In the field of natural healthcare, I could mark time by the latest trending superfood, super-nutrient, magic-bullet herb or diet.  Remember back in the Master-cleanse Era of 2003?  Goji berries, glutothione, and krill oil all had their moments in the sun too.

These are all good things; it’s just the way that they’re marketed that irritates me.  It’s like, all of a sudden, “don’t we know that this will cure everything you have?!” 

The late 2010s marks the beginning of CBD oil fascination.  We all want to know – is this something that would help me?

The answer – as for any trendy nutrient or herb – is –

It depends.

  • your own unique chemistry 
  • your body’s needs
  • what else you’re taking

What I can do is tell you a little more about your body’s cannabinoid system and how CBD (and THC) react with it.   

Your body contains – naturally – cannabinoid receptor sites. 

Your body regulates these receptor sites naturally – with or without taking hemp or marijuana.  The chemicals in your body that react with these receptor sites are called endogenous ligands.

The main receptors in your body for cannabinoids and endogenous ligands are called “CB1” and “CB2.” 

CB1 activation mostly happens in your brain and can include increased appetite, pain reduction, and reduced psychological stress. 

CB1 activation areas

CB2 activation happens in a broader part of your body:  brain, immune cells, GI tract, and peripheral nerves.

CB2 activation areas

Depending on your diet, stress levels, and some genetic tendencies, CB1 and CB2 receptors can stay in balance all by themselves or not.  Some people may have more of one receptor than the other.  Or your body can favor activation of one system over the other.

Hemp and marijuana plants both contain cannabinoids, which are the some of the components that attach to the receptor sites and activate them. 

THC is a psychoactive component (meaning that it gets you “high”).  CBD is not by itself psychoactive.  Hemp is <.3% THC and 15% CBD whereas most recreational marijuana is around 20% THC and 2% CBD. 

Smoking marijuana – or ingesting in some way THC – activates mostly CB1. 

For different people, this will affect you in different ways.  Some people eat too much (the “munchies”) and sit on the couch (the calming effect). 

For some people with PTSD, anxiety, or depression, it may help.  Since there is currently no way of testing what kind of receptor sites your body has and in what condition they are, if *you decide to use THC medicinally, start with a very low dose and go from there.  *If it’s legal where you live, of course.

CBD supplements focus more on CB2 activation. 

So for people with nerve system problems, epilepsy or pain, or people who get drug-tested at work, this may be a better choice.

The effect of diet on cannabinoid receptor expression is interesting as well.

The Standard American Diet, or SAD ( 😆 ) is heavily loaded in omega 6 oils.  This includes almost all prepackaged foods.  Try this:  the next time you buy a bag of chips, cereal, bread, or pretty much anything that comes wrapped in a box or in plastic, read the label.  If it contains:  soybean oil, canola oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, or cottonseed oil, it’s an omega 6 oil.  Also:  this is what most restaurants are cooking your food in. 

We do need some omega 6 oils in our diet, but to effectively reduce the likelihood of obesity and overall body pain and inflammation, we need to optimize and favor omega 3s in our diets.  Omega 3s are our body’s sources of DHA and EPA. 

Omega 3 oils actually preserve your endogenous (meaning naturally inside your body) cannabinoids.  In a laboratory study, CB1 and CB2 cells light up in the presence of certain oils.  More CB1 and CB2 activity happens in the presence of CBD oil and with omega 3 oils.  The most activity happens in the presence of both oils. 
In the presence of omega 6 oils, not much happens to the CB1 and CB2 receptors.  Slavko Komanytsky, PhD lab
Also:  fun fact:  omega 3 oils have been shown to increase the overall number of CB1 and CB2 receptor sites.  The omega 3 oils seem to make your body a more habitable environment for endocannabinoids.  Brown I, Cascio MG, Wahle KWJ, Smoum R, Mechoulam R, et al. (2010) Cannabinoid receptor… Carcinogenesis 31:1584-1591
So, in short, CBD oil can be a balanced part of your supplement schedule.  Especially when it’s combined with a healthy diet. But, even just having a healthy diet (low on processed foods, and high in omega 3-rich foods and always a variety of vegetables) can preserve your body’s natural “high” by itself!