Cannabinoids like CBD have been an area of intense research. However, it’s less clear how these compounds work. One thing we do know is that cannabinoids work by affecting the human endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is a crucial part of the human body. It controls a multitude of different bodily functions that help maintain homeostasis. In other words, the endocannabinoid system maintains body processes that keep us alive. But that only answers part of our question. We want to know specifics like what is the endocannabinoid system? In addition, what does the endocannabinoid system do? Finally, what are the effects of cannabinoids like CBD and the endocannabinoid system?
What is the Endocannabinoid System?
We know that the endocannabinoid system is a bodily system that helps maintain homeostasis. It’s actually named after the cannabinoids found in nature because cannabinoids were found first. “Endo-“ is short for “endogenous,” meaning “made within the body,” so the “endocannabinoid system” deals with “cannabinoids made in the body.”
While it’s nice to know where the name comes from, that doesn’t really tell us what is the endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system itself is made up of three main parts:
Cannabinoid receptors are located on the surface of cells. They pay attention to what’s going on outside of the cell. In addition, they tell the cell how to react to what’s going on around it. In other words, when a cannabinoid enters the body, it triggers a receptor.
There are two main types of cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are located mostly in your brain, and tell your body to get high. CB1 receptors are mostly triggered by THC and other cannabinoids that trigger a “high” feeling. As a result, cannabinoids that have mostly curative effects, like CBD, do not trigger CB1 receptors.
CB2 receptors are located mostly in your nervous system. CB2 receptors mostly interact with your immune system and help regulate things like swelling and other immune responses. Therefore, cannabinoids like THC that cause you to feel “high” do not affect CB2 receptors. They’re mostly for cannabinoids with curative effects, like CBD.
Endocannabinoids are compounds made within your body that help control your cannabinoid system. They’re very similar to cannabinoids, or the compounds in plants that can affect your cannabinoid system. Endocannabinoids bind to your cannabinoid receptors to help control bodily functions like immune response, appetite, and more.
There are two main endocannabinoids present in the human body. The first is anandamide, which may be responsible for the feeling of “runner’s high.” It’s also responsible for the feeling of satisfaction you get after satiating a chocolate craving. Anandamide also is the endocannabinoid responsible for physical pain response. There is also some speculation that anandamide may control emotional pain response as well. As a result, it’s been a topic of interest for scientists researching Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The second main endocannabinoid is 2-arachidonyl glycerol. This easy-to-pronounce compound binds readily to CB1 and CB2 receptors. The compound appears to play a large role in immune system response. However, it also acts as a psychoactive endocannabinoid when it binds to CB1 receptors.
Endocannabinoids are neurotransmitters. However, they work differently from nearly every other neurotransmitter. Most neurotransmitters move one-way from a neuron to a receptor. To do this, neurotransmitters move across a space between neurons called a synapse. From there, the receptor tells the rest of your nervous system what to do based on the signal from the neurotransmitter. Once they reach their receptor, they’re destroyed by enzymes.
However, endocannabinoids actually move backward through a synapse. In addition, while most neurotransmitters are made by the body and stored for later use, endocannabinoids are created and used “on-demand” from fat cells called lipids. Some scientists believe that this means endocannabinoids work as a neurological “dimmer switch,” while other neurotransmitters work in an all-or-nothing fashion.
Enzymes are compounds in your body that break down other compounds in your body. As a result, enzymes can also break down cannabinoids. Enzymes make sure that cannabinoids and endocannabinoids are destroyed after your body uses them. One important enzyme is FAAH, which helps regulate anandamide in your body.
What does the Endocannabinoid System Do?
Now that we understand what is the endocannabinoid system, we need to figure out what does the endocannabinoid system do?
The endocannabinoid system helps regulate unconscious body responses, like swelling and appetite. In addition, the endocannabinoid system may be linked to other immune system responses, like auto-immune diseases and seizures. In addition, the endocannabinoid system may be linked to preventing the spread of some forms of cancer sells through the body.
One of the endocannabinoid system’s most important functions is regulating inflammation. While inflammation is an important bodily function, sometimes our bodies can overdo it. That’s when it’s helpful to use plant-based cannabinoids like CBD and the endocannabinoid system to reduce swelling.
CBD and the Endocannabinoid System
Cannabinoids are a family of compounds that affect body through the endocannabinoid system. There are more than 100 cannabinoids, including CBD, CBG, and THC. You may have heard about THC as the compound in marijuana that gets you high. However, not all cannabinoids have psychoactive effects.
For example, CBD and the endocannabinoid system may have a number of possible health benefits. These may include anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, CBD may also calm anxiety, increase appetite, and help you get a full night’s sleep. All of these effects are a result of CBD interacting with your endocannabinoid system.
CBD and the endocannabinoid system may also play a role in regulating seizures. The US Food and Drug Administration approved a medication made from CBD to help combat severe types of seizures in 2018. In addition, some studies have linked CBD and the endocannabinoid system as key in preventing the spread of some cancers. In addition, some studies have liked CBD and a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.