CBD is known to be beneficial to the human body in many ways. It has shown tremendous promise in the treatment of anxiety and sleep-related disorders and is a primary ingredient in pain treatment medications.
At present, it is still a bit of a mystery as to how and why CBD works on the body the way it does. But what researchers do know is that many of its most beneficial effects are related to how it interacts with the endocannabinoid system.
The discovery of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) can be traced to the 1990s when researchers were studying one of the more well-known cannabinoids in cannabis, THC. Scientists have since identified ECS as a complex cell-signaling system. Even so, much of its role in the human body has yet to be discovered.
What scientists do know is that ECS plays a significant role in the regulation of many of the body’s processes and functions. Among these are:
It is also important to note that the endocannabinoid system continues to function actively in the body, even without the use of cannabis.
To better understand the interaction between CBD and the ECS, it might be helpful to first go over how the ECS works.
The ECS consists of three major components:
Endocannabinoids are chemically similar to the cannabinoids that are present in cannabis plants. However, they are endogenous cannabinoids, which means that they occur naturally in the body.
Two major endocannabinoids have been identified:
These endocannabinoids are responsible for ensuring that internal processes in the body run smoothly. The body produces these substances as required, which makes it difficult to determine their levels.
Endocannabinoid receptors are located all over the body. When the endocannabinoids bind to these receptors, the ECS begins to perform its functions.
Two endocannabinoid receptors have been identified thus far:
Endocannabinoids can bind to any of these two receptors. The effect depends on where the particular receptor is located and to which endocannabinoid it binds. If the endocannabinoid binds with CB1 receptors in the nerves, for example, the patient may experience relief from pain. If the endocannabinoid binds to a CB2 receptor in the immune cells, the body will take this as a sign that there is inflammation present, which is often the case among people with autoimmune disorders.
The role of enzymes is to break down the endocannabinoids after they’ve performed their primary function. Two enzymes are primarily responsible for this task:
Fatty acid amide hydrolase. This enzyme breaks down AEA
Monoacylglycerol acid lipase. This enzyme breaks down 2-AG
As mentioned previously, there are still many aspects of CBD-endocannabinoid system interaction that remain something of a mystery. However, initial research suggests that ECS may affect the following processes:
The ECS is also thought to affect learning and memory, sleep, mood, and stress management. Some scientists believe that it may also hold the key to the management of metabolism, appetite, and digestion.
Much of the interaction between CBD and the ECS is due to the fact that CBD doesn’t bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors in the same way as THC. Some researchers suggest that CBD binds to an as-yet-undiscovered receptor. However, the most commonly-held belief is that CBD prevents the breaking down of endocannabinoids. Subsequently, this causes them to have a more significant effect on the body’s processes.
This realization could potentially be groundbreaking, considering that endocannabinoid deficiency could be the root cause of many health issues. Although there needs to be more research done to support the health benefits of CBD, there is growing evidence that suggests that it may be the key to managing problems associated with inflammation and the immune system.