In the Cannabis Encyclopedia, the author Jorge Cervantes hypothesizes that a primitive gatherer woman going through a painful menstruation first discovered the medicinal properties of cannabis. After gathering the seeds of the plant, she probably licked the sticky oils that remained in her hands and magically the painful symptoms abated. This is how first humans became acquainted with the pain reducing and anxiolytic effects of cannabis and particularly cannabidiol or CBD.
The Scythians, the Chinese, the Assyrians and the Indians have all used cannabis as food, as raw material in rope and fiber making, in poultices, in oils and in ceremony. Cannabis products were widely used in the ancient world for and healing purposes. Ethnobotanists and archaeologists have suggested that in the legendary anointing oils of Moses and Jesus Christ, cannabis was one of the main ingredients and in Herodotus’s Histories we have a reference of the healing properties of cannabis.
A fast-track beginner’s course in cannabis would start with a basic distinction of the two main phytocannabinoids contained in this plant: THC and CBD. The lovely THC is in charge for the psychoactive effects of cannabis, such as visions, esotericism, inspiration and spiritual connections, what cannabis lovers around the world describe as feeling “high”. However, the pain relieving and anxiolytic (stress-reducing) effects of cannabis are a gift of CBD.
Research into the medicinal effects of cannabis led scientists to look into the body’s own endocannabinoid system. Endocannabinoids are made in our body to send signals from one nerve cell to the other. Scientists found that endocannabinoids naturally occurring in our bodies and phytocannabinoids in cannabis have similar effects: reduction of pain, relaxation of the nervous system, reduction of body temperature and many more.
Nowadays, there is plenty of scientific and anecdotal evidence that one of the properties of CBD is to trigger the release of pleasure hormones that relax the mind. These hormones naturally relieve stress, anxiety, insomnia and other stress-related conditions. However, because there is an integral relationship between the plant’s active components and the body’s endocannabinoid system, the beneficial effects of CBD go past stress relief. CBD is a homeostatic regulator that helps every single system of the organism adapt to internal and external stressors, aids homeostasis and soothes inflammation.
Stress can be highly useful depending on the situation. It was stress that helped our ancestors run like the wind to avoid dangerous predators and it is stress that primes our bodies to react quickly in response to danger by compelling our adrenals to release cortisol. The cortisol needs to be physically released by running (the flight response) or fighting (the fight response) or any variation of these physical expressions.
Now that we rarely produce cortisol to escape a lion but mostly as a reaction to upcoming deadlines, parking tickets, tax season and immigration interviews, we are not necessarily compelled to physically release stress hormones. Cortisol that stays trapped within the system can cause chaos, such as abnormalities in blood pressure, in heart function, in cognition, neuron damage, endocrine imbalance and much more. Chronic stress affects every system in the human organism, oxidizing and throwing out of balance the sophisticated ecosystem that a body is.
However, CBD could help restore balance to the endocannabinoid system by preventing overstimulation of our CB1 receptors and by boosting our body’s production of endocannabinoids.
Scientists believe that CBD’s ability to reduce anxiety is due to its propensity to partially activate the serotonin 5HT1a receptors, which have the strongest role in anxiety disorders.
CBD has the ability to not only counteract the effects of stress but also help undo the damage of chronic stress. Although chronic stress can damage neurons and even shrink brains, there are areas of the brain capable of regeneration. Throughout our lives we continue to form new neurons, make new connections, and grow our brains, although this process slows down significantly as we age —CBD encourages neural regeneration in the hippocampus.
In 1996 Dr. Tod Mikuriya compiled a list with all chronic conditions that can be effectively treated with cannabis. Stress is only one of the many conditions that CBD and cannabis can treat. The synergistic effect and ongoing relationships between cannabis’ phytocannabinoids and mammal endocannabinoids has been studied for millennia. By choosing CBD we are not putting our trust in a modern but an ancient medicine that has been a trusted ally for our ancestors throughout many generations.
Article written by, Marianna Kokkinak