Inflammation is part of the body’s immune response system and acts as a defence mechanism for our bodies in healing damaged cells and pathogens. Our bodies need an inflammatory response system in order to heal wounds, infections and to repair damaged tissue.5 physical signs of acute inflammation:
However, sometimes inflammation can persist longer than necessary causing more harm than good. This results in chronic inflammation and can have serious repercussions on the body, such as rheumatoid arthritis, depression and even some types of cancers.
There are several things that can cause chronic inflammation:
The endocannabinoid system plays a significant role in inflammation and the regulation of the immune system, so a brief overview of the system is beneficial when discussing CBD.The endocannabinoid system involves:
Evidence indicates that both CB1 and CB2 are expressed by cells of the immune system and are upregulated in the activation state. Levels of CB2 appear to be higher than those of CB1 with decreasing amounts of CB2 in human B cells, NK cells, monocytes, polymorph nuclear neutrophils and T cells.
Macrophages and related cells, microglia and osteoclasts, express both cannabinoid receptors. CB2 activation of immune cells is associated with changes in cytokine release and migration.
There are many suggestions being put forward by healthcare professionals as to how best treat acute and chronic inflammation. Changes in diet, daily exercise and non-steroidal and anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin, are all suggested remedies for combatting inflammation.
However, a substantial amount of research studies are now beginning to show that CBD oil and CBD-based products can act as serious weapons in combatting inflammation and the side effects associated with it.
Marc Feldman, Imperial College London, tested the theory that CBD could be used to treat symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune disorders and the side effects associated with these. Feldman tested CBD on mice that have a version of rheumatoid arthritis and found that CBD reduced the mice’s inflammation by 50% by administering the right dosage.
Similarly, at Hebrew University, cardiologists also experimented on mice and found that administering CBD immediately following a heart attack can reduce infarct size by up to 66%.
CBD has been shown to modulate the function of the immune system in a number of ways by the:
It is now suggested and widely accepted that in most cases of inflammation CBD lessens inflammatory cell migration. During neuro-inflammation, activated microglial cells migrate towards the site of injury where they release pro-inflammatory cytokines. Although important in the removal of fighting infection, activated microglial cells often aggravate local cell damage. CBD was shown to suppress activated microglial cell migration by antagonizing the abnormal cannabidiol sensitive receptor at concentrations.
Important to note, however, is that a complete understanding of the anti-inflammatory powers of CBD on microglial cells is not yet available.
The past decade has seen a wave of new research which directly and indirectly links inflammation to some mental health conditions such as depression, insomnia and anxiety. Growing evidence now suggests that pro-inflammatory cytokines and oxidative stress are two contributors to the aetiology of depression.
One explanation put forward for this is that the resultant oxidative stress adversely affects glial cell functions which, in turn, leads to neuron damage in the brain. CBD is now becoming widely accepted as having anti-depressive properties. The exact basis for this has not yet been fully established, but it is suggested that activation of 5-HT1A receptors may be involved, more so at higher levels of dosage.
According to Robert Zembroski, DC, DACNB, a functional neurologist, conditions such as the above mentioned are now challenging previous theories and beliefs about what can trigger mental illness. There is a growing number of studies now suggesting that a wide range of psychological conditions all have one important element in common: inflammation.
The pursuit to pinpoint the causes of mental illness has seen the scope of research connecting mental conditions, like depression and insomnia, directly to areas of the environment and our genes. The nature V’s nurture debate can be used here to explain the role the immune system plays in our brain’s health. Simply put, the nature V’s nurture theory involves whether or not human behaviour is determined by the environment, either prenatal or over the course of one’s life, or instead by a person’s genes.
Based on the evidence being put forward it would seem that issues of depression and other mental health disorders could actually dip in and out of both sides of the nature V’s nurture debate in relation to inflammation and its side effects.
On the one hand, inflammation can be caused by our own doing, for example, through physical injury. If left untreated chronic inflammation can occur which could, in turn, lead to feelings of depression or, as suggested, suicidal thoughts. This highlights the nurturing side of the nature V’s nurture debate.On the other hand, the human body can, all by itself, produce too many pro-inflammatory cytokines which can equally lead to the feelings of depression and suicide spoken about above. This nature side of the debate holds our genes directly responsible
for this, suggesting that depression, and indeed other mental disorders, are a part of our genetic make-up, something we are born with rather than learned.
Zembroski theorises that the amygdala, the part of the brain that plays a role in processing emotions, can be directly affected by inflammation. When the immune system starts to attack healthy parts of the body in the form of chronic inflammation symptoms like depression, anxiety, insomnia and hallucinations can begin to develop. Furthermore, recent studies have found higher levels of inflammation in patients who suffer with PTSD, chronic fatigue, depression and suicidal thoughts.
The process of inflammation causes the release of cytokines which come in many different forms, such as pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines. Behaving as messengers, cytokines signal cells of the immune system to act in a pro or anti- inflammatory way.
A multitude of physical and psychological side effects can be caused by pro- inflammatory cytokines, which is often referred to as ‘sickness behaviour’. Emerging research has been able to demonstrate how the symptoms of sickness behaviour mirror those of depression, with healthcare professionals now beginning to understand, and vocalise, the connection between inflammation and mental disorders, like that of depression.
Research studies being carried out in the United States have recently produced evidence which reinforces the idea of a significant link between inflammation and the cause of depression. One study found that patients with major depressive disorder had significantly higher levels of pro-inflammatory cytokine than their non-depressed counterparts. Similarly, patients with diagnosed depression had showed low levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines.
It is important to note here that there is still a general consensus in the healthcare profession that psychiatric disorders are not inflammatory conditions, so that not all patients who are diagnosed with a mental disorder will benefit from reduced inflammation. And equally, not all patients who suffer with inflammation experience serious mood disorders. However, it is safe to say that reducing inflammation is extremely beneficial for your body, brain and longevity.
Inflammation is intimately involved in the genesis of a wide range of human diseases, both physical and psychological. Therapeutically understanding this relationship has proven challenging, but extensive research over the last decade has evidenced that CBD is a promising starting point for further drug development in relation to inflammation and the side effects associated with it. This is due to CBD’s anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant actions on immune cells.
One attribute CBD offers is that the user will not experience psychoactive side effects from using the drug, this is because it does not contain THC. This allows the patient to reap the natural healing benefits CBD has to offer, while being safe in the knowledge that no psychoactive experiences will occur.
What is interesting about the CBD movement is that more and more advocates of the drug are now proclaiming its healing properties, and it seems the medical world has also begun to similarly share this belief, albeit at a relatively slow pace.
However, the therapeutic nature of CBD is still a relatively new area of investigation that foretells new discoveries of the interplaying relationship between CBD and inflammatory diseases.
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CBD is claimed to have superior health benefits over that of modern
prescription medication in areas of anxiety, seizures, epilepsy, sports-related
injuries, insomnia, skin conditions, chronic pain, depression and other forms
of mental and psychical illnesses.