CBD and Mitochondria

The hemp industry has grown tremendously in recent years and it continues to thrive. There is a developing attitude of acceptance toward its use by the general public. The basis for such can most likely be attributed to a few factors; legality, for instance, has played an essential role in this metamorphosis, as a number of states have legalized the use of hemp for either medicinal and/or recreational purposes. Second to this fact is the plethora of data that is now available, which speaks to hemp’s therapeutic value. Subsequently, a vast amount of research has been performed and has uncovered many of the potential therapeutic roles of hemp. For example, we now know, as evidenced by multiple studies, that there exist many cannabinoid receptors in the human body, in which CBD can bind and elicit a specific physiological and/or psychologic result. Many of these studies, however, have focused their efforts on investigating the respective effects on the brain, for instance, while, perhaps overlooking the potential benefits of CBD on a cellular level. The mitochondria, for example, an organ of the cell that is commonly known for its role in energy production, as well as, in cell regulation, has its own cannabinoid receptors and, thus, should be investigated for its role in potentially echoing such beneficial results of CBD binding, commonly observed in other parts of the body. French scientists were the first to discover these cannabinoid receptors on the outer layer (membrane) of the mitochondria, in 2012. These receptors played key roles in cell regulation and, therefore, on the cells’ overall function. We know that the mitochondria serve a valuable role in the body because defects in such can be disastrous and have been linked to a wide range of health issues. Some of these include, but are not limited to: neurodegeneration, autoimmune and metabolic concerns – memory and recognition symptoms, problems revolving around a break from reality, whereby, thoughts, behavior, and emotions may be affected negatively, issues in one’s ability to communicate appropriately and process social cues, tumor progression, seizures, regulation of blood sugar, cardiovascular and neuromuscular issues, etc. So, how exactly does the mitochondria fit into CBD oil and how does this benefit us? To understand these questions and others, one must first look at the structure and function of the mitochondria and discern its biological pathway in the human body. Subsequent to that, we can begin to understand CBD’s role as a potential mitochondrial-linked therapy. Studies have already cited CBD having, both directly and indirectly, affected the mitochondria/cell positively. It may come as no surprise that the body has its own and exogenous cannabinoids that regulate energy homeostasis, oxidative stress, as well as, the transmission of chemicals in the brain, called neurotransmitters. What are mitochondria? Mitochondria exist in the cells of every multicellular organism, such as humans. The number of mitochondria in an individual cell varies depending on the respective tissue; muscles, for instance have many mitochondria when compared to the skin. The only cells in the body that do not contain mitochondria are the red blood cells. The mitochondria are mostly known for the place where energy is extracted from food molecules and converted into high energy storage molecules called adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which act like batteries, storing unused energy. This process is called cellular respiration. Because of its association with energy transfer, this organelle, as we call cell parts, has been labeled the “powerhouse.” The mitochondria and its said functions are regulated by cannabinoids. So Just How Is the Mitochondria Connected to CBD Oil? Mechanisms of action — receptors and membranes As food is transformed into ATP in the mitochondria, byproducts are formed, such as water. However, if the process is not completed or becomes unregulated, as sometimes happens in cells, high-energy particles, such as unstable oxygen molecules are released into the body. These are called free radicals. It is detrimental to the body when these interact with healthy cells, as it triggers oxidative stress, which can lead to problems, such as, accelerated aging. This is one reason why ant-oxidants are essential, as they neutralize free radicals, thereby, protecting healthy cells. CBD is a powerful antioxidant. In a 2009, the Journal of Neuroscience published a study that cited mechanisms by which CBD regulates Ca2+ homeostasis, as well as, mediates neuroprotection.1 Specifically, researchers showed that CBD binds to and regulates the sodium-calcium channels in the mitochondria, thereby, improving Ca2+ homeostasis in the cell. This occurs when potassium levels are high outside of the cell or during mitochondrial dysfunction, as mentioned above. The restoration of the calcium levels by CBD was shown to protect the cell by preventing apoptosis (a programmed cell death, triggered by the cell itself) and by acting as a neuroprotective agent against mitochondrial toxins.1 In 2014, an article published in Molecular Neurobiology, showed that CBD aids in restoration of damage caused by iron loading in the brain by bringing specific proteins associated with such damage back to normal levels. Researches stated that “CBD should be considered as a potential molecule with memory-rescuing and neuroprotective properties to be used in the treatment of cognitive deficits observed in neurodegenerative disorders.”2 A variety of studies have provided evidence for the many benefits of CBD on the human body. These are relatively recent and more, similar results, are likely to be discovered, as well as, novel uses for CBD as a therapeutic agent as the industry continues to thrive and as more states legalize its use for both medicinal and/or recreational purposes. References: 1. RR, DSD, RA, and MC. Mitochondria as sensors and regulators of calcium signaling. Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology volume 13, pages 566–578 (2012) 2. HE, DT, and MG. A cannabinoid link between mitochondria and memory Nature volume 539, pages 555–559 (24 November 2016)
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