how does CBD work in the body?

I’ll first throw this scary term in the air: The Endocannabinoid System or simply ECS.

We’ve all heard about the health benefits of CBD and its effects on stress, inflammation & immunity, chronic pain, mood, and more, but have you ever stopped and asked yourself why is it so beneficial?

What actually happens inside your body when you consume CBD oil (or hemp oil)?

Some human and Cannabinoid science?

The ECS concept emerged during the 60s and 70s, deriving from research into the effects of cannabis on the human body.

Researchers isolated various phytocannabinoids from the cannabis plant. Phytocannabinoids are cannabinoids that originate in the plant (phyto).

Studying their effects, scientists discovered a complex network of receptors, enzymes, and biochemical pathways that are involved in manufacturing and using the body’s own form of cannabinoids.

These are the endocannabinoids (endo = originating within the body). And turns out that we, humans, share this “system” with most animals and that this system has evolved almost 600 million years ago.

CB1 and CB2 receptors


The Two Basics of the Endocannabinoid System

  1. Endocannabinoids (eCBs)
  2. Cannabinoid receptors (CB receptors)

Endocannabinoids (eCBs)

    I’ll try not to get too scientific, so bear with me. This is actually some interesting stuff.

    Our nervous system has chemicals that serve as messengers. These are called neurotransmitters, like serotonin and dopamine.

    On the same principle, our ECS has endocannabinoids (eCBs) that serve as the system’s messengers. They are found all over circulating in our bodies with two main such messengers:

    1. Anandamide
    2. Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG)

    *No need to memorize this. it's not included in the test material.

    Anandamide was found to be involved with appetite, memory, pregnancy and much more.

     2-AG, was found to be linked to emotional states, maintaining cardiovascular health and even protecting from seizures.

    Cannabinoid receptors (CB receptors)

    So, we’ve mentioned the messengers running around our bodies, but what happens when they reach their destination, the specific cell?

    This is where our receptors come to action and serve, pretty much, as the cell’s doorman. These receptors reside on the cell’s surface and wait patiently for certain messengers (neurotransmitters) to bind to them.

    What happens next depends on the type of cell the receptor is on and can have effects related to immunity, mood, sensation and much more. The two main receptors in our endocannabinoid system are CB1 and CB2.

    So how do CB1 and CB2 connect to our beloved CBD?

    Good question. It’s all about their functionalities, and there’s a very clear division between CB1 and CB2.

    CB1 receptors are all about our brain and are essential to keep its healthy functioning. These receptors can be moderators of your memory, mood, motor function, or your perception of pain, all depending on what region of the brain they are located in.

    CB2 receptors are most often found on the cells of our immune system. They help moderate inflammation and our immune response to pathogens (fancy word for anything that can produce disease).

    CB1 and CB2 receptors in our body


    As a side note, it’s worth mentioning that when THC (among the two most common cannabinoids along CBD explained in the previous blogpost hemp oil vs CBD and THC) binds to CB1 brain receptors we get those psychoactive properties kicking in. In other words – get high. Eureka!

    Some of you will probably stop reading here, but I urge you to bear with me and learn more about the science of how and why CBD works the way it does. It’s pretty cool.

    Remember my personal story behind establishing Reclaim Labs? Right, the immense relief CBD (or rather full spectrum hemp) gave me in helping to control my Rheumatoid Arthritis, an autoimmune disorder.

    The key word is autoimmune - CB2 receptors play a major role in affecting overactive immune system conditions (i.e. arthritis, asthma, allergies, autoimmune disorders or digestive issues like inflammatory bowel disease).

    CBD wordmap

    And now the Magic – How CBD Works

    While most cannabinoids can bind to both types of receptors — CB1 & CB2, CBD does not directly trigger either CB1 or CB2 but rather, it modifies the receptors' ability to bind to cannabinoids. This means, that by doing so, it can actually regulate the activity related to these receptors.

    For example, with CB2– regulate an overactive immune system and with CB1 – regulate mental sensations like anxiety.

    It’s now all finally starting to make sense, right?

    Maintaining and supporting a healthy ECS

    Our ECS is extremely complex and, although in the past 30 years,  research around it has exploded, the unknown is still greater than the known.

    But one thing is sure, our ECS is very easy to throw out of balance and some major causes for that can be stress and diet.

    In other words, our modern lifestyle does not serve well this natural delicate system of ours.



    Self-Experimentation and patience is Key with CBD

    Probably pretty much all of us feel that our “system” is not 100% balanced. So how do we tune, or fine tune it? The answer is self-experimentation.

    We all know about CBD and THC, but other than these major cannabinoids, there are over 110 other cannabinoids that may occur in the cannabis plant.

    These are called “minor cannabinoids” and many of them are still a mystery, and each interacts with our CB receptors differently.

    It’s impossible to “scientifically” predict (for now) the effect of these cannabinoids, and self-exploration, or trial and error is the best way to find out what works for you.

    True, as you (hopefully) read this piece, science and research is advancing, and most likely down the road, science will be able to isolate various cannabinoids and their effects on our receptors and cells.

    But for now, it’s really a matter of finding what works for you. So, if one oil does not work for you, try a few more. Eventually you’ll find one that meets your expectations.

    Oh yes, and one more thing –don’t expect an overnight miracle. Regardless of what you might hear, as you read above, there’s an entire process that’s taking place until our systems start reacting to cannabinoids’ stimulation.


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