients from taking their vital prescribed medication. Worryingly, some companies seize on the hysteria and market mislabeled CBD dosages on their products.


Skepticism is healthy whenever new medicines or commercially popular products are introduced. We should not interpret retail popularity as scientific evidence. That said, CBD’s positive and medicinal relationship with the Endocannabinoid system is gaining traction among medical professionals. It is indeed a multi tool, and one that is sure to be mapped more precisely in the future, giving people with a variety of chronic and stressful conditions a more natural and non-addictive way to manage their ailments.

Do you have any further questions about the complexity of CBD? Let us know down in the comments.

This article originally published on GREY Journal.