By Prof. Gene Bruno, MS, MHS, RH(AHG)
Huntington College of Health Sciences
Recently I’ve been spending a great deal of time studying the research on the effect that CBD and phytocannabinoids have on the endocannabinoid system. In discussing this research with colleagues, I was interested to learn that some people were concerned that supplementation with CBD/phytocannabinoids might interfere with the body’s own production of endocannabinoids—much in the same way that getting testosterone injections causes the body to make less of its own testosterone.
I’m pleased to report that this concern is unfounded. Unlike the testosterone in injections which are essentially the same chemical structure as that of your body’s own testosterone, phytocannabinoids are not the same chemical structure as the endocannabinoids produced in the body. It works this way.
N-arachidonylethanolamide (AEA) and sn-2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) are the two prominent endocannabinoids produced in the body, which bind with receptors within the endocannabinoid system (eCS). After this occurs, an enzyme in the body called fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) breaks down AEA and 2-AG—which means that there are now less endocannabinoids present to do their job. Combined with other factors (e.g. inadequate consumption of phytocannabinoids containing foods such as broccoli, cabbage, carrots, parsley,1 sunflower seeds and peas2), this can result in suboptimal functioning of the eCB system, also known as “eCB deficiency syndrome’’ This condition may be implicated in migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, psychological disorders, and other conditions.3
When significant amounts of phytocannabinoids, such as CBD, are consumed, however, the FAAH will be used to break them down, instead of breaking down the endocannabinoids. This helps maintain healthy levels of endocannabinoids and prolong their action.4
This range of phytocannabinoids have value as entourage compounds in enhancing the effects of endocannabinoids by inhibiting their hydrolysis via substrate competition and prolonging their action. So, clearly the use of phytocannabinoids does not cause the body to make less of its own endocannabinoids—quite the opposite.
1. Gertsch J, Pertwee RG, Di Marzo V. Phytocannabinoids beyond the Cannabis plant – do they exist? Br J Pharmacol. 2010 Jun;160(3):523-9.
- Hanuš LO, Meyer SM, Muñoz E, Taglialatela-Scafati O, Appendino G. Phytocannabinoids: a unified critical inventory. Nat Prod Rep. 2016 Nov 23;33(12):1357-1392.
- Pacher P, Bátkai S, Kunos G. The Endocannabinoid System as an Emerging Target of Pharmacotherapy. Pharmacol Rev. 2006 September; 58(3): 389–462.
- Leweke FM, Piomelli D, Pahlisch F, Muhl D, Gerth CW, Hoyer C, Klosterkötter J, Hellmich M, Koethe D. Cannabidiol enhances anandamide signaling and alleviates psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia. Transl Psychiatry. 2012 Mar 20;2:e94.
Professor Gene Bruno, MS, MHS, the Provost for Huntington College of Health Sciences, is a nutritionist, herbalist, writer and educator. For more than 37 years he has educated and trained natural product retailers and health care professionals, has researched and formulated natural products for dozens of dietary supplement companies, and has written articles on nutrition, herbal medicine, nutraceuticals and integrative health issues for trade, consumer magazines and peer-reviewed publications. He can be reached at email@example.com.