How does CBD work?

Hayley Dawes
1st February 2021

Introducing our Endocannabinoid system...

Within our body we have an endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS plays a big role in inflammation and communicates directly with important parts of our body like the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal system. The phyto-cannabinoids (CBD) that you ingest or apply topically interact with this system. It’s a complex network which regulates our bodily processes and we also naturally produce our own cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) that interact with the system’s receptors.

The main aim of the ECS is to maintain homeostatis in your brain and body regardless of what is going on around them. It helps put things back together when something is out of balance. This crucial system sits like a skin overlaying many other messaging and chemical systems in the brain and body to help regulate these systems too. Only discovered in the 1990’2, the ECS is the largest biological system or receptors in the body, and some scientists believe it is the most important physiological sytem invocled in establishing and maintaining human health.

The ECS helps control some of the most important physical, mental and emotional functions in the brain and body. Everything from body movement, pain control and immune system function to mental health, gut function, sleep and even brain protection. As we rely on our endocrine system (hormone system) and endorphin system (makes our ‘feel-good chemicals), we also heavily rely on our ECS system.

Endo means ‘inside us’ and cannabinoids are chemicals similar to CBD from the cannabis plant. These endocannabinoids are chemicals that our own bodies make naturally.

When the ECS isn’t functioning properly, adding in cannabinoids from the cannabis plant like CBD and hundreds of other cannabinoids or terpenes, may help restore balance and alleviate symptoms without major side effects.

How does CBD work with the ECS system?

The human body produces certain cannabinoids on its own. All cannabinoids, including CBD, produce effects in the body by interacting with certain receptors.
The ECS can be broken down into 3 simple elements. Each element plays an important role in ensuring the ECS functions properly.

1. Cannabinoid receptors namely CB1 receptor and CB2 receptor. These mediate the effects of cannabinoids, reacting to different cannabinoids in different ways. CB1 receptors are mainly found in the brain and central nervous system and affect emotions, mood, thinking, memory, appetite and co-ordination. CB2 receptors are found throughout the body – in the immune system, gut, bone marrow, reproductive organs, urinary tract and endocrine system (hormone system) as well as in the brain and affect inflammation and pain.
2. Endocannabinoids which are produced by our body and activate cannabinoid receptors. These are produced constantly by our bodies to address internal imbalances
3. Enzymes specific to the ECS help the body break down and recycle the endocannabinoids.

The important point to note is that the CBD doesn’t directly bind with the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Instead, it activates and directs the body to use more of its own cannabinoids.

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