While CBD products are largely unregulated and unproven, big pharma companies are working to create CBD-like molecules to develop pharmaceutical therapies. While CBD’s mechanisms are not fully understood, researchers are looking at how it influences cannabinoid receptors in the brain known as CB1 and CB2. CBD itself does not bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors, but instead causes endocannabinoid compounds made by the body to do so, leading pharmaceutical researchers down a new path toward CBD-based treatments. The CB2 receptor is of special interest to drug developers, as it is associated with anti-inflammatory effects. By activating this receptor directly with a potent CBD derivative, researchers can take aim at treating chronic inflammatory diseases, including lupus, cystic fibrosis and multiple sclerosis.
In addition, companies are working to enhance the aqueous solubility of CBD, meaning that it can be more readily absorbed by the body when taken orally. By doing so, scientists hope to create drugs that are up to 50 times more potent than CBD, which could help with nerve damage, neurodegenerative diseases and even opiate abuse.