The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a biological system composed of endocannabinoids, which are endogenous lipid-based neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors, and cannabinoid receptor proteins that are expressed throughout the vertebrate central nervous system (including the brain) and peripheral nervous system.
Recent science has found that the endocannabinoid system does not just respond to the endocannabinoids produced in the body, but also respond to external cannabinoids like CBD. Introducing CBD to the body can help reduce the symptoms of a wide range of illnesses including epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, chronic inflammation, depression, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, anxiety, and opioid withdrawal.
CBD acts upon CB1 and CBD2 receptors located throughout the body to produce a variety of positive outcomes. CBD does not bind directly to either of these receptors but instead impacts them indirectly. These indirect actions include activating TRPV1 Receptors that work to control important functions like pain perception, body temperature, and inflammation. CBD can also increase the amount of anandamide in the body. Known as the “bliss molecule,” anandamide plays a role in the neural generation of pleasure and motivation.
By stimulating the endocannabinoid system, CBD promotes homeostasis, reduces pain sensation and decreases inflammation.
How Does CBD Affect the Endocannabinoid System?
The endocannabinoid system’s purpose is to respond to endogenous cannabinoids produced within the human body.
During their research, scientists have learned that the system will also recognize and respond to cannabinoids from external sources, including CBD.
According to the National Institute of Health, manipulating the endocannabinoid system by introducing external cannabinoids like CBD could be useful in treating a variety of medical ailments, including:
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
- Broken Bones
- Mad Cow Disease
- Bacterial Infections
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Substance Abuse/Withdrawal
- Heart Disease
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
CBD and Cannabinoid Receptors
To date, experts agree there are two types of cannabinoid receptors; cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB2). These neurons act as a sort of lock, with cannabinoids acting as the key. Although they have similar sounding names, these two receptors perform very different functions in the human body.
Cannabinoid Receptor Type 1 (CB1)
CB1 receptors exist in high numbers in the brain, central nervous system (CNS), intestines, connective tissues, gonads, and various other glands.
Benefits of activating the CB1 receptor include:
- Relieving depression
- Increasing myelin formation
- Lowering intestinal inflammation
- Decreasing intestinal permeability (Leaky Gut Syndrome)
- Lowering blood pressure
- Lowering anxiety
- Reducing fear and paranoia
- Increasing BDNF levels
- Increasing PPARy expression
- Reducing GPR55 signaling
- Lowering prolactin
Cannabinoid Receptor Type 2 (CB2)
CB2 receptors occur most commonly in the spleen, tonsils, thymus, and immune.
Changes in CB2 receptor function is synonymous with virtually every type of human disease; be it cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, neurodegenerative, psychiatric, and autoimmune. It even plays a role in liver and kidney function, bone and skin health, cancer, and even pain-related illnesses.
Activating the CB2 receptor induces macrophages to destroy the beta-amyloid protein which is the main component of the plaque found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Human Body Produces Cannabinoids like CBD?
The human body does produce cannabinoids. Endogenous Cannabinoids are neurotransmitters produced within our bodies that bind to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, immune system, and elsewhere. Endocannabinoids perform differently to the more well-known neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
Dopamine, for example, is synthesized in advance, stored in the vesicle, and in response to stimuli, is released from the presynaptic cell, where it crosses the synapse, lands on the postsynaptic cell, and causes activation.