For the past few years, cannabidiol (CBD) has been a popular health supplement in countries including the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Here in the UK, the CBD market is exploding, generating about £50 million, annually. Brits love CBD so much that during 2019, sales doubled throughout the country!

But all this meteoric growth in the popularity of CBD has not been accompanied by widespread education about the cannabinoid. Many people don’t know exactly what CBD is, or how it works. And to be honest, scientists and experts are still learning new things about cannabidiol every day. But we do know much about how CBD works in the human body, and we’ve put together a simple, easy-to-understand overview of CBD and the bodily system it works within–the Endocannabinoid System.

 

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The Endocannabinoid System

In the 1960s, scientists and researchers wanted to know more about THC, a type of cannabinoid found in cannabis plants (it’s also the molecule responsible for getting you high when you smoke Marijuana). By studying THC, researchers discovered the human endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is a cell-signaling system that regulates things like sleep, mood, and memory.

The endocannabinoid system is comprised of three things: endocannabinoids (cannabinoids made by the human body), receptors, and enzymes.

Endocannabinoids: AEA and 2-AG

At this point in the research, scientists know of two main endocannabinoids, anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG). Anandamide is also known as the “bliss molecule” because its function is related to the parts of the brain that produce happiness, motivation, and calm. Like AEA, some think that 2-arachidonoylglyerol plays an important role in regulating appetite, immune system functions and pain management. Together, AEA and 2-AG keep many of your bodily systems and functions balanced, in a state of homeostasis.

Receptors: CB1 and CB2

Throughout your body, your cells contain receptors searching for signal from other parts and systems in your body. The ECS has two primary types of receptors: CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors correlate to the central nervous system, while CB2 receptors have a bigger hand in your immune system.

Scientists associate the CB1 receptor with cerebral and behavioral effects. This means they directly contribute to mental aspects like memory and thought as well as emotional reactions, appetite, and pain. THC molecules are attracted to CB1 receptors, which might be why Marijuana users experience heightened emotions but impaired cognitive processes. Interestingly, the endocannabinoid AEA, or the “bliss molecule” also has an affinity for CB1. Many psychologists interested in motivation study CB1 receptors because it regulates our internal reward system.

 

CB1 CB2

 

While most CB1 receptors are in the brain, CB2 receptors are more likely to be located along the peripheral nervous system. For this reason, they effect much to do with bodily inflammation and the immune system. And unlike CB1, CB2 receptors are not thought to be related to emotional euphoria. Instead, CB2 receptors regulate stress and pain levels and have no noticeable effect on mental cognition.

AEA and 2-AG can both bind to CB1 or CB2. Which endocannabinoid binds to which receptor and in which part of the body all influence what the resulting effect is.

Enzymes

After endocannabinoids do their jobs, they need to be dissolved. That’s where enzymes come in. The FAAH enzyme breaks down AEA and the MAGL enzyme does the same for 2-AG.

Cannabidiol CBD

 

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What is Cannabidiol (CBD)?

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a phytocannabinoid found in both the Hemp and Marijuana cannabis plants. The plants both contain hundreds of cannabinoids including THC. However, unlike THC, the user does not feel a “high” after consuming CBD.

How Does CBD Work With the ECS?

Like we mentioned earlier, many cannabinoids like AEA, 2-AG, and THC can bind to both CB1 and CB2 receptors. However, CBD cannot do this. CBD doesn’t bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors. Rather, it enhances the receptors ability to bind with cannabinoids like THC and 1-AG. Instead of interacting directly with the ECS, CBD augments or inhibits other compounts within the ECS. For instance, CBD prevents AEA absorption from out of the bloodstream. The more AEA in the bloodstream, the better the body is at regulating pain.

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