What are Cannabinoids? The cannabis plant has over 80 known cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds naturally found within the cannabis plant. They have been shown through research to have powerful medicinal value. Cannabinoids are not only found in the cannabis plant but in other plants like black pepper, clove, garlic, and broccoli just to name a few.
Cannabinoids work with our body by binding to either the CB1 or CB2 receptors. These receptors are found in our endocannabinoid systems.
What is the Endocannabinoid System? The endocannabinoid system’s receptors are located all throughout the body, in places like the brain, spinal cord, and vital organs. They are ready and willing to receive cannabinoids. Dr. Sulak, a doctor of osteopathic medicine contributed an article to Healer about the endocannabinoid system. He says, “The ECS is perhaps the most important physiologic system involved in establishing and maintaining human health. Endocannabinoids and their receptors are found throughout the body: in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells. In each tissue, the cannabinoid system performs different tasks, but the goal is always the same: homeostasis, the maintenance of a stable internal environment despite fluctuations in the external environment. Cannabinoids promote homeostasis at every level of biological life, from the sub-cellular, to the organism, and perhaps to the community and beyond.”
CBD and Its Medicinal Value While we do have a ways to go in terms of learning, the cannabinoid CBD has already been widely studied both anecdotally and academically. CBD was discovered in the 1940s by an American chemist named Roger Adams. Not only did Adams identify CBD, he was the first to isolate it and published 27 studies on cannabis in the American Journal of Chemistry. Adams is also said to be the first one to discover, but not isolate, THC. The chemist also developed the “Adams scale” a system designed to measure the potency of cannabinoids. This method is still used by researchers today.
Additionally, a study published in the journal Pain, analyzed whether CBD could prevent osteoarthritis pain and joint neuropathy. Based on what they found, researchers affirmed that it succeeded at both because it decreased joint inflammation as well as served as a protectant to the nerves. Michael Backes, the author of Cannabis Pharmacy: The Practical Guide to Medical Marijuana, says in his book, “Endocannabinoids appear to be profoundly connected with the concept of homeostasis (maintaining physiological stability), helping redress specific imbalances presented by disease or by injury. Endocannabinoids’ role in pain signaling has led to the hypothesis that endocannabinoid levels may be responsible for the baseline of pain throughout the body, which is why cannabinoid-based medicines may be useful in treating conditions such as fibromyalgia (a condition marked by muscular pain and stiffness). This could also mean that the constant release of the body’s own endocannabinoids could have a “tonic” effect on muscle tightness (spasticity) in multiple sclerosis, neuropathic pain, inflammation, and even baseline appetite. The value of proper “endocannabinoid tone” throughout the body could be very significant to general well-being.”
Researchers are studying the possibility of CBD’s effectiveness in treating various psychiatric disorders. A study published in Current Pharmaceutical Design showed that CBD is a potentially safe and effective treatment for schizophrenia patients. Project CBD also says “Jose Alexandre Crippa and his colleagues at the University of San Paulo in Brazil and King’s College in London have conducted pioneering research into CBD and the neural correlates of anxiety. At high concentrations, CBD directly activates the 5-HT1A (hydroxytryptamine) serotonin receptor, thereby conferring an anti-anxiety effect. This G-coupled protein receptor is implicated in a range of biological and neurological processes, including (but not limited to) anxiety, addiction, appetite, sleep, pain perception, nausea and vomiting. 5-HT1A is a member of the family of 5-HT receptors, which are activated by the neurotransmitter serotonin. Found in both the central and peripheral nervous systems, 5-HT receptors trigger various intracellular cascades of chemical messages to produce either an excitatory or inhibitory response, depending on the chemical context of the message.”
America’s Sleeping Epidemic and The Problem With Prescription Sleep Aids Did you know it is estimated that 50 to 70 million Americans struggle with some form of a sleeping problem? The CDC says insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic. Lack of sleep is thought to be a contributing factor for many different health issues such as depression, hypertension, and diabetes. And even if one of these serious conditions don’t plague you, lack of sleep leaves you irritable and functioning minimally...at best. So, what is the solution? Prescription sleeping pills have been shown to cause depression, hallucinations, and headaches with long-term use. Physical side effects aren’t the only concern when it comes to sleeping pills. The Addiction Center says that many prescription sleep aids come with a high risk for abuse. According to their article, most doctors only prescribe sleeping pills for sporadic use, when sleeping is presenting itself as a true issue that night. So what happens when the patient’s sleeping problems are a consistent issue, or they begin to want the feeling of relaxation they get when they take their pill? That is how addiction begins.
In MD Philip Denney’s testimony to the Arkansas state legislature in support of House Bill 1303, “An Act to Permit the Medical Use of Marijuana” he said, “I have found in my study of these patients that cannabis is really a safe, effective and non-toxic alternative to many standard medications. There is no such thing as an overdose. We have seen very minimal problems with abuse or dependence, which at worst are equivalent to dependence on caffeine. While a substance may have some potential for misuse, in my opinion, that’s a poor excuse to deny its use and benefit to everyone else.” It is important to point out something Dr. Denney said. There is no such thing as an overdose. We cannot say the same for many prescription medications on the market today.
So then let’s talk about CBD as an alternative to traditional sleeping medications. It has been shown to be a non-addictive compound in the cannabis plant, and its absent psychoactive effects remove the concern of habitual use to chase “the high.” Dr. Walter S. Loewe conducted the first CBD test on lab animals. These tests proved that CBD doesn’t cause an altered mental state. Anecdotally, the defense for CBD as a sleep aid is strong. From a research standpoint, CBD has hinted towards promise in treating REM sleep behavior disorder and excessive daytime sleepiness. The National Center for Biotechnology Information published a study suggesting CBD’s potential therapeutic effects as a sleep aid.
Joseph Maroon, a clinical professor and neurosurgeon at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has extensively researched the effects of cannabis on the brain. He says that CBD contains properties that could make people sleep better, but that he doesn’t see it as a treatment for insomnia. He describes it as an “alternative natural method to help calm anxious thoughts that often delay or interrupt natural sleep.”
Okay, so what if you don’t have anxiety? You know that isn’t the root cause of your sleeping issues. Are you SOL with CBD as a sleep aid? Not quite. As mentioned above, the way cannabinoids work with our endocannabinoid system is by manipulating the receptors to promote the restoration of homeostasis within our bodies. There is no one way for cannabinoids to work, so it doesn’t just rid our minds of anxious thoughts and call it a day. Homeostasis can be achieved in many forms, like eliminating pain and healing the digestive system, both of which can negatively impact our sleep. In other words, even if you don’t have presenting symptoms, our bodies can have issues going on that we don’t even know about. When homeostasis is restored, even the resolution of the smallest of problems can create a huge chain reaction. Even without the process of homeostasis, CBD has been shown to have sedative effects on its own.
Another Cannabinoid Comes into Play CBD is not the only cannabinoid in the mix. Like we said, there are over 80 that we know of so far. One of these cannabinoids being cannabinol, or CBN. CBN is not as well known as THC or CBD, but it deserves attention. CBN actually does not exist naturally in the fresh cannabis plant. There is a process that happens over time through oxygenation and decomposition of the plant that produces CBN. CBN stems from cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) in cannabis. The cannabis plant’s naturally occurring enzymes (aka synthases) are responsible for converting CBGA into one of the following three cannabinoids: cannabichromene carboxylic acid or CBCA, cannabidiol carboxylic acid or CBDA, and tetrahydrocannabinol carboxylic acid or THCA. In this case, CBN breaks down into THCA. Due to time and air exposure, the THCA breaks down into another compound called cannabinolic acid, or CBNA for short. The process takes its final step and CBNA becomes CBN through heat and light exposure.
Analytical Cannabis says CBN is currently regarded as a sedative compound that can potentially help people suffering from insomnia. Cresco Labs is a cannabis producer throughout the United States and they also say CBN can be used effectively as a sleep aid or sedative. The reason CBN can do this is because it is a perfect fit for our endocannabinoid system’s CB2 receptor. The CB2 receptor is located throughout our immune tissue in the body. There are CB2 receptors in our digestive systems and some of our vital organs like our heart and spleen. When the CB2 receptors receive cannabinoids like CBN, the cannabinoids begin to manipulate the receptors to promote homeostasis.
The British Journal of Pharmacology also did a study on CB2 receptors in our digestive tract. They say, “the presence and function of the CB2 receptor in the GI tract, whilst not yet well characterized, holds great promise due to its immunomodulatory roles in inflammatory systems and its lack of psychotropic effects. This review of our current knowledge of CB2 receptors in the gastrointestinal tract highlights its role in regulating abnormal motility, modulating intestinal inflammation and limiting visceral sensitivity and pain. CB2 receptors represent a braking system and a pathophysiological mechanism for the resolution of inflammation and many of its symptoms. CB2 receptor activation, therefore, represents a very promising therapeutic target in gastrointestinal inflammatory states where there is immune activation and motility dysfunction.”
Cannabis and Its Place In History According to History, “Marijuana, also known as cannabis or pot, has a long history of human use. Most ancient cultures didn’t grow the plant to get high, but as herbal medicine, likely starting in Asia around 500 BC. The history of cannabis cultivation in America dates back to the early colonists, who grew hemp for textiles and rope. Political and racial factors in the 20th century led to the criminalization of marijuana in the United States, though its legal status is changing in many places.” The oldest piece of evidence supporting cannabis use was found in a 2,500-year-old cemetery in Western China. They found burnt wooden vessels similar to what we consider to be pipes today, with residue still on them. University of Chinese Academy of Science archaeologist Yemin Yang and his colleagues used chromatography/mass spectrometry to analyze small samples of the charred wood and the residue from the stones. Their analysis came back showing the plant matter contained high levels of CBN.
Terpenes and the Entourage Effect We know that CBN and CBD both have sedative effects. In addition to that, we have learned that the rehabilitation of our bodies’ inner workings when cannabinoids are introduced improves our sleep because of homeostasis, regardless if sleep is the primary issue at hand. But, cannabinoids are not the only chemical compound in cannabis that provide these calming effects.
Terpenes are another compound in the cannabis plant. It is responsible for keeping the plant safe from potential threats in the wild. There are over 100 known terpenes in the cannabis plant. Terpenes release a strong odor that wards off potential predators. It is what gives cannabis its distinct smell. Terpenes are not only found in cannabis. You can find terpenes in bay leaves, black pepper, and pine to name a few. Terpenes do not only provide protection to the plant, but also provide medicinal benefits. Terpenes and cannabinoids working together are part of the concept known as “the entourage effect.” This is the idea that when all chemical compounds and parts of the cannabis plant are used, they produce an entourage effect. In other words, compounds aid the other properties in cannabis to do their job, ultimately yielding better results. So when cannabinoids and terpenes are present, both of their medicinal properties are applied and they can synergistically work together for best results.
Myrcene is a terpene found in cannabis and it has been shown to produce pain-relieving effects. This terpene is also well known for its sedative effects, proving especially useful for those looking to use cannabis to improve their sleep. You can find myrcene in mangoes, thyme, lemongrass, and basil. Myrcene has also been linked to anti-inflammatory and antibiotic effects and has an earthy smell.
Linalool is another terpene, most notably recognized for its floral fragrance. Linalool has been credited for its anti-anxiety and sedative effects, seen in a study done on lab mice. Linalool is found in lavender and other common plants. It is said to be so common in other foods that even those who do not use cannabis are thought to consume over two grams of linalool alone each year.
The terpene terpinolene has actually not been shown to have pain relieving and anti-inflammatory effects like many other terpenes in the plant. It does, however, lead researchers to believe it has a case for being a sedative as well as reducing anxiety. Terpinolene’s smell is classified as piney or woody, with hints of citrus and herbal spice. Its strong smell makes it a popular choice for things like soaps, insect repellants, and perfumes.
The Right Sleep Supplement Now that your interest has been piqued on an alternative sleeping solution, it is important to find the right one. Our partnership with Alchemyst Lab allows us to provide a CBN distillate that is formulated with premium CBN. Allowing all of these compounds to work together will produce the previously mentioned “entourage effect,” allowing for this product to give the user the best possible results when it comes to improving their sleep. A non-addictive sleep aid, perfect for inducing a restful and restorative night’s sleep. It is important to discuss this option with your doctor before trying. We can't wait to bring that to you! COMING VERY SOON!
Written By: Kaitlin Domangue
Kaitlin is an experienced cannabis writer providing topics on medicinal cannabis, cannabis news, resource articles and more. She has written articles for Cannabis Magazine and Green Market report. Kaitlin is a medical cannabis supporter and advocate from Missouri, determined to change the stigma against the plant. She has a fantastic husband and 4 wonderful kids.