CBD is constantly making headlines as more people discover it and share their experiences on how it’s improved their lives. It’s been so beneficial to some people that it’s even been given the title of a miracle compound.
But how exactly does CBD work? How does CBD seemingly treat so many different health conditions? How does our body interact with the cannabis plant? What really happens when you ingest CBD?
The endocannabinoid system
In order to explore these questions, we have to look at the endocannabinoid system.
Our bodies naturally have an endocannabinoid system (ECS). Scientists estimate that our ECS is an internal system that first evolved in primates over 600 million years ago.
Heart surgeon Dr. David Allen, M.D said "The discovery of the endocannabinoid system is the single most important medical scientific discovery ever and will save more lives than the discovery and application of sterile surgical technique."
It’s the largest biological system of receptors in the body, connecting all 11 main psychological systems. It’s constantly working and plays a vital role in ensuring we stay healthy. It’s responsible for managing all important physiological processes including mood, pain, memory, pain, reproduction, and appetite.
It does this by working to maintain homeostasis in the body. Homeostasis is the body’s desire to remain in a level of internal equilibrium and balanced physiological state. Without homeostasis, our body’s cells don’t have the proper conditions to function properly and so we get sick.
The 3 main components of the endocannabinoid system
The ECS is made up of three components: cannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors, and metabolic enzymes.
Cannabinoids act as keys to the ECS, whilst the cannabinoid receptors are the locks. Each time a key fits a lock, it’s opened and causes an effect in the body.
There are two types of cannabinoids. Endocannabinoids, which are produced naturally by the body, and phytocannabinoids (such as CBD and THC) which are found naturally in the cannabis plant.
The two main types of cannabinoids found in the body are anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG).
Enzymes work within the body to cause a chemical reaction or to speed up an existing chemical reaction.
Metabolic enzymes act within the ECS by removing cannabinoids once they’ve been used and are no longer useful to the body. Without enzymes regulating cannabinoids, the body would be unable to reach homeostasis.
The two main metabolic enzymes in the ECS are fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL).
Cannabinoid receptors act as the locks to the ECS, which are opened when a cannabinoid binds to it.
Cannabinoid receptors embedded in cell membranes throughout the body including the brain, organs, tissues, and glands.
The two types of cannabinoid receptors that have been identified by scientists are CB1 and CB2. Researchers suspect there is also another receptor that has yet to be discovered.
CB1 receptors are predominantly found in the nervous system, connective tissues, gonads, glands, organs and the brain. Their main role is to regulate appetite, memory and reduce pain.
CB2 receptors are primarily found in the immune system and the gastrointestinal system. They’re also present in the brain but aren’t as dense as the CB1 receptors found there. Their main role is to reduce inflammation throughout the body.
How does CBD help with homeostasis?
Scientists believe that when you consume CBD it specifically targets the ECS in two ways.
Firstly, it encourages the synthesis of 2AG (a cannabinoid in the body) which stimulates the cannabinoid receptors. Secondly, it inhibits the metabolic enzyme FAAH which increases the levels of endocannabinoids produced in the body.
How do I know if CBD is working?
CBD doesn’t cure or treat any diseases but rather scientists have discovered that it can alleviate symptoms, such as nausea, depression, and anxiety that are directly related to the ECS. CBD works by encouraging homeostasis which keeps your body, mood and overall well-being healthy.
CBD isn’t psychoactive like THC so you won’t feel a "high" when it starts working. With CBD it’s less about what you feel and more about what you don’t feel.
To find out if CBD is working consider comparing how you feel before and after taking it. If you have relief from the symptoms you’re looking to address then it’s worked, if not then the dosage needs to be increased.
Do I need to take cannabis to have a healthy endocannabinoid system?
Maintaining a healthy ECS is vital for our overall heath and well-being. The stronger your ability to reach homeostasis, the healthier you are.
Whilst the body naturally produces endocannabinoids on its own, the ECS can be supported and boosted naturally by consuming phytocannabinoids that are found naturally in cannabis.