I was a teenager and young adult in the USA in the 1960s. That meant that at least some of the people I knew were experimenting with all kinds of plants, including marijuana (and others were smoking banana peels or clove cigarettes – it was pretty free-form). What we didn’t know at the time was that – halfway around the world – Dr. Raphael Mechoulam and his Israeli research team were conducting an in-depth study on the cannabis plant that would forever change the way we would understand the workings of the human body. This post is a layman’s explanation of some of what we’ve learned in the decades since then.
By 1963, Dr. Mechoulam’s team had succeeded in isolating several cannabinoids (a cannabinoid is one of a class of diverse chemical compounds that acts on cannabinoid receptors) and began to unlock some of body’s biochemical mechanisms involved in cannabinoid processing. The compounds, the system, and the specialized cannabinoid cell receptors (that allow the cannabinoids to bind to cells and affect the system) had all been previously unknown. Further, the existence of the receptors meant that the body must have a mechanism by which it could achieve endogenous activation of the receptors (by substances and processes of the body alone, not only by outside substances or processes). It took nearly 30 more years until the first endogenous cannabinoid (endocannabinoid, a cannabinoid manufactured by the body itself) was identified. As of 2017, six endocannabinoids have been identified, and there are likely more to come.
These discoveries led to a completely new science and the ongoing discovery of a specialized level of molecular signaling unlike anything the world had ever seen prior to Dr. Mechoulam’s work. For those looking to support their own health naturally, one of the most exciting aspects of this new system is that it can be targeted with foods, essential oils, omega fatty acids, probiotics, and cannabinoid-like messengers to support personal well-being. The body system was named “endocannabinoid” because the cannabis plant and its workings gave impetus to the initial research. Scientists now know that many other substances besides cannabis can have a profound effect on the system.
WHAT IS THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM and how does it work?
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is an internal intelligence and self-healing mechanism of the human body. It is involved in stress recovery systems, maintenance, and homeostatic balance: a master mediator for all the other body systems. It inhibits adverse immune responses, lowers inflammation, address spasticity, lowers blood pressure, dilates bronchial passages, mediates metabolic pathways, assists with fat processing, and even works to normalize over-stimulated neuropathic activity.
The key to getting the best results from your personal ECS is to know how to address it. The system has 3 basic parts:
- Endocannabinoids made by the body
- Cannabinoid receptors (to date only two kinds have been discovered – CB1 & CB2 – but there may be some or many others)
- Precursor and degrading enzymes (diet-derived polyunsaturated fatty acids form the basic building blocks of encannabinoids when the body needs them, and special enzymes break them down when they have finished their response to stress, injury, illness, and disease states).
Cannabinoids (CBs, made outside the body) and endocannabinoids are lipid messengers or “ligands” that target CB receptors. Ligands that bind to receptors elicit a physiological response that can activate the receptor or block the receptor. They can also bind to non-CB receptors and block or stimulate ion channels, ion channel receptors, and even nuclear receptors located inside the nucleus of the cell. This is why the powerful effect of CBs on the body extends beyond even the ECS itself.
There are 3 kinds of cannabinoids that can create physiological effects:
- Synthetic cannabinoids, lab or pharmaceutically created. These are manufactured to assure consistent potency and are usually less expensive to produce than plant-based products. A few are legal; many are not and may, in fact, be toxic.
- Made to mimic isolated components of the cannabis plant, such as THC
- Plant-based phytocannabinoids. Well-known examples are:
- THC (made by heating the THCA cannabinoid: targets the CB1 receptor to activate phychoactivity)
- CBN (a cannabinoid that comes from the aging of THC; may have mild psychoactive effects; acts indirectly on CB1 and CB2 receptors, binding much better to CB2 than CB1)
- CBD isolate (99% pure white powder made from distilled CBD extract from which all organic matter has been removed). The isolate is safer than full-spectrum CBD oil with regard to THC effects but requires a specific dosage range to be effective.
- CBD full-spectrum oil (there can be more effect with lower dosages than with the isolate but also more chance of THC presence). CBD oil is not an essential oil. It is a full-spectrum oil – usually from the hemp plant – that has been extracted using CO2, ethanol, or another substance. To date, there have been more than 400 different properties identified in the cannabis plant, and over 80 are cannabinoids.
Note: A 2017 study by Penn Medicine in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 69% of CBD oils tested were mislabeled either as to contaminants/adulterants or under-reporting of the % of THC present: https://www.pennmedicine.org/news/news-releases/2017/november/penn-study-shows-nearly-70-percent-of-cannabidiol-extracts-sold-online-are-mislabeled
For more information on CBD isolate versus full-spectrum oil, see:
- Beta-caryophyllene (a natural compound found in pure essential oils such as Copaiba (more than 50%, the highest content known on earth), Black Pepper (25%), Clove, Melissa, and Rosemary.
CB RECEPTORS – where are they located in the body?
CB receptors are found in the skin, eyes, hair, bone, brain, gut, organs, blood, fat, nerve cells, and mucosa of all systems in the body.
CB1 receptors are found primarily in the brain and central and peripheral nervous systems and in smaller numbers elsewhere in the body.
CB2 receptors are found primarily in the immune system and within immune cells and in smaller number in the brain and central and peripheral nervous systems.
Each CB receptor spans the outside and the inside of the cell (goes all the way through the cell membrane)!
SIGNALING – NEUROTRANSMITTERS versus CB RECEPTORS
Humans are large organisms requiring long-range cellular communication. For most systems and purposes, this transfer of information is achieved by nerve cells/neurons. When these cells are activated, they send electrical impulses along the distance of the cell’s body to a terminal at one end called a synapse. This is where CB1 receptors are typically located. Within the terminal, the nerve cell secretes a chemical messenger called a neurotransmitter. As they are released, neurotransmitters signal from the end of their neuron to the receiving terminal at the end of the next neuron, passing on the information they have received.
The ECS is deeply rooted within the nervous system. CB receptors are found on the nerve cells and modulate or control neurotransmitter behavior. The goal of CB receptor signaling is not simply the transfer of information; rather, it is to help the body achieve homeostasis (perfect balance). The ECS regulates both physical and mental health through the CB receptors, which unpack and translate messages, make necessary adjustments, and then dispatch the improved messages to their intended targets!
CB receptors can become damaged and ineffective and even lead to disease. Essential oils can clean receptor sites. Yes! Essential oils high in phenols such as Carvacrol, Thymol, and Eugenol are powerful in supporting CB receptor health and effectiveness. Consider using oils such as Basil, Clove, Cinnamon, Summer and Winter Savory, Marjoram, and Thyme.
BENEFITS FROM TARGETING (activating or blocking) CB RECEPTORS
CB1 receptor targeting:
- Regulation of memory and learning
- Synaptic plasticity
- Neuronal development
- Regulation of addiction and reward
- Pain reduction
- Reduction of neuro-inflammation and degeneration
- Regulation of metabolism
- Regulation of food intake
- Modulation of bone density
- Cardiovascular regulation
- Aid to induce sleep
- Over activation can contribute to weight gain and accumulation of body fat
- Plays a role in psychosis (too many receptors)
- Involved in insulin resistance
- Assists with pain
- Assists with liver injury or disease
- Assists to soothe neuropathic pain
- Addiction support
- Bone growth and repair
- Immune regulation and support
- Bowel and gut support
- Reduction in body fat mass
- Reduction in body weight gain
- Autoimmune disease (too many receptors)
HOW EFFECTIVE is CBD versus Copaiba in supporting the ECS?
Remember that effectiveness of a phytocannabinoid on the body comes from both dosage and the strength of the binding of the ligand to the cell receptor. In the case of CBD versus Copaiba, the difference is huge for a few reasons:
- CBD interacts with both CB1 and CB2 receptors but only indirectly. It is, therefore, more correctly identified as a modulator rather than a direct agent. Beta-caryophyllene interacts with ONLY CB2 receptors and does so directly.
- CBD isolate (synthetic) is 99% pure and much more likely than CBD oil to be effective in a targeted way. But most CBD is taken orally as oil. Taken in this way, only 6% is absorbed by the body (the rest is eliminated). It does not react directly with the surface or nucleus of the cell. Copaiba essential oil is composed 40-85% of beta-caryophyllene (doTERRA aims for about 50-55%), and every molecule acts directly with a receptor as well as inside the cell.
- There is no standard dosing for CBD oil, but it can be several ml up to a teaspoon, tablespoon, or dropper. The standard dose of Copaiba essential oil is only 1-2 drops. The difference in cost can be substantial, especially to achieve a significant result.
More work is currently being done by a research team at the Roseman University School of Pharmacy on the effectiveness of CBD versus Copaiba on pathways within various body systems to show the cascading effect of each over time.To date, the research has shown that doTERRA’s CPTG Copaiba essential oil outperforms CBD in significant and consistent ways.
WHAT DO WE CHOOSE?
We use essential oils such as doTERRA Frankincense and Copaiba to support the parts of the ECS involved with the brain and the central and peripheral nervous system and to support the immune system and to provide powerful anti-inflammatory soothing.
Two drops each of doTERRA Frankincense and Copaiba in veggie caps daily – especially with the addition of Turmeric dual capsules (essential oil and plant extract) – are a safe, effective, affordable, and easy to use solution to ECS support.
We also follow and recommend the blood type diet (including genotype and personalized nutrition) to assure that the omega-rich and other whole foods you eat are the best possible choices for YOUR individual body.
Wellness Made Simple directly offers products and services as a lifestyle and wellness coach and an essential oil educator and partners with medical professionals and research scientists for specialized testing and advice. The purpose of this post is not to deny the efficacy of CBD products but rather to explain why we choose to use Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade essential oils and natural supplements rather than CBD in any of its forms for relief and support. Contact us for specific recommendations for your situation or personalized coaching in this area.
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