Cultures around the world have been using hemp and cannabis plants for various health and religious reasons for centuries, and the rest of the world is finally catching on. In the 1990’s Dr. Raphael Mechoulam discovered endogenous cannabinoids (or endocannabinoids for short) in his laboratory at the Hebrew University in Israel. The compounds he discovered in cannabis & hemp plants called phytocannabinoids, are almost identical in structure to endocannabinoids which are produced naturally by the body.
These endocannabinoid compounds are produced within the body's own endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is essentially a series of receptors found throughout the brain, central nervous system, immune system, and other organs. These receptors' interaction with the compounds produced by our bodies are proving to be largely responsible for governing a vast array of bodily functions and processes. To stimulate the receptors responsible for these functions, our bodies produce corresponding endocannabinoids. It’s not just humans that have an ECS - all mammals, even birds, fish and reptiles too!
The ECS is the largest biological system of receptors in our body.
Some scientists believe it is the most important physiological system in our body. The ECS’ main job is establishing and maintaining overall human health. Sounds like a pretty big job, if you ask us!
Responsible for creating balance, i.e. homeostasis, the ECS system keeps our cells and immune system healthy. Our body only produces endocannabinoids on demand and does not keep a storage of them, therefore there is plenty of room for deficiencies and improperly functioning systems.
The ECS is primarily made up of three elements:
CB1 receptors: These receptors regulate appetite and memory. They are found in the brain, spinal cord and within the female uterus.
CB2 receptors: These receptors found the organs and tissues of the immune system, as well as in other areas of the body such as lungs and skin.
How Does CBD Work with Your ECS?
Unlike THC, CBD does not bind to CB1 or CB2 receptors. While some cannabinoids bind directly to cannabinoid receptors, CBD interacts indirectly. CBD engages with various ion channels and triggers receptor-independent pathways to create multiple therapeutic effects. Here is where we get a little “sciencey” and without proper education, this can get slightly confusing, so we’ll try to keep it simple.
CBD does bind to several protein receptors for increased mental health.
These same protein receptors are implicated in a range of biological and neurological processes, including but definitely not limited to anxiety, addiction, appetite, sleep, pain perception, nausea, and vomiting. At high concentrations, CBD directly activates the serotonin receptor, producing a significant anti-anxiety effect. To perk your mood even more, CBD also has been shown to increase anandamide levels. Anandamide is a fatty acid neurotransmitter, sometimes called a lipid mediator. It was the first endocannabinoid discovered and is known as the bliss molecule.
CBD literally works at the cellular level for increased physical health.
These receptors are known to mediate pain perception, inflammation and body temperature. According to a study published in 2020, CBD also exerts an anti-cancer effect by activating receptors that are situated on the surface of the cell’s nucleus. Activation of certain receptors have been shown in studies to slow the growth of cancer cells, leading to tumor regression. This variety of interactions between neurotransmitters and receptors are what makes CBD so effective.
We’re just getting started.
Science is just beginning to understand and explain how our bodies benefit from cannabinoids. What we are seeing is an exponential list of positive biological responses to stimulating our ECS and other bodily receptors through the use of CBD. Researchers continue to study the link between endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids to discover more about the foundations of this relationship. As more research emerges we can only assume there will be more and more scholarly data showing these amazing benefits CBD can have on our body.