Here’s How CBD Works In Your Body
CBD is a very complex molecule, and we’re still a long way from understanding how it works once inside our bodies. In this article, we take a closer look at CBD, the endocannabinoid system, and the molecular pathways through which CBD delivers its plethora of effects.
Understanding Your Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system is a regulatory system that helps mediate a wide variety of processes inside the body, including everything from inflammation and pain to memory and stress.
The human endocannabinoid system is basically made up of 3 components:
- Endocannabinoids, like anandamide and 2-AG. These compounds are similar to the cannabinoids found in cannabis and hemp but are produced naturally by the body.
- Enzymes, like fatty acid amide hydrolase, monoacylglycerol lipase, and cytochrome P450 which help synthesize and metabolize cannabinoids.
- Cannabinoid receptors, such as CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are found in extremely high concentrations throughout various parts of the brain, while CB2 receptors are mainly found inside immune cells and other parts of the immune system.
The easiest way to picture how the endocannabinoid system works is to think of CB1 and CB2 receptors as locks, and anandamide and 2-AG as keys that fit perfectly inside these locks to trigger different bodily processes.
How CBD Interacts With The Endocannabinoid System
Some phytocannabinoids, like THC and CBD, mimic endocannabinoids so closely they are able to fit perfectly into their receptors. THC, for example, is able to fit directly into CB1 receptors. CBD, however, is a little different.
Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t have a high affinity for either cannabinoid receptor. Instead, CBD can activate over 60 different molecular pathways throughout the body.
Once inside the body, CBD is transported by fatty acid binding proteins (FABPs). These proteins help transport the molecule through cell membranes, where it can start acting on specific receptors, including:
- 5-HT1A Serotonin Receptors: Serotonin is a very important neurotransmitter sometimes referred to as the “feel good” hormone. It plays a key role in regulating mood, circadian rhythm, cognitive and motor function, and more. Studies show that high doses of CBD can directly activate 5-HT1A receptors, delivering antidepressant and anxiolytic effects.
- TRPV1 Vanilloid/Capsaicin Receptors: TRPV1 receptors are found throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems on nociceptive neurons which play an important role in the transmission of pain signals to the brain. CBD can bind directly to these receptors to deliver analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects.
- GABA Receptors: GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning it decreases brain activity. While it can’t actually bind to GABA receptors, research from Australia shows that CBD can slightly alter the shape of these receptors and increase their affinity for GABA molecules. In doing so, CBD can increase GABA activity and deliver calming effects.
- PPAR Gamma Receptors: Studies show that CBD can activate a group of receptors known as PPAR (peroxisome proliferator-activated) gamma receptors. In vitro research suggests that activating these receptors may slow the proliferation of tumor cells.
- GPR55 Receptors: GPR55 receptors have been shown to regulate bone density, blood pressure, and the growth/death of cells. CBD can deactivate these receptors.
CBD As A Reuptake Inhibitor
A process known as “reuptake” which helps control neurotransmitter levels in the brain can also be hindered by CBD.. In doing so, CBD can temporarily increase the levels of some chemicals in the brain, including anandamide, serotonin, GABA, and more.
CBD: A Multi-Purpose Molecule
CBD works on our body at many different levels, and we’re still far from completely understanding this complex molecule. Nonetheless, recent research shows that CBD has huge potential as a medicine and supplement, and it’s already helping countless people across the world manage a plethora of symptoms and conditions.
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