Inflammation is the process by which the body isolates and heals an injured or infected part of the body. It is a complicated process that involves the release of hormones, the activation of immune cells, and their recruitment to and subsequent activity at an affected area. The hormones that trigger this process are called cytokines. Cytokines are hormones including interferon and histamine which trigger the various aspects of an immune response depending on the combination of those released. Some cytokines are nerve cell agitators, and they produce the aching pain associated with swelling at an injury site or the common cold and flu.
Chemokines are a class of cytokines that recruit white blood cells to the area from which they were released. These hormones attract the first immune cells to a site of injury or infection which then mediate the rest of the immune response. Inflammation and the inflammatory response are the net effects of all of these chemical processes occurring simultaneously. While the process of inflammation is largely to credit for the phenomenon of healing, many of its aspects do more harm than good and in general inflammation has a negative connotation, as it can actually prevent some of the healing activity of the immune system.
The role of the endocannabinoid system in inflammation and immunity has to do with your body’s response to the hormones released by the immune system. As a gross generalization, endocannabinoids potentiate the effects of most immune hormones. This means they can amplify or dampen the effect of the hormones, and in this manner, homeostasis is maintained even throughout an attack on the body from a foreign substance. However, many chronic pain, neuropathic, and autoimmune disorders occur because there is an imbalance in the endocannabinoids which carry out the effect of the immune system signals.
Phytocannabinoids from cannabis, like CBD, are potent anti-inflammatory agents. Cannabidiol and cannabichromene in particular have a strong effect not only on cannabinoid receptors in the immune system, but on vanilloid receptors which mediate pain and on glycinergic receptors, which are also involved in the pain reflex and in the release of chemokines which agitate nerve cells to promote favoritism. CBD is not only able to raise the threshold at which a nerve cell will fire a “pain” message to the brain, but it also decreases the release of the chemokines which cause aches.
Finally, and this is the real power house, CBD is a strong inhibitor of COX-2, which is the main enzyme that initiates the most common inflammatory response. It activates the cox-2 gene which codes for the precursor of immune system hormones, cytokines, and chemokines. In other words, this enzyme is like the factory that produces all of the agitating substances and CBD disconnects it from the power grid, rendering it useless.
This is the mechanism of action which aspirin and most of the other NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) utilize to block inflammation as well. However, coupled with its several other mechanisms of anti-inflammation and pain relief, CBD’s 20-fold increase in potency over aspirin makes it a truly revolutionary and powerful anti-inflammatory supplement.
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