Cannabinoids like CBD are complex chemical compounds that interact with different cell receptors inside the body and brain. For a long time, it was theorized that cannabinoids worked by permeating cells inside the body. However, researchers now know that they actually work by interacting with specific cell receptors inside the endocannabinoid system (ECS). But what exactly is the ECS and just how does it work?
The ECS is a complex molecular signaling system composed of cell receptors, cannabinoids, and enzymes. It was first discovered in 1992 when researchers stumbled upon it while investigating marijuana’s effects on the body. Since then, further research has revealed an intricate network of cell receptors spread throughout the body and brain that influence a variety of human functions.
Over time, researchers have discovered more and more ECS cell receptors littered throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems. These cell receptors reside on the surface of cells and interact with endogenously produced endocannabinoids like anandamide and external phytocannabinoids like CBD and THC.
The ECS is primarily composed of three components: endocannabinoids that are naturally produced by the human body, protein cell receptors that interact with cannabinoids and endocannabinoids, and metabolic enzymes that work to break down endocannabinoids after they have performed their function.
The ECS plays a critical role in human health and function by regulating a wide range of biological and physiological processes. It is believed that the main purpose of the ECS is to help the body and brain maintain homeostasis (balance) in order to continue functioning properly.
The ECS is believed to influence critical functions such as:
‘Endo’ is a term that refers to something natural coming from within. The ‘endocannabinoid’ system is named after the naturally produced endocannabinoids that exist within the human body. Endocannabinoids, also called endogenous cannabinoids, are ‘short-order’ neurotransmitters that help the body and brain to perform a variety of functions.
There are many different endocannabinoids that are naturally produced by the human body, however, the two best understood are anandamide and AG-2. Anandamide, known as ‘the bliss molecule’, is believed to maintain homeostasis by regulating inflammation and appetite, mood fluctuation, and neuron signaling. AG-2 is found in high levels in the central nervous system and is believed to have analgesic (painkilling) and antiemetic (anti-nausea) properties.
The ECS also interacts with the cannabinoids found in cannabis, also known as phytocannabinoids. Cannabinoids like THC and CBD interact with different cell receptors throughout the network in different ways. While THC has been found to bind directly to CB1 and CB2 receptors, it is believed that CBD produces its effects by stimulating other receptors and pathways.
Although CBD has very little binding affinity for the CB1 and CB2 receptors that account for the bulk of ECS receptors, it has been shown to interact with various other non-cannabinoid receptors and pathways.
For instance, at high concentrations, CBD is believed to directly bind to 5-HT1A serotonin receptors. This receptor is implicated in numerous biological and neurological processes including appetite, sleep, pain perception, nausea, and anxiety. CBD is also believed to bind to TRPV1 receptors that function as ion channels. Like serotonin receptors, these ‘vanilloid’ receptors are also thought to influence pain perception.
CBD is also thought to block or deactivate GPR55 receptors that are involved in modulating bone density and blood pressure, among other things. Researchers also believe that CBD’s effects on GPR55 receptors may also decrease cancer cell proliferation. Lastly, CBD may also activate PPAR receptors that may have a further anti-proliferative effect on cancer cells.
CBD is also believed to act as a ‘reuptake inhibitor’. It affects the ECS by inhibiting the breakdown of naturally produced endocannabinoids like anandamide. After endocannabinoids have done their job, they are naturally broken down by enzymes and discarded. However, CBD appears to slow this process down, allowing endocannabinoids to continue functioning and performing for longer.
CBD also has the potential to affect the production of testosterone. Cannabinoids and endocannabinoids are thought to affect fertility and hormone production by interacting with receptors found inside of sperm cells, Lygid cells, and the pituitary gland.
While it is believed that CBD slows down the production of testosterone, it also works to slow the breakdown of testosterone by the liver. Additionally, CBD is believed to aid testosterone production by limiting the production of other hormones such as cortisol and prolactin.
Our bodies are simply built to interact with cannabinoids like CBD. Nature’s cannabinoids and our body’s endocannabinoid system come together like peanut butter and jam to keep the body working like its supposed to.
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