Learn With Wikileaf: How Exactly Does CBD Treat Pain?

An in-depth look at how CBD interacts with our bodies.

Close up of a marijuana bud. iStock / Aleksandr_Kravtsov

Living with pain is not easy. However, pain is our body’s natural alarm system. Ignoring this alarm may lead to further damage throughout our body, but addressing it can help the body fully repair, allowing us to return to a more fulfilling life.

Today, cannabidiol (CBD) is being used as a natural alternative approach to relieving their mild to chronic pain. As more medical research continues to be published on the therapeutic properties of this powerful healing elixir, CBD continues to gain more popularity to the masses.

Pain and Inflammation

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury, infection, and illness. There are two common types of inflammation: acute and chronic.

Inflammation isn’t always a bad thing; in fact, it’s very normal. When we injure a part of our body, such as our knee, elbow, hand etc., our body responds with inflammation. Often times we see redness and swelling, and we feel pain. This inflammation is most commonly referred to as acute inflammation.

Inflammation

Female runner having an accident while exercising (iStock / nicoletaionescu )

When inflammation persists long term, it can lead to a number of inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis, asthma, Crohn’s disease, etc. This is known as chronic inflammation, and it’s usually the result of the immune system attacking the cells within the body. In the end, this inflammation is where we experience intense and persistent chronic pain.

So how does CBD help in treating pain? To fully understand this, we have to look at a very important system found within our body: the Endocannabinoid System (ECS).

Endocannabinoid System and Pain

Our body naturally produces endogenous cannabinoids and has its own system for handling cannabinoid-like molecules. Discovered in 1992, the ECS is a master control system responsible for regulating our mood, appetite, emotions, neurotransmitters, immune system, memory, cognitive function, motor control, reproduction, digestive system, metabolism, etc. It’s a system built of receptor cells, enzymes, and endocannabinoids. Unfortunately, this system is still largely unknown to the general public and physicians.

Our ECS is responsible for maintaining homeostatic balance — keeping everything as it should be. As it turns out, an endocannabinoid deficiency has been found in almost all major diseases, such as Crohn’s disease, PTSD, depression, anxiety, different types of cancer, etc. These diseases are a result of a disturbance in the ECS. However, from multiple studies, research has shown that bringing balance to the ECS will help in restoring homeostasis, which brings health to our overall body. When we help the ECS modulate and regulate our natural endocannabinoids, we can get closer to homeostasis, which helps prevent extreme cases of inflammation, irritation, and pain.

CBD and pain

CBD

iStock / VasilevKirill

Persistent inflammation results in chronic pain. This is caused by macrophages –– important large white blood cells found in the immune system, which find and consume bacteria, parasites, and viruses. These macrophages enter into an area where cytotoxins and cytokines are being released, causing inflammation and irritation. When CBD enters the body, it first acts as an analgesic on the neurotransmitters, relieving pain naturally. It then begins reducing inflammation, disease progression, and organ damage.

There are two endogenous cannabinoids naturally occurring within our body that scientists know about –– Anandamide and 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2AG). These two endocannabinoids are essential to our mental and immune health, as well as to how well we manage stress. They are also vital in maintaining homeostatic balance.

One of the main ways CBD helps in relieving pain is by preserving Anandamide –– an endogenous cannabinoid that naturally occurs in our body, also known as the “bliss molecule”. In fact, anandamide is the first endocannabinoid to be discovered within the ECS. Now, anandamide is a short-lived endocannabinoid released by neurons, which then breaks down fairly quickly within the body. What makes this molecule so important is that it helps in regulating our mood, memory, appetite, inflammation, and pain. But because anandamide breaks down so quickly, a deficiency can throw the ECS out of whack, causing chronic pain, inflammation, depression, anxiety, and a number of other ailments.

However, when CBD enters the ECS, it gets in the way of anandamide from being broken down too quickly, by binding to the proteins that break down this bliss molecule. By doing this, CBD helps anandamide stay in the system longer, which allows the ECS to regulate more efficiently.

Another way CBD helps in pain relief is by modulating and regulating endorphins. Endorphins are the feel-good chemicals found in the body that help with pain. Taking narcotics, painkillers (opioids), and heroin act as endorphins in the body. This causes the body to suppress our natural endorphins, making it that much harder to combat pain naturally. CBD does something completely different; it modulates and regulates endorphins. In other words, CBD helps increase our internal endorphins naturally, eliminating any risk of dependence on these synthetic drugs or opioids. Keep in mind that CBD is not as potent as an opioid; however, CBD will not negatively affect you in the long run.

CBD – The Jack of All Trades

In the end, what makes CBD so effective is that it acts as an adaptogen –– adapting to a particular situation by instituting the right kind of response that we need to maintain a homeostatic balance. Research from multiple studies has shown that CBD acts as a powerful pain reliever. Everyone’s body is different, and people respond to CBD in different ways. If you’re struggling with pain, CBD may be a natural alternative to explore.

Learn With Wikileaf: How Exactly Does CBD Treat Pain? was last modified: by
Joy Hughes
About Joy Hughes
Joy Hughes is a freelance writer and digital nomad. She writes about CBD, Health and wellness.