In This Article
As the popularity of natural plant-based medicines continues to increase, CBD has taken front and center stage and it seems you can’t go anywhere these days without hearing about it or seeing it for sale.
The most popular reasons people take CBD include pain relief, anxiety relief, and to aid sleep. Although, there is mounting research available to suggest that it has far wider therapeutic potential.
If you’re interested in trying smokable CBD for yourself, then you may be curious to know how cannabinoids like CBD and CBG interact with our bodies. In this article, we’re going to share everything you need to know about the endocannabinoid system and CBD, including:
- What is the Endocannabinoid System?
- What is the Role of the Endocannabinoid System?
- CBD and the Endocannabinoid System
What is the Endocannabinoid System?
Discovered by scientists in the early 1990s, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a biochemical signaling system that exists within every mammalian brain and body.
It consists of three core components:
- Cannabinoid receptors (located abundantly throughout the brain and body)
- Endocannabinoids (neurotransmitters responsible for signaling between receptors)
- Metabolic enzymes (responsible for breaking down our body’s endocannabinoids)
What is the Role of the Endocannabinoid System?
Every function in the human body requires homeostasis, or balance, to perform optimally and the endocannabinoid system is essential in regulating all of the major physiological processes that help us achieve this homeostasis.
There are currently two known different subtypes of endocannabinoid receptors.
Cannabinoid-1 (CB1) receptors are primarily concentrated in abundance throughout the central nervous system in our brain, but they can also be found in our skin, gut, lungs, liver, and kidneys.
Communication between CB1 receptors is critical to the regulation of many physiological and cognitive processes, including pain sensation, appetite, mood, stress response, memory, glucose metabolism, fertility, and sleep.
Cannabinoid-2 (CB2) receptors can be found throughout our bodies in our peripheral nervous system, immune system, and metabolic tissues, as well as many of our internal organs.
It is widely believed that CB2 receptors help regulate immune function and inflammatory response, amongst other things.
Endocannabinoids are neurotransmitters, like dopamine and serotonin, that carry messages around the body.
The first endogenous cannabinoid to be discovered was anandamide, followed shortly after by 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), but we now know there are many more. However, it’s difficult for scientists to gauge the exact amounts of each that we produce as the body only synthesizes them when they’re needed.
They bind to and activate our CB1 or CB2 receptors (or both) which triggers a chain-reaction of events, directly and indirectly influencing a plethora of physiological processes that control pain, inflammation, mood, and muscle control, amongst many others.
It is thought that many, if not all, serious medical conditions may be the result of endocannabinoid system deficiency, a condition in which your body isn’t producing enough endocannabinoids to keep it functioning optimally.
It turns out that the endocannabinoid system is far more important than we once thought and may hold the key in treating previously untreatable conditions such as fibromyalgia, migraine, and irritable bowel syndrome.
CBD and the Endocannabinoid System
Until recently, the vast majority of cannabinoid research has been investigating the effects of THC and we now know that, like 2-AG, THC binds itself directly to both CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain and body.
THC’s affinity with CB1 receptors is the reason it has the ability to make the user feel intoxicated, or high.
However, while there is a growing body of research available on the effectiveness of CBD in a wide range of cases, from anxiety to pain, scientists are finding it more difficult to find out exactly how CBD exerts its influences.
CBD as an Anandamide Reuptake Inhibitor
It is currently thought that CBD is an effective way to combat endocannabinoid deficiency disorder by inhibiting the metabolic enzymes responsible for breaking down and recycling our body’s endocannabinoids. By blocking these enzymes from fulfilling their task, more endocannabinoids are readily available in your brain and body at any one time.
However, CBD is able to exert benefits beyond the endocannabinoid system as it also interacts with other receptors in the brain including (but not limited to):
Activates serotonin 5-ht1A receptors (at higher doses) – involved in regulating addiction, pain, sleep, anxiety, appetite, and nausea
Binds to dopamine D2 receptors – antipsychotic pharmaceuticals also target this receptor
Activates TRPV1 receptors – involved in regulating pain, inflammation, and body temperature
Activates PPAR-Gamma receptors – assist in removing beta-amaloid plaque (which leads to Alzheimer’s), as well as lipid uptake, insulin sensitivity, and dopamine release
Mother Nature’s Remedy?
CBD is already available on prescription, as Epidiolex, for difficult to treat forms of epilepsy. It is prescribed in pure CBD isolate form, but there is compelling research to suggest that the benefits of cannabinoids are enhanced when administered as a whole plant extract.
This phenomenon is called “the entourage effect”, describing the synergy of various plant and cannabinoid compounds working more effectively when taken together. This is the reason why so many people prefer whole-plant extracts of CBD, also known as full-spectrum CBD products.