The Endocannabinoid System 101: Why CBD matters in our body
Gone are the times when cannabis was mostly associated with the “high” produced by THC, its psychoactive compound. But as the research on hemp and cannabis continues to grow, we’re learning more and more about its complex nature every day. In this article, we cover the topic of the endocannabinoid system and how it helps maintain homeostasis in the body.
There are over 130 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant and each of them occur in concentrations significant enough to produce certain effects. One of such cannabinoids you deliver by using hemp-derived CBD products is cannabidiol, the non-intoxicating constituent of the plant.
But how does it happen that THC, CBD and other cannabinoids interact with the body and brain?
Well, the answer lies in the endocannabinoid system (ECS). In this article, we will explain what ECS is and how CBD, along with other cannabinoids, can regulate an abundance of bodily and brain functions.
Are you ready? It’s going to get exciting from the very start!
What is the endocannabinoid system
The endocannabinoid system, in short ECS, is a complex route which consists of endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors.
Endocannabinoids are neurotransmitters that tap to these receptors and thus trigger certain reactions in the body. As a matter of fact, the ECS is spread throughout the entire body, including mainly the nervous and immune system.
The purpose of the endocannabinoid system is to maintain homeostasis in the body. Homeostasis means that there is a chemical balance inside you. Whenever this balance is disturbed, you become prone to a variety of health conditions, some of which may turn to severe illnesses over time.
How does CBD interact with the endocannabinoid system?
The structure of endocannabinoids is identical as the chemical make-up of phytocannabinoids, the chemical compounds acquired from outside sources; in this particular example, from cannabis.
When you use CBD oil or other hemp-derived products, you deliver cannabidiol to your body. The moment it enters your system, it stimulates certain receptors in the immune and nervous systems.
There are two distinct receptors in the endocannabinoid system: CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are spread throughout the entire body, while CB2 receptors are located mostly in the brain.
When it comes to THC and CBD, the two most thoroughly-researched cannabinoids, they act on different receptors. Tetrahydrocannabinol taps to CB2 receptors in the brain where it mimicks the qualities of anandamide. By interacting with CB2 receptors, THC releases its psychoactive properties; this is where the so-called high comes from.
Nonetheless, because THC interacts with the endocannabinoid system, it also helps regulate certain functions in the body. We have written an article about the differences between CBD and THC, so you can check the health benefits of tetrahydrocannabinol there.
CBD, on the other hand, doesn’t directly bind to cannabinoid receptors, but instead, it boosts the activity of CB1 receptors. This is why cannabidiol is believed to have strong medical benefits for patients struggling with serious chronic conditions.
But how exactly can CBD improve the quality of one’s life? To answer this question, we have to take a closer look at the characteristics of cannabidiol.
Why CBD matters in your body
Like we said, the endocannabinoid system exists to maintain homeostasis in the body. It responds to endogeneous cannabinoids produced by humans, but researchers have discovered that ECS reacts to cannabinoids from outside sources, too.
By interacting with CB1 receptors in the body, CBD increases the levels of 2-AG ,one of the endocannabinoids. Like cannabidiol, 2-AG interacts with the endocannabinoid receptors. Its increased production boosts the overal effect on your health.
More interestingly, the contribution to the endocannabinoid system isn’t the only way CBD can affect the body. For instance, CBD taps to a G-protein receptor, also known as TRPV. This receptor controls the body temperature, impacts perceptions of pain, reduces inflammation, and improves the activity of serotonin receptors.
The Benefits of CBD
CBD has shown great promise as an alternative help for people struggling with a plethora of health concerns. Anecdotal evidence and preclinical research indicates that cannabidiol may succeed where the pharmaceutical treatment fails. On top of that, hemp-derived CBD is completely safe because it contains little to no THC. Therefore, it’s non-intoxicating.
Because cannabidiol interacts with CB1 receptors, which are found in high concentrations in the immune and nervous systems, the cannabinoid can:
- Reduce inflammation
- Relieve pain
- Combat anxiety
- Regulate hormone levels
- Control appetite
- Boost metabolism
And much, much more – although we still need more in-depth clinical research on the use of cannabis for the above conditions to prove the anecdotal evidence right.
Patients who decide to start their adventure with CBD report significant improvements in mood, stress reduction, and a clear-headed state of mind.
Speaking of which…
There is a common misconception about CBD, namely that the cannabinoid is not psychoactive. In fact, it affects the mind by reducing anxiety, controlling the sleep cycle, etc. That being said, it makes it totally psychoactive. The word that we should use to describe the effects of CBD is “non-intoxicating”.
The future of CBD
Many patients who approach CBD for the first time don’t have a clue about the endocannabinoid system. However, as they learn more about this complex construct and the way CBD interacts with ECS, they begin to understand the health benefits of using cannabidiol-based products.
Above all, CBD is safe; it won’t get you high, you can’t overdose on CBD, and the side effects involve a dry mouth or drowziness in the worst case scenario. Hemp-derived cannabidiol is legal in all 50 states, which makes it an easily-accessible medication.
We need more in-depth research in order to discover the true medicinal potential of CBD. Nonetheless, current studies and self-reports from patients and recreational users makes us feel like there’s a bright future ahead of CBD.