This is the first in a series of blogs I am going to present on the topic of cannabinoids and CBD. As it is the first day of spring, I figured it is the perfect day to start discussing America’s favorite weed, hemp. Since the 2018 Farm Bill has made it legal to grow hemp, there seems to be more and more interest and comfort using CBD and its relative marijuana medicinally. Indeed, I am seeing more and more folks using on their own, typically to manage issues with the mood or pain, without really understanding why or any concerns or contraindications they should be aware of.

A Few Cautions with CBD 

Family history of schizophrenia? Did you know that marijuana doubles the risk of psychosis in vulnerable individuals. Personal or family struggles with addiction? Did you know that marijuana is just as addictive as any other substances with addictive potential (caffeine, alcohol, cocaine, etc). About 9% of the population who uses will likely become dependent upon it. While CBD products, without the THC, do not seem to confer this addictive potential and can actually be useful in helping in cases of dependence – do you really need them? This last question is really one to address with your health care provider. However, did you know that you can make your own cannabinoids? I don’t mean in the kitchen – I mean in the body (although some of our favorite culinary spices can help our bodies make our own cannabinoids too!). There are more cautions that I will address in future blogs. Here I want to focus on how you can help your body make its own cannabinoids.

Make Your Own CBD! 

The cannabinoids that your own body makes are called the endocannabinoids and they help to regulate the cannabinoid system in our bodies that helps to regulate everything from mood, cognition, hormones, immune function, gastric motility, reproduction – including attaining and maintaining pregnancy, pain, pre and post and natal development - and we have the capacity to make our own! The endocannabinoids are fatty acids that are derived from arachidonic acid, which comes from consuming animal meats or from our body converting plant oils, such as from nuts, seeds, or cooking oils, into arachidonic acid. Too much arachidonic acid has been considered inflammatory. You might have heard about the importance of the balance between omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, it has been theorized that our America diet is generally low in omega-3 fatty acids that help to combat inflammation, and that a balance between is thought to help combat inflammation. Both omega-3 and 6 fatty acids are important for human health, but there are some people who struggle to convert omega-6 fatty acids into arachidonic acid. This is related to genetics and can be exacerbated by a vegan diet. These issues with impaired conversion, is part of the struggle with anxiety in some, not all folks, on a vegan diet, as there is not the building block available. 

The Endocannabinoids 

The arachidonic acids is converted into our endogenous endocannabinoids: anadamide, anandamide (N-arachidonoylethanolamide, AEA), 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), and palmitoylethanolamide. These serve as ligands or binding proteins to receptors, known as the cannabinoid receptors (CBD receptors), and their binding or complexing is what causes the changes in the body. 

Top 8 Ways to Make Your Own - CBD 

There are many ways we can both increase and decrease our body’s natural CBD that will be outlined in future blogs. Here I will focus on the top 8 ways we can increase our body’s natural cannabinoids. There are no big shockers, most are considered foundational in the naturopathic approach. 

  • Eat more omega-6 fatty acids (ie nuts, seeds, and olive oil) – these are the building blocks!
  • Exercise – this helps to increase both CBD1 receptors sensitivity and increase anandamide, which actives the CBD1 receptors. Interestingly, the motivation for exercise over eating, seems to be regulated by CBD1 receptors, at least in mice, but seems to be consistent to what we see in humans who use a lot of marijuana. CBD1 receptors diminish in the body with chronic marijuana usage…
  • Stress less – stress especially chronic stress reduces our CBD1 receptors
  • Cold exposure – Yes, the good old hydrotherapy practice of ending the shower with 30 seconds of cold water can help to increase endocannabinoid tone.
  • A nutritious diet, with adequate calcium, vitamin A, potassium, and folate will help to increase CBD1 expression and activation. Restricted diets can make getting these particular nutrients a challenge.
  • Get outside in the sun for at least 15 minutes per day – low level ultraviolet radiation exposure increase endocannabinoids in humans!
  • Cook with spices or consume teas with herbs, such as cinnamon, clove, black pepper, star anise, basil, mint, age thyme, and marjoram, all that contain beta-caryophyllene which actives CB2 receptors. Carrots contain some of this as well.
  • Balance your hormones. Testosterone, estradiol, and progesterone all help to increase the tone of the endocannabinoid system. Strength training is one of the best ways to help get these hormones back into balance for both men and women! 

Dr. Sarah Giardenelli is a naturopathic doctor, acupuncturist, and the owner of Collective Health Center. She is a proponent patient empowerment and enjoys the role as doctor as teacher, helping patients make informed lifestyle choices. Fill out the form below to learn more about us!

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in March 2019 and has since been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness. 


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