Estimated reading time: 4 minutes 58 seconds
Nothing about our health or homeostasis is static.
You might have heard CBD promotes homeostasis (aka full-body balance). Hormones constantly balance and counterbalance each other; overall, this collection of systems we call the body miraculously keeps itself in check. Still, homeostasis requires a near-steady stream of course correction.
Could it be that health isn’t about balance or avoiding damage but instead regeneration? Science is beginning to think so:
"Besides the obvious and essential ramifications of improving human health, the study of regeneration also provides [..] new grounds for a greater understanding of the fundamental molecular and cellular activities governing biological function.”
- Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado, PhD, Stowers Institute
To regenerate, one must think fast and optimize internal communication for each biological system to govern itself. The ECS enhances the body's ability to communicate with itself and improve its internal synchronization, leading to quicker and more efficient regeneration.
CBD reduces the negative effects of aging by enhancing the body's ability to regenerate through the endocannabinoid system. By acting through the endocannabinoid system to enhance regeneration, CBD may be able to slow down — or even reverse — age-related diseases.
In this article, we’ll be breaking down all of CBD’s most regenerative qualities. We’ll also include simple, actionable ways to harness CBD to improve your health, regardless of age.
CBD AS AN ANTIOXIDANT? ACCORDING TO THE GOVERNMENT
We’re not the only ones fascinated by CBD’s anti-aging qualities. The US government is interested, too, and has been for quite a while. Just check out this patent they finished filing way back in 2001:
Cannabinoids As Antioxidants and Neuroprotectants
Abstract: Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This newfound property makes cannabinoids useful in treating and preventing a wide variety of oxidation-associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory, and autoimmune diseases…."
If this seems a little technical, don’t worry — it’s unnecessary to understand everything, and we’ll take you through the main points.
First, government-backed researchers establish that cannabinoids like CBD have “antioxidant properties.” What does that mean? Good question!
Though better-known antioxidants like vitamin C get plenty of attention these days, most people still don’t understand what antioxidants are, not to mention why they’re so beneficial.
Just as metals exposed to the elements eventually succumb to wear and tear (and lots of rust), humans also slowly oxidize over time. That’s because our preferred energy-generation techniques, while effective, also generate lots of byproducts!
The primary byproducts are molecules called free radicals. Our normal metabolic state generates tons of free radicals; speed up the metabolism through exercise or stress, and you’ll quickly produce even more - why antioxidants are specifically beneficial for athletes.
The body uses antioxidants to counteract oxidative stress caused by free radicals and promote regeneration.
CBD AS AN ANTIOXIDANT
One antioxidant is essential: glutathione. Unlike vitamin C or CBD, this “master antioxidant” is produced internally from the amino acids we eat. Thankfully, CBD has been shown in initial studies to boost glutathione levels. According to Ph.D. Christopher Shade of Quicksilver Scientific:
"Now, CBD interacts with receptors and gene triggers, increasing the production of glutathione genes. By promoting glutathione production, CBD may help you regenerate quicker in the face of oxidative stress."
Since this now-infamous patent was filed, we’ve only learned much more about CBD’s antioxidant properties. And it’s recently been discovered that oxidants aren’t harmful at all! Like everything else, it’s not about damage prevention but about regeneration.
Free radicals and other oxidants send signals to various body systems, including the endocannabinoid system, to become stronger in response.
It follows that chronic antioxidant intake may not be a good thing. Don’t worry; that doesn’t mean we should quit taking CBD. Why not? More recent research also shows us that CBD may be a selective antioxidant, capable of promoting oxidation and inflammation in cells that need to be eliminated (think cancerous cells).
There’s an almost intuitive aspect to the whole thing, all thanks to the endocannabinoid system.
CBD’s holistic behavior might make it the perfect antidote for age-related diseases. According to the government patent, CBD may be “useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of a wide variety of oxidation associated diseases,” such as those related to degeneration and aging.
How useful? Dr. Bob Melamede calls cannabis an “anti-aging” plant for this very reason. And a 2011 study expanded CBD’s antioxidant-induced benefits list, citing improvements in “rheumatoid arthritis, types I and II diabetes, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, ischemia-reperfusion injury, depression, and neuropathic pain.”
Pretty impressive, right? As it turns out, many diseases have excess oxidation at their roots. Reaping these benefits may be as simple as taking balanced amounts of CBD daily — the full(er) spectrum, the better. By helping us process energy more cleanly and efficiently, CBD may be the anti-aging tool of the future.
How CBD Works In The Human Body
CBD AS A NEUROPROTECTANT
Most antioxidants are neuroprotectants as well. That’s because unchecked oxidation is especially harmful to our body’s most energy-hungry component — the brain.
CBD is no different. As a versatile neuroprotectant, it protects the brain from its metabolic demands.
It’s worth noting that neurological problems include “ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma,” as well as “neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and HIV dementia,” according to the US Patent’s authors. As you can see, they credited CBD with being pretty diverse.
Translation: if you’ve recently had a stroke, CBD may be able to help. This rodent study found that seven days of CBD use reduced the long-term damages associated with stroke. Improvements occurred through various mechanisms, including improving cerebral blood circulation and balancing the post-ischemic immune response. Authors noticed that all these effects were “CB1-independent,” — meaning they didn’t act on THC’s receptors and therefore didn’t cause a high.
NEURODEGENERATION: HOW DOES IT HAPPEN?
Those with neurodegenerative diseases stand to benefit too. Most of these diseases are caused by hyperactive microglia, specialized cells that ‘scavenge’ for intruders.
In other words, age-related neurological problems are seen as immune system problems. When the immune system is chronically activated, amyloid-based plaques can build up between the brain’s message-sending neurons and cause many problems. In the case of Alzheimer’s, this includes memory loss, speech impairments, and reduced social behavior.
Eventually, the microglia meant to fight stress succumbed to an even-more-stressful, highly oxidative environment. Neurons can get damaged or even destroyed. Tau proteins may tangle even neurons that are not damaged by amyloid plaques. And while dead neurons can be recycled in many body parts, brain neurons must be regenerated or restored.
As amyloid plaque and tau proteins accumulate, it impacts the blood-brain barrier. The brain may become deprived of the fuel it needs (glucose), worsening inflammatory responses.
As you can see, the causes of Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases are pretty complex. It all comes down to inflammation of the brain, however. According to the National Institute on Aging, “Because it appears that Alzheimer’s is both a cause and consequence of vascular problems in the brain, researchers seek interventions to disrupt this complicated and destructive cycle.”
But that’s a subject for another time. Read more about CBD & Aging in this post!