The endocannabinoid system works mainly with our body’s own cannabinoids, which are produced internally. For example, arachidonoylethanolamine (AEA) is produced within the body and is thought to regulate several functions.
However, when cannabinoids are taken externally, it’s difficult to distinguish between the clinically desirable effects and the therapeutically undesirable effects of various phytocannabinoids. This is because cannabinoid receptors send a variety of signals that often interconnect to coordinate the body’s functions, so it’s hard to tell them apart.
For example, CB1 receptors send signals that regulate senses, while cannabinoids that interact with CB2 receptors can at the same time affect gastrointestinal response and peripheral nervous system sensitivity.
See why external cannabinoids (like CBD) can be a little more complicated?
Also, since people often take numerous different cannabinoids together (for example, using medical marijuana), it is hard to attribute specific effects to specific cannabinoids. That’s because unprocessed cannabis includes more than 60 different types of cannabinoids, including CBD and THC.
In addition, some cannabinoids interact synergistically, producing unique effects that are not found when using them individually. For example, CBD inhibits THC’s psychotropic effects when the two are taken together. However, CBD does this (and produces many other effects) without directly interacting with the cannabinoid receptors. At first, scientists thought there was a third type of CB receptor just for Cannabidiol, but the answer was far more interesting and revealing.
We just stated that CBD is fairly unique as far as cannabinoids go, because it does not seem to interact directly with either the CB1 or CB2 receptors. So what does it do if it’s not interacting directly with our receptors?
Here’s where it gets good…
Cannabidiol has a particularly low potential for binding with the CB1 and CB2 receptors, but instead acts as an antagonist of the receptors’ agonists. That’s a mouthful.
In layman’s terms, this means that CBD keeps the receptors working at optimal capacity and helps the function of all other cannabinoids, including the body’s own endocannabinoids.
Still with me? If you want to know more about the effects, read below, but if you’re often put off by scientific words, you might want to skip down to the conclusion…
The Effects of CBD
CBD offers a wide range of potential effects. Strong scientific evidence suggests that CBD may help with forms of epilepsy with the FDA even recommending CBD medication in certain rare cases of childhood epilepsy.
CBD is otherwise most often used for its potential to provide calm and relaxation. On a chemical level, CBD is known to possess powerful antioxidant properties, which may contribute to reducing inflammation and relieving pain. Ongoing research and study are required to fully understand the potential of the cannabinoids therapeutic effects, but CBD may also help to:
- Improve sleep
- Soothe stress
- Improve mood
- Repair and protect skin
- Protect the nervous system
- Promote a healthy heart
- Help manage pain
What Effects Does CBD Have on the Body?
Now to understand CBD’s function within the body, we need to examine how receptors like CB1 and CB2 interact with other chemical compounds. But first you’ll need to know these three terms…
- Agonists – chemicals that bind to a receptor and activate it to produce a biological response.
- Inverse agonists – chemicals that bind to the same receptor as agonists but produce the exact opposite result.
- Antagonists – the complete opposite of agonists as they inhibit or dampen the functions of a receptor.
The indirect interactions of CBD with the endocannabinoid system has many effects, some of which surprised scientists and are still being researched. Some of CBD’s functions include:
- Effectively increases CB1 density, amplifying the effects of all cannabinoids that bind to CB1 receptors.
- Acts as a 5-HT1a receptor agonist in the brain.. This means that CBD has calming and soothing effects such as some potent analgesics, but without the side effects.
- Acts as inverse agonist of CB2 receptors, effectively reducing the effects of cannabinoids that make CB2 receptors less responsive.
- Acts as an antagonist for the putative GPR55 receptor, an element of the endocannabinoid system that is still being researched. (It is suggested that GPR55 may be a third type of cannabinoid receptoraltogether.)
Between the above functions, most of CBD’s observed effects are well explained. However, scientists are still unclear about how some effects of Cannabidiol are actually occurring. The most possible explanation is via the hypothetical GPR55 receptor, or through more indirect and synergistic effects that still await discovery.
Contrary to how most cannabinoids function, CBD interacts very mildly with the cannabinoid receptors themselves and instead either helps other cannabinoids to be better absorbed or stops the effects of whatever makes the receptors work less effectively.
The indirect nature of CBD’s effects have made it difficult for scientists to pinpoint its exact effects up to now, but many positive effects of this unusual phytocannabinoid are still being studied.
The endocannabinoid system is closely interconnected with the nervous and immune system. Since CBD has been shown to boost just about every function of our cannabinoid receptors, it is proven to have far-reaching soothing and relaxing effects.