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Understanding the Endocannabinoid System and CBD: How it Works

Understanding the Endocannabinoid System and CBD: How it Works

The human body is amazing! The human body has many moving systems that all work together to allow the body to function as a whole. The endocannabinoid system is probably one you do not know much about, or may not have even known it existed until about 2 seconds ago. Thanks to the increasing popularity of CBD, it is a system in your body that you are sure to remember.


There is no doubt you are familiar with the growing trend of CBD products. Every time you turn around, there seems to be a new product on the market. As a health-conscious individual, you care about what you put in your body. Understandably, you want to know the mechanisms behind CBD and how it differs from THC before you try it for yourself. This article is your ultimate guide to the endocannabinoid system and how both CBD and THC act on it.

What is the Endocannabinoid System?

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a neuromodulatory system in the human body. The endocannabinoid system is vital in the development of the central nervous system, changes in the synapses, and endogenous and environmental incidents that happen to the body.



Promoting homeostasis across all major systems in the body is the primary function of the ECS, along with many other roles.



Imagine that you’re at work and your boss gives you a massive project for a VIP client. This task is likely going to be an event that triggers abnormally high levels of stress. The ECS is responsible for rushing to your aid to ease these feelings of stress or anxiety and bring your body back into balance.

What Physiological Functions are Regulated by the ECS?

There are several physiological functions that the endocannabinoid system plays a crucial part in maintaining. These include:
  • Sleep
  • Pain
  • Appetite
  • Cognitive function
  • Mood
  • Inflammation
  • Reproduction

Components of the Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system has three main parts to know.
  • Endocannabinoids – Molecules produced by the body. So far, there have been two kinds of endocannabinoids discovered, AEA and 2-AG.
  • Cannabinoid receptors – There are two types of receptors (CB1 and CB2) that endocannabinoids must attach to before they are activated.
  • Enzymes – These are responsible for both the synthesis and the breaking down of the endocannabinoids.

Cannabinoid Receptors

There are two cannabinoid receptors known as CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors can primarily be found in the brain and central nervous system, while CB2 receptors are found mostly in the immune and digestive systems. Endocannabinoids can attach to either type of receptor.

How Does the Endocannabinoid System Work?

After an endocannabinoid synthesizes, it attaches to either a CB1 or CB2 receptor. The molecule is rendered useless without a receptor. Once it binds to a receptor, it then becomes active and elicits its effects on the target area. For instance, it could relieve pain from arthritis or calm feelings of anxiety.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabinoid from the cannabis plant. Contrary to popular belief, while CBD is harvested from cannabis, it does not contain any psychoactive properties. You will not get a “high” from using CBD. CBD is harvested from a strain of the cannabis plant known as hemp that contains less than 0.3 percent THC. The strains of hemp plants used to harvest CBD are specifically grown for negligible amounts of THC and higher levels of CBD.

As a result of customers raving about their healthier and happier lifestyles since purchasing CBD products, companies have created a variety of consumable forms, such as vapes, topical creams, oils, gummies, and capsules.

A variety of CBD products, including vapes, topical creams, oils, gummies, and capsules, are available due to the healthier and happier lifestyle customers are raving about.

How Does CBD Act on the Endocannabinoid System?

While CBD is a cannabinoid, it does not attach to the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the same way that endocannabinoid receptors do. CBD instead stimulates the endocannabinoid system to increase the production of cannabinoids, which then bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors. CBD may also prevent the degradation of endocannabinoids, increasing their effectiveness.

What is THC?

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the major component found in cannabis plants that is most notably known as the active ingredient in marijuana that is responsible for giving users a “high” or feelings of euphoria. THC affects your cognitive function, coordination, time perception, and more.

How Does THC Act on the Endocannabinoid System?

THC acts much differently on the endocannabinoid system than CBD. While CBD is not able to bind to the receptors, THC can bind to both the CB1 and CB2 receptors. It is this ability that makes it such a powerful substance, and the reason that THC can elicit both desirable and undesirable effects on the body.

The Bottom Line

While yes, CBD does come from the same family of plants as THC, CBD does not contain the properties to elicit a “high.” CBD is only known to provide positive effects on the body. It is also essential to understand that even though the endocannabinoid system interacts with both CBD and THC, it does it in very different ways. THC acts directly on the receptors, while CBD promotes the endocannabinoid system to produce more of its cannabinoids.

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