You have heard the stories from your very own customers of how CBD helps them in ways that seem to defy logic.  They report relief for everything from arthritis and peripheral neuropathy to insomnia and anxiety.  If it is possible for one substance to have so many positive effects, it is no wonder that big Pharma is now solidly in the race to come up with new molecules that can take CBD into the future.  It would be helpful to review how CBD exerts actions on so many body systems before discussing what the race to find CBD-like molecules hopes to accomplish.

Even though CBD can be described as a “dirty” drug, referring to its ability to interact with multiple physiological pathways, we must wonder exactly how it can display such diverse actions. Research over the past 15 years makes it clear that this diversity springs from the fact that CBD exhibits complex effects on the Endocannabinoid System (ECS).  We should keep in mind that recent research teaches us that the ECS is responsible for maintaining homeostasis among and between the other body systems.  Dr Ethan Russo, a pioneer in ECS research, claims it “regulates regulation”.   Thus, when we hear people make claims that they need CBD to “stay healthy” or to “stay in balance”, these claims start to make a little more sense.

Researchers are currently placing their attention on CBD’s specific ability to interact with the ECS via its two main cannabinoid receptors known as CB1 and CB2.  CBD does not actually bind to these receptors, but it indirectly affects the endocannabinoids made by the body to change their affinity for CB1 and CB2, thus regulating the ECS.  The unique ability of CBD to affect how the primary endocannabinoids, 2-AG and Anandamide, bind to the receptors is where drug companies are focusing their efforts to develop new chemical entities to mimic CBD.

Drug companies are hoping to create CBD-like molecules to influence the cannabinoid receptors in a manner similar to how CBD affects them.  Of particular interest to those developing these new drug entities is the CB2 receptor, since CB2 is associated with anti-inflammatory effects.  Inflammation is a critical factor in so many disease states that  it has become a major target of CBD derivatives.  By activating the receptor directly with a CBD-like molecule, researchers can target chronic inflammatory conditions such as RA, lupus, cystic fibrosis, peripheral neuropathy and multiple sclerosis.

There are a few companies taking a different approach and are working on methods of enhancing the effects of CBD itself, instead of trying to create new molecules.  Their goal is to improve the water solubility of CBD so that it can be more readily absorbed into the body when taken orally, such as a softgel, instead of an unpredictable, messy oil under the tongue.  The early results indicate that this improvement could result in CBD dosage forms that are possibly 20 times more potent than what has been available.  The massive interest and investment in CBD dosage forms is  more evidence reinforcing the belief that “CBD is a drug that belongs in Pharmacies.”