Everything you need to know about how CBD works in the body

Chances are you are well versed when it comes to the benefits of CBD (lower stress levels, a reduction in chronic pain, dwindling anxiety levels to name but a few). You might even be clued-up on the different types of CBD and know your broad-spectrum from your CBD isolate. But when it comes to how CBD actually works?

Well, you might be a little bit lost. But, you don’t need a science degree to understand thewhat and why behind how CBD works in the body because we’ve got the lowdown in layman’s terms. Here’s what’s going on inside your body when those beauty-boosting, stress-busting CBD benefits take place. 

What is the endocannabinoid system?  

It’s not news that our bodies are complex systems that react in different ways to a variety of compounds, but the Endocannabinoid System was only discovered in the 1990s after researchers set out to find out the function played by plant-like molecules – now known as endocannabinoids – that were naturally produced by the body. 

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is arguably one of the most important systems for regulating human health and has a huge influence on our central nervous system. A complex web of cell receptors and neurotransmitters, it helps to keep various bodily systems – such as our digestive and reproductive systems – in balance. It also affects countless biological functions from our sleep to our moods, anxiety and stress levels. 

To break it down further, within the body there are two types of cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are highly concentrated in the central nervous system and affect mood, appetite, emotion and other functions. 

CB2 receptors are usually found in the peripheral organs, especially in cells related with the functions of the immune system. The CB2 receptors affect the experience of pain and inflammation. 

The job of the ECS is to help improve the function between all of these systems in order to maintain homeostasis – which is the process by which the body maintains an optimal inner balance, despite external circumstances or stressors. 

What are endocannabinoids? 

We naturally produce endocannabinoids which latch onto these CB1 and CB2 receptors and help maintain the balance and function of our key systems. However, endocannabinoids function differently to other neurotransmitters – think serotonin and dopamine – produced by the body. Instead of being synthesized in advanced and then stored up, endocannabinoids are produced only when they’re needed and, as they can’t travel like other neurotransmitters, they have a localised effect. 

So where does CBD come in? 

Because of the production process of endocannabinoids (localised and produced only when needed) the ECS might sometimes need a helping hand. While CBD does not directly attach itself to CB1 or CB2 receptors, it is said to have an indirect effect on the endocannabinoid system. 

Firstly, CBD (also known as cannabinoidal) can stimulate the ECS to produce its own cannabinoids to help maintain balance in our bodies. It can also help slow down the breakdown of cannabinoids by inhibiting the production of the FAAH enzyme (which breaks down the fatty acids on signalling lipids like endocannabinoids) so that endocannabinoids stay in the body for longer. CBD has also been found to influence other non-cannabinoid receptors such as 5ht serotonin. 

While CBD isn’t a cure-all, it can help encourage your body’s natural production of endocannabinoids, prevent them from degrading as quickly, influence other receptors such as 5ht serotonin and therefore help with a myriad of medical conditions including chronic pain, anxiety and insomnia. 

By Natalie Ticehurst