Article by Alex Kasprak, Snopes
Despite being used both recreationally and medicinally for millennia, the mechanisms by which cannabis affects the human body have only recently come to light. The most significant development in this body of work is the discovery of what scientists term the “endocannabinoid system,” a collection of chemical pathways found in mammals whose existence wasn’t demonstrated until the 1990s.
The endocannabinoid system is made up of specific receptors that are primarily affected by chemicals already in your body — endocannabinoids. As it turns out, many of the chemicals in cannabis, termed “phytocannabinoids”, are nearly identical to the endocannabinoids already present and can therefore also affect these receptors as well if they make their way into your bloodstream.
The most famous of these chemicals is tetrahydrocannabinol (commonly known as THC), which produces the psychoactive “high” people seek when they use the drug recreationally. Later research has yielded the discovery of a plethora of other phytocannabinoids that do not produce a psychoactive effect, but do demonstrate therapeutic potential.
The most notable of these “other” chemicals is cannabidiol (referred to as CBD), which studies suggest has strong pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties, and has been shown essentially to halt seizurescaused by the neurologic condition Dravet’s Syndrome.
A 2008 paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggested that CBD acted on a previously undescribed endocannabinoid receptor, GPR55, and that this receptor likely plays a role in the regulation of bone mass by inhibiting the growth of cells — osteoclasts — that promote the resorption of bone minerals:
“Our observations also suggest that CBD can inhibit bone resorption in vivo via modulation of GPR55 signaling.”