CBD is one of the most common cannabinoids found in cannabis and has quickly made its way into grocery stores, pharmacies, and dispensaries across the country, thanks to its range of functional effects. Among the general population, CBD is used in health and wellness, food, cosmetics, and cannabis as its popularity surges into the mainstream. But is it just a fad, or is there evidence of the non-intoxicating cannabinoids’ therapeutic benefits? Here’s everything you need to know about how CBD works in the human body, along with some of its effects and uses.
What are the effects of CBD?
In recent years, CBD has been extensively studied thanks to its range of effects. This cannabinoid is best known for its balancing abilities that support a lot of different functions within the body, assisting with everything from bone growth to reducing inflammation, reducing pain responses and muscle spasms, and even killing cancer cells.
It’s quite the list, but is it all true? While science is still mastering the science behind CBD for its full medicinal potential, the information we have helps us understand how CBD molecules work within the body. It’s all thanks to the ECS, or endocannabinoid system.
CBD and your endocannabinoid system
The endocannabinoid system is a relatively new body system discovered in the early 1990s named after its documented interaction with the cannabinoids from cannabis. It’s found in all living things, including invertebrates. The primary goal of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is to keep the body working in harmony with itself, in homeostasis. The ECS is present throughout the entire body, including immune cells in the bloodstream, every brain cell, across the spinal cord, throughout the cardiovascular system, and on our skin.
The ECS is made up of three main parts.
- Endocannabinoids — these are chemical compounds produced naturally by the body to work with the endocannabinoid system. They are lipid-based neurotransmitters that act as the messages sent from receptor to receptor within the body and brain.
- Endocannabinoid Receptors — Endocannabinoid receptors receive and process endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids bind to endocannabinoid receptors, which also process the cannabinoids found in cannabis as well as some terpenes and other chemicals.
- Enzymes — The enzymes found in the ECS are used to break down the endocannabinoids, cannabinoids, terpenes, or otherwise and elicit a bodily response.
The most common and most studied cannabinoid receptors are the CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are most commonly found in the central nervous system and help regulate brain function. CB2 receptors are found in immune cells through the bloodstream. When endocannabinoids or phytocannabinoids (the cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, like THC or CBD) bind to these receptors, they trigger different responses in the body.
Unlike many cannabinoids and endocannabinoids, CBD can bind to both sets of receptors. With that said, it can help treat a wider variety of symptoms and interact with the body by activating multiple biological pathways at the same time.
CBD offers so many different effects and therapeutic benefits because the body processes it effectively. Each receptor in various parts of the body receives additional messages from CBD and responds accordingly. So, for example, CBD processed in CB1 receptors can trigger an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety effect as well as a pain-relieving or inflammatory response when processed in the CB2 receptors.
How does CBD work in the human body?
One of the most exciting benefits of CBD is that it doesn’t cause any psychoactive or intoxicating effect. In fact, it can curb this effect of THC by triggering a reverse response from CB1 receptors when the two cannabinoids are taken together.
Regardless of its relationship to THC, CBD shows a lot of promise for other therapeutic and medicinal uses thanks to its complex relationship with our endocannabinoid systems. According to the current science, here are a few ways how CBD works in the human body: