As research progresses, we are coming to realize the phenomenal power of the cannabis plant. In years past, the study of this hardy “weed” has been limited due to its legal status in North America and much of the world.
Now that restrictions are lifting, science is freer to explore medical cannabis’ chemistry and implications for human health.
How Cannabis Works
Within cannabis phytochemistry is a group of over 85 compounds called cannabinoids.
The human nervous and digestive systems contain endocannabinoid receptors and the body makes its own cannabinoids that are responsible for sleep, appetite, movement, and emotion. (1)
Terpenes form another family of compounds in cannabis that have also been indicated for the treatment of pain.
Both cannabinoids and terpenes are anti-inflammatory and analgesic. Our bodies are made to metabolize these phytochemicals in cannabis.
The property of cannabis that became (an absurd) stigma is its psychoactivity and is what prompted all varieties of the plant to be made illegal—even hemp, which is devoid of this characteristic.
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THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is responsible for the “high” feeling but it’s just one cannabinoid. Most cannabinoids aren’t psychoactive and all have healing effects.
Cannabis for Pain
An area of human health for which cannabis has been particularly effective is in the treatment of chronic pain. The mechanism by which CBD works to relieve pain is complex.
Peripheral nerves contain cannabinoid receptors. Once CBD enters the bloodstream, it attaches to receptors and blocks pain signals from reaching the brain.
Beta-caryophyllene is another non-psychoactive cannabinoid involved in the process. This substance has a different molecular structure than most other cannabinoids to provide a dual approach to inflammation and neural pain reception. Beta-caryophyllene can be found in other plants, such as oregano, basil, black pepper, and cinnamon. (2)
Cannabinoids not only block pain but also reduce inflammation that leads to pain. Plus, they regulate the immune system to support the body’s efforts to heal itself. (3)