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The Endocannabinoid System and Cannabidiol

02/15/2020 | Patrick Meier | CBD

CBD based products are able to elicit therapeutic effects due to their interaction with the endocannabinoid system. For years, we’ve all heard about how cannabidiol, the main cannabinoid found in cannabis, is able to relieve symptoms of anxiety, alleviate pain and inflammation; and even aid in improving our immune health. But, have you ever wondered how does cannabidiol actually works?

In today’s article, we will cover everything you need to know about the endocannabinoid system and how cannabidiol plays its part.

What is the Endocannabinoid System?

Cannabinoids are able to elicit their pharmacological properties on the body by binding to very specific receptors within the endocannabinoid system.  To date, there are two particular receptors of major significance to science. These are the CB1 and CB2 receptors, where both receptors belong to a superfamily of proteins known as G-proteins.

The first major receptor are your CB1’s. It was originally believed that these receptors were predominant within the brain. However, as new data continues to emerge, it’s been observed that CB1 receptors can be found across various peripheral organs within the body.

Based on studies done on rodents, scientist have found that the highest concentration of CB1 receptors is located on the basal ganglia, cerebellum, and hippocampus. These are regions of the brain that are responsible for physiological functions such as sensation, motor acquisition, motivation, and even cognition.

Now, CB2 receptors differ from CB1 receptors as they are predominately present throughout the central nervous system. CB2 receptors are believed to be a part of the immune system within the human body, and so under pathological conditions (such as disease or illnesses), the concentration of CB2 receptors drastically increases as part of the general immune response.

The reason why CB2 receptors are of significance to the medical industry is because of their ability to enhance or aid in the immune response. In addition to this, CB2 receptors do not cause psychoactive effects and so this has become an area of much interest to scientists.

Endocannabinoids vs Phytocannabinoids

To understand how cannabidiol works, we must first understand the role of endocannabinoids within the body. As mentioned above, the endocannabinoid system consists of various receptors. This entire system can mediate and influence homeostasis, as well as other physiological functions.

Now you may be wondering, why do we even have an endocannabinoid system? Are we all supposed to consumed cannabis?

Believe it or not, your body naturally has the ability to produce its own cannabinoids. The two main cannabinoids made by the body are Anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG). Anandamide is responsible for improving and enhancing nerve cell generation. And so, it is often the molecule that causes a person to feel at bliss. The function of 2-arachidonoylglyerol is not yet clear. However, research shows that this compound may be involved in mediating inflammatory processes.

Finally, the endogenous (within the body) endocannabinoids are catabolized by various different enzymes within the body. AEA is broken down by the enzyme Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase (FAAH); while 2-AG is broken down by the enzyme monoacylglycerol acid lipase (MAGL).

Now, phytocannabinoids are essential to the plant analog of the cannabinoids found within our own bodies. Phytocannabinoids are mainly found in the cannabis plant, where the most amount cannabinoids include delta-9 Tetrahydroxycannabidiol and cannabidiol.

What is Cannabidiol and Why is it Important?

Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, is one of the major cannabinoids found within the cannabis plant. Unlike the cannabinoids, delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol is a non-psychoactive compound.

Now, much research has demonstrated that cannabidiol has the ability to act as a non-competitive antagonist with CB1 receptors. That being said, cannabidiol does indeed have many therapeutic effects of which we will cover.

The Effects Cannabidiol has on the Body.

Cannabidiol and its effects on the human body

Firstly, cannabidiol is considered an anxiolytic compound. While there are not many human studies that conclusively state the anti-anxiety effects of cannabidiol. It has been demonstrated that cannabidiol does stimulate a receptor known as TRPV1.

This receptor has been extensively studied as it mediates our response to pain. In addition, CBD can indeed influence other receptors in the body, this includes the CB2 receptor as well as serotonin 5-HT1A receptors. It is through the conjunctive actions of these receptors, that CBD is able to decrease anxiety in people.

Secondly, cannabidiol can actually have anti-depressive effects. Now, the mechanism of action to how cannabidiol helps people with depression is yet to be understood. However, studies show that cannabidiol can aid in the process of neurogenesis (the ability of the body to create new neuronal cells). When there is a down-regulation of neurogenesis, depressive-like behaviors such as chronic sadness may be seen.

Consumption of cannabidiol leads to the activation of both CB1 receptors and VR1 receptors. Both these receptors aid in the process of restoring and strengthening neurogenesis. In addition, cannabidiol has a strong affinity to CB2 receptors. When bound to CB2 receptors, the ability of the body to produce neural cells amplify.

Finally, as we mentioned earlier, CBD has the ability to increase the concentration of anandamide within the body. Anandamide is a naturally occurring cannabinoid that is produced within the body. Anandamide is a neurotransmitter that improves our mood. Therefore, CBD can alleviate depressive symptoms in people by enhancing neurogenesis and elevating the concentration of anandamide within the body.

Evidence suggests that both CBD and THC may play a role in pain management and how we perceive pain. Although the actual science behind this seems somewhat cloudy, it has been shown that cannabinoids are able to suppress/inhibit the descending pain inhibitory pathway which is located within the central nervous system.

In addition to this, cannabidiol can regulate the amount of cytokine production within the immune system.  Cytokines, as well as, various immune cells play a major role in healing and inflammation. Thus, the combined effect of CBD on cytokines and pain perception leads to CBD having both analgesic (pain-relieving) and anti-inflammatory effects.

So, Does CBD help immune system: 5 Facts about the ECS

Yoga combined with CBD can strengthen the immune system

  1. All vertebrae have an endocannabinoid system. This means that all animals have the ability to benefit from the cannabinoids found in cannabis.
  2. If your endocannabinoid system is not working properly, then you’re more likely to experience increased pain. And, healing from general illnesses may be prolonged.
  3. Consumption of CBD oil is dose-dependent. This means that users who are interested in receiving the full benefits of cannabidiol, need to start consuming CBD at low doses. Gradually, they can build up their dosage in order to see greater results. 
  4. Even small doses of cannabidiol can improve your overall health! Consumption of low dose cannabidiol can improve and increase the synthesis of the endocannabinoids already produced in your body.
  5. CBD oil has a wide safety margin! Scientists have found that there is a very small concentration of cannabinoid receptors found within the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. For this reason, it is extremely hard, if not impossible, to overdose on CBD oil.
  6. If you want to receive the full effects of CBD, then purchase a full-spectrum CBD product. This is because full-spectrum CBD products contain a variety of cannabinoids that synergies the overall effect of the cannabinoids

Final Thoughts…

The endocannabinoid system is quite a complex physiological clock. It essentially mediates processes such as our ability to sleep, motor learning, mood, inflammatory processes, and even our metabolism. Although the human body produces its own cannabinoids, the phytocannabinoids found in the cannabis plant have shown to have quite promising therapeutic effects for future medicine.


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