How Does CBD Work: The Endocannabinoid System
Although we’ve talked about the ECS before, we believe it warrants a closer look. To truly understand how CBD works on the body, a review of this system is crucial. Without the ECS, not only could we never appreciate CBD. We also would lack many vital functions.
That’s right. The ECS doesn’t only come into play when you take cannabis or CBD. It is always humming in the background of your body making sure everything goes according to the greatest good. It works on a cellular level affecting biochemical communication inside the body.
Even more interestingly, it does this in a variety of ways.
Because of The Endocannabinoid System’s native role in many physical processes, adding additional cannabinoids like CBD create meaningful results. Before we get there, we have to lay the foundational knowledge about how the ECS works in the first place.
Parts of this post are an attempt to simplify NORML.org’s Introduction to the Endocannabinoid System. If you’re intrigued by the basic overview given here, we encourage you to read that article in its entirety by following the link provided.
How Does CBD Work: What Is The Endocannabinoid System?
The system in question is a network of compounds (cannabinoids), the receptors they bind to, and the fatty acids that eventually break cannabinoids down. Because CBD is a cannabinoid, its effectiveness relies on overall ECS function.
There are a couple of important distinctions when it comes to cannabinoids, however.
How Does CBD Work: Phytocannabinoids vs Endocannabinoids
Phytocannabinoids are organic compounds in cannabis and hemp produced in the plant’s resin. Endocannabinoids are substances that every vertebrate animal produces all on its own. The body can’t tell the difference between phyto and endo cannabinoids and that’s why taking CBD works.
Hemp and cannabis plants actually use their cannabinoids to help protect themselves. Cannabinoids have antioxidant properties which guard the foliage and flowering structures from UV radiation and free radicals.
Endocannabinoids and the receptors they bind to exist in immune cells, glands, connective tissues, organs, and the brain. Although these substances produce a wide variety of effects, the final result is often similar: balance. Endocannabinoids help maintains the kind of healthy inner environment our bodies need, regardless of any changing environmental factors. Cannabinoids and endocannabinoids also allow coordination and communication between various cell types.
Two of the known endocannabinoids are Anandamide and 2 arachidonoylglycerol (2 AG). They’re synthesized on demand from cell membranes but are quickly degraded by the enzymes fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL).
How Does CBD Work: What About The Receptors?
The endocannabinoid receptors in your body are really where the magic happens. They are G-protein coupled receptors found within the pre-synaptic membranes of receiver cells. Without them, cannabinoids of any type wouldn’t produce any effects at all. ECS receptors are, therefore, a crucial element of adaptation that experts believe developed in primitive animals more than 600 million years ago.
Cannabinoid receptors are actually the most plentiful receptor system in the body. Scientists have identified 2 cannabinoid receptors. CB1 receptors predominantly exist in the nervous system, connective tissues, reproductive system, glands, and organs. CB2 receptors are most plentiful in the body’s immune system and other closely related systems like the digestive system. Many tissues contain both CB2 and CB1 receptors. When cannabinoid receptors are stimulated, physiologic processes ensue.
How Does CBD Work: CBD’s Main Role In The ECS
While CBD has multiple effects, its most notable one involves anandamide ( “the bliss molecule”). This endocannabinoid produces euphoric effects similar to THC, without the unpleasant or incapacitating side effects.
CBD inhibits a fatty acid FAAH whose job is to naturally break down anandamide. Therefore, more of this substance remains in your system when CBD is also present.