Does CBD oil need omega 3 EFAs to work?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is extracted from hemp (Cannabis Sativa L.) plants and every day there seems to be a new article purporting the health benefits of this popular oil. One of the main research areas into CBD oil containing full spectrum hemp extracts has focussed on its anti-inflammatory effects through modulating the immune system via the body’s own endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is involved in a wide range of other physiological functions including regulating mood, pain response, appetite and metabolism.

But what are the precise mechanisms of how full spectrum hemp extracts works? We know that hemp extracted phytonutrients can get into cells by binding to special proteins on the cell surface (know as Fatty Acid Binding Proteins (FABP) after ingestion either through the mouth (via oral application of oil), gut (ingestion of CBD capsules) or lungs (vaping) but what happens from there?

We know that CBD does not actually bind directly to receptors in the ECS (as is the case with the better known but illegal phytocannabinoid THC) but instead has significant influence by increasing the levels of body’s own endocannabinoids, namely anandamide (derived from a Sanskrit word for bliss or delight, which says much about the final physiological and psychological outcomes of CBD in the body such as relaxing the mood or reducing inflammation and the pain response).

Recent current research is delving even deeper into the mechanism of action of this important hemp phytonutrient and the results are highly influential in how we might consider using full spectrum hemp extract products within a nutrition programme.

The link between endocannabinoids and EFAs

Endocannabinoids are found widely distributed throughout tissues and organs in the body. They are important lipid messengers naturally synthesised from cell membrane omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids (EFAs) in response to events like brain activity and stimuli including stress and exercise.

Did you know that the state of euphoria often described as a ‘runner’s high’ is actually from the release of Anandamide and not endorphins as previously thought?

EFAs are directly involved in the synthesis of endocannabinoids like anandamide but omega 3 is also metabolised to form also react powerful anti-inflammatory molecules called epoxides, which can modulate the ECS essentially acting as different types endocannabinoids.[1]

Due to the important role that omega 3 EFAs have in cell membrane structure, it’s also believed these EFAs serve as crucial anchors for endocannabinoid cell membrane receptors CB1 and CB2 that respond to anandamide, other endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids to modulate ECS activity.[2]

Simply put, omega 3 EFAs and endocannabinoids like anandamide (whose levels are modulated by full spectrum hemp extracts) are totally dependent on each other in a healthy balanced brain and body.[3]

Impact of Omega 3 EFA deficiency 

Omega 3 EFA deficiency is widespread and is thought to impact around 95% of adults in the US.[4] This has long been connected to serious adverse health effects such as cardiovascular disease and other inflammatory conditions but research now shows that this deficiency has serious consequences for healthy functioning of the ECS. Levels of endocannabinoids are reduced, along with reduced levels of the powerful anti-inflammatory endocannabinoid epoxides and omega 3 deficient cell membranes lead to uncoupling of CB1 and CB2 receptors from membrane proteins altering signalling pathways in the brain.[5]

Studies show that dysfunctional endocannabinoid receptors due to omega 3 deficiency lead to increased anxiety and impaired behaviour[6], as well as the development of obesity through dysregulation of the ECS.[7]

Significance of bioactive epoxides to inflammation

The health benefits of omega 3 EFAs are mediated in part through metabolic conversion to bioactive endocannabinoid epoxides that activate CB2 receptors in the ECS dose-dependently reducing pro-inflammatory IL-6 cytokines whilst increasing anti-inflammatory IL-10 cytokines. These omega 3 derived epoxides that also have anti-antiogenic effects and vasodilatory actions in microvascular endothelial cells. This cross talk between omega 3 EFAs and its metabolites, endocannabinoids (modulated by full-spectrum hemp extracted products) and the ECS are expected to play an important role in neuroinflammation and cerebrovascular diseases such as stroke.[8]

How to balance the ECS using omega 3 EFAs

There’s no doubt that supplementing with full spectrum hemp extract oil products supports the ECS producing the varied results from pain management to mood and sleep support that people are after. However, this new research suggests that taking a good quality omega 3 supplement alongside may enhance this oil’s effects if omega 3 EFAs are deficient in the first place.

Chronic deficiency in omega 3 EFAs in our diet may partly explain the enormous craving for hemp-related products. It may also help to explain the widely-diverse experiences reported by CBD users. After all, if one person’s endocannabinoid receptors are dysfunctional, just applying phytocannabinoid without EFAs won’t necessarily produce the results users are hoping to achieve. More research is needed but this is a highly exciting area of nutritional research and has enormous implications for the application of nutritional programmes in the future.

We must remember though that not all omega 3EFA supplements derived from fish oils are created equally. Certain oil structures are better absorbed than others through the gastrointestinal tract and fish oils are no different. Studies suggest that the triglyceride form (TG) of fish oils may be better absorbed than EE forms of EFAs and supporting fat digestion in the intestines through use of lipase enzymes and/or lecithin powders to support bile emulsification of fats may aid absorption of these crucial oils further.

So does CBD oil need Omega 3 EFAs to work? In some cases yes! So supplementing both products simultaneously may enhance the benefits of this full spectrum hemp extract.

For further reading on CBD please read the following Nutrigold blogs:


[1] McDougle, D. R., Watson, J. E., Abdeen, A. A., Adili, R., Caputo, M. P., Krapf, J. E., Johnson, R. W., Kilian, K. A., Holinstat, M., … Das, A. (2017). Anti-inflammatory ω-3 endocannabinoid epoxides. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 114(30), E6034-E6043.

[2] Chilton, F. H., Dutta,R., Reynolds, L. M., Sergeant, S., Mathias, R. A., & Seeds, M. C. (2017). Precision nutrition and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids: A case for personalized supplementation approaches for the prevention and management of human diseases. Nutrients, 9(11), 1165.

[3] University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (2017, July 18). Omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation via cannabinoids. ScienceDaily.

[4] Stephens, D. (2015, December 10). Could widespread low omega-3 levels be putting American hearts at risk? Nutra-Ingredients-USA.

[5] Larrieu, T., & Layé, S. (2018). Food for mood: Relevance of nutritional omega-3 fatty acids for depression and anxiety. Frontiers in Physiology, 9, 1047.

[6] Larrieu, T., Madore, C., Joffre, C., & Layé, S. (2012). Nutritional n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids deficiency alters cannabinoid receptor signaling pathway in the brain and associated anxiety-like behavior in mice. Journal of Physiology and Biochemistry, 68(4), 671-81.

[7] Simopoulos A. P. (2016). An increase in the omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio increases the risk for obesity. Nutrients, 8(3), 128.

[8] McDougle, D. R., Watson, J. E., Abdeen, A. A., Adili, R., Caputo, M. P., Krapf, J. E., Johnson, R. W., Kilian, K. A., Holinstat, M., … Das, A. (2017). Anti-inflammatory ω-3 endocannabinoid epoxides. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 114(30), E6034-E6043.

Written By:
Elisabeth Philipps

Related Blogs:

Like this article? Share with your friends!

Read also:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed