If you want to learn more about how cannabidiol (CBD) works inside the body, our human CBD receptor chart breaks down the endocannabinoid system and its cannabinoid receptors. Here are three things to look for that will simplify the science of cannabis.
1. Endocannabinoid System (ECS)
CBD and other cannabis compounds, known as phytocannabinoids, work by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), a complex network of cannabinoid receptors that regulate homeostasis, a state in which physiological processes in the body are stable.
Throughout our body, we have a system of cannabinoid receptors that affect a wide range of biological processes including, but not limited to:
- Pain modulation
- Anti-inflammatory effects
- Immune system responses
If the body cannot achieve homeostasis, it becomes vulnerable to disease. This is where cannabis and, particularly, CBD step in. Cannabinoids, the main active ingredients in cannabis, function similarly to endocannabinoids (anandamide, 2-arachidonoylglycerol), which are naturally produced in the human body.
When endocannabinoids are not enough, plant-derived cannabinoids can help the body achieve homeostasis. Cannabinoids have been used to help treat a variety of symptoms and conditions including:
- Chronic Pain
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Parkinson’s Disease
- IBS and Gastrointestinal Disorders
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Cancer-Related Nausea and Vomiting
The endocannabinoid system is composed of two receptors: CB1 and CB2, each with a unique function in our body. Phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids interact with CB receptors like a lock and key mechanism. When cannabinoids bind to receptors, the body reacts by:
- Inhibiting or stimulating the formation of chemicals in cells
- Opening or closing ion channels in cells
Cannabinoid receptors can react differently depending on the cannabinoid that interacts with them.
2. CB1 Receptors
CB1 receptors are mainly found in the brain and central nervous system. They are also found in lower concentrations in other tissues including:
- Reproductive organs
- Connective tissue
- Adipose (fat) cells
- Endocrine/exocrine glands
- Gastrointestinal tract
Activating CB1 receptors in the brain is what causes users to feel the plant’s intoxicating effects. In the brain, CB1 receptors are located in the hippocampus, cerebellum, cerebral cortex, amygdaloid nucleus, and basal ganglia.
These regions of the brain are responsible for regulating short-term memory, mood, motor control, pain modulation, and more. CB1 receptors are not usually found in areas that control the heart and lungs, which makes cannabis a relatively safe medicine without the risk of overdose.
CBD, in particular, does not directly bind to CB1 receptors. Instead, it has indirect effects by influencing the binding capacity of the cannabinoids to receptors.
3. CB2 Receptors
CB2 receptors are mainly found in the immune cells such as the tonsils and spleen, and also the skin. CB2 has the highest density in the liver. Activating these receptors affects the release of cytokines responsible for immune and inflammatory responses.
After an injury, CB2 receptors form in the affected area, even if CB2 receptors are not normally found there. The production and activation of CB2 receptors result in a lower sensitivity to pain.
CB2 receptors affect the following biological processes:
- Pain sensation
- Immune processes
CBD does not directly bind with CB2 receptors. It indirectly affects them by blocking the cannabinoid receptors to inhibit activation.
How CBD Works In The Body
CBD is a non-intoxicating compound that has enormous medical potential. It does not have a good binding affinity for CB1 or CB2 receptors. Instead, the compound works as a receptor agonist by blocking receptors so that other cannabinoids cannot bind with them.
When paired with THC, CBD can help reduce THC’s negative side effects including anxiety, intoxication, and increased heart rate. For this reason, CBD is a popular and non-intoxicating alternative to THC-based medicine.
In the body, CBD does the following:
- Turns off signals that make the body stop the production of cannabinoids, resulting in an increase in endocannabinoids being produced
- Inhibits the reuptake of endocannabinoids, improving the overall efficiency of your ECS
- Blocks alpha-adrenergic receptors, lowering blood pressure
- Reduces dopamine signaling in the brain, minimizing the effects of THC
- Improves gut health with .the production of Claudin-1
CBD and its acidic precursor, cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), can help with a variety of conditions including epilepsy, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, weight loss, and anxiety. Best of all, they do not get you high or cause the negative side effects of THC.
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