Speak to anyone who takes CBD oil on a regular basis and you will often hear how they experience increased wellbeing. Defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as a “state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy”, wellbeing can often feel out of our grasp. So why does CBD oil in particular seem to encourage sensations of wellness?
Turns out, CBD oil appears to bring about balance in our bodies and minds by encouraging something called homeostasis - the physiological tendency to move towards equilibrium.
Throughout millions of years of evolution, the human body has developed its own internal setting that allows us to be healthy and happy. Due to internal and external fluctuations, constant adjustments are required to maintain biological balance. This is known as homeostatic regulation. Therefore homeostasis can be thought of as a dynamic equilibrium rather than a constant, unchanging state.
Homeostasis is present throughout all systems in the body. However, by using the example of our endocrine system (which controls the production of hormones), we can understand how there is a kind of feedback loop in maintaining homeostasis.
Hormones regulate cell activity and are released when there is some kind of stimulus. This either increases or decreases the amount of hormones secreted. This self-adjusting mechanism is called feedback regulation, which can be negative when reducing the original stimulus or positive when the opposite occurs.
This constant adjusting is not confined to the production of our hormones. Every one of our biological systems - urinary, reproductive, cardiovascular, lymphatic, respiratory, digestive, neurological - are constantly going through second by second changes in order to maintain balance.
Take for instance the optimal balance between two key neurotransmitters: the calming gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and the excitatory, glutamate. Glutamate is an extremely important neurotransmitter sending messages between brain cells. When in balance, glutamate plays a key role in learning and memory, however, too much glutamate can lead to excitotoxicity and cell death. GABA modulates excitatory pathways in the brain, basically keeping its counterpart glutamate from causing havoc. An example of how dangerous an imbalance between GABA and glutamate can be, is seen in cases of traumatic brain injury, where too much glutamate and too little GABA causes brain damage. Excess glutamate is also a contributing factor in damage caused to brain cells in neurodegenerative diseases.
What happens when homeostasis is disrupted?
Human beings aren’t hermetically sealed into perfect environments. The reality is we are constantly bombarded with pollutants and toxins in our over-contaminated worlds, as well as the ones we choose to ingest such as sugar and alcohol. Then there’s the skyrocketing stress levels experienced by most of us in the 21st century, leading to a cascade of negative effects across all our biological systems.
Consequently, the task of maintaining internal balance has never been more difficult. This could explain why we seem to be struggling with greater levels of diseases such as cancer, autoimmune conditions, and mental health disorders.
The Endocannabinoid System - The Key To Maintaining Homeostasis
But what if I told you our bodies had a master homeostatic regulator, helping to maintain balance across all the systems in our bodies?
It’s called the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and was discovered at the beginning of the 1990s when scientists were trying to understand the effects of cannabis on the body. They discovered a vast network of receptors in our brains (CB1 and CB2), central nervous and immune systems that are activated by cannabis-like chemicals called endocannabinoids.
The ECS has been likened to a dimmer switch, turning activity in our cells up or down in order to bring about homeostasis. This particularly applies to neurotransmitter regulation. Stress, excess alcohol, and poor diet as thought to weaken the ECS, with endocannabinoid deficiency being linked to many modern day malaises such as fibromyalgia, migraines, and IBS.
Thankfully, the endocannabinoid system can be strengthened by compounds in hemp, either by activating the CB1 and CB2 receptors (as in the case of THC), or indirectly through inhibiting the breakdown of endocannabinoids themselves.
CBD = Balance
This is the case with CBD which blocks fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), the molecule responsible for breaking down anandamide, one of the two key endocannabinoids in the ECS. Consequently, anandamide gets to hang out in our bodies doing its mood enhancing, anti-inflammatory effect for longer. Not only that, CBD activates many other non-ECS receptors in the body related to mood, inflammation, cell proliferation, and body temperature.
All this explains why CBD appears to have such an overall positive effect on our wellbeing. However, helping our body return to homeostasis doesn’t happen overnight. That’s why regular use of CBD oil over at least two months is key to achieving any meaningful, wellbeing benefits. One should also be mindful of choosing a quality, organic CBD oil such as our whole plant Spirit of Hemp CBD + CBDA oils infused with extra terpenes.
If you have any questions about which of our CBD oils are right for you, please don’t hesitate to contact our customer support team who are always on hand to give their advice.
By Mary Biles
Mary Biles is an ex-TV producer, writer and educator with a background in holistic health. In the past, she’s written for the Huffington Post, CNN, and the BBC. While living in Southern Spain, her path crossed with the medicinal properties of the cannabis plant, and for the last three years she’s been writing about cannabinoids, in particular CBD, European medical cannabis research, and the endocannabinoid system. Now based in the UK, Mary is passionate about putting medical cannabis science into digestible terms; where possible going straight to source and interviewing the scientists behind the breakthroughs. Her website is here.