There is a growing body of research on how cannabinoids interact with the brain. Breakthroughs were made in the 1960s by a team of Israeli scientists led by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam. Since then, the endocannabinoid system has been discovered in the human body—the system these cannabinoids interact with.
The laws governing cannabis and its chemical components have loosened up. And the anecdotes that have emerged from what Elizabeth Thiele, an epileptologist at Harvard, calls the “vernacular” cannabis movement have lent emotional force to the claims made for CBD.
Dubbed tetrahydrocannabiphorol and cannabidiolic acid, or THCP, and CBDP, the two cannabinoids join the ever-expanding list of compounds in cannabis. The pair may help researchers identify the medical components of cannabis, says Giuseppe Cannazza, corresponding author and assistant professor at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy. In the brain, THC mimics something known as the “bliss molecule,” or anandamide, a chemical that naturally occurs in the body.
When we think cannabis, most of us think of the chemical THC — although CBD is quickly rising in popularity, too. Both cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol, to give them their full names, are cannabinoids — chemical compounds found in marijuana. But while they are the most famous, they are far from the only cannabinoids. To say the science of the human brain is complicated is putting it mildly. The scientific community understands more about the most mind-blowing and complicated astrophysics than they do about how the human brain works.
There is remarkable serendipity in humans (and other animals) evolving a biological system directly responsive to cannabis. Although federal and state laws hemp seed oil for hair are inconsistent about the legality of cannabis production, its increasingly documented health benefits make it once again relevant in medicine.
Israeli scientists have found that CBD can lessen the incidence of graft-versus-host disease in bone-marrow transplant patients, presumably because the cannabinoid calms the immune system and deters it from attacking the patient. THC may also have therapeutic uses, particularly in treating the pain that often puts people on a path leading toward opioid addiction. Several studies have found that cancer patients need fewer opioid painkillers if they’re also using cannabis. And opioid-related deaths have declined in states that legalized medical cannabis, suggesting that people who have access to less-addictive options for pain management may not be as likely to become hooked on opioids. Plenty of legitimate, if still inconclusive, research is being done on CBD.