How CBD works: What's the Endocannabinoid System?
So, what exactly is CBD?
We start with the plant cannabis. Within the cannabis plant family there are two species: marijuana and hemp. They look similar, but have different properties.
Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found in both hemp and marijuana. There are many different cannabinoids and we care about them because they work with the endocannabinoid system in our body.
One of these chemicals is called cannabidiol, or CBD for short. Hemp has a lot of CBD and it is especially helpful for ailments like anxiety and pain relief. We extract the CBD from the plant to turn it into more digestible and effective formats like oils, tinctures, and topicals.
THC is also a cannabinoid. This chemical creates the “high” feeling you get when consuming marijuanna. CBD does not produce a high.
How does CBD work in the body?
The human body (as well as the bodies of other vertebrates) has an endocannabinoid system (ECS)— similar to other body systems like the immune and nervous system. The ECS is believed to help regulate sleep, mood, memory, appetite, reproduction and pain sensations. The system interacts with cannabinoids - which are not just found in hemp. Cannabinoids are produced by the body and found in certain foods.
Cannabinoid receptors sit on the surface of cells and “listen” to conditions outside the cell. They transmit information about changing conditions to the inside of the cell, kick-starting the appropriate cellular response. Overall, research indicates that the endocannabinoid system helps ensure that the body’s immune and central nervous systems are running correctly.
CBD attaches itself to receptors in the endocannabinoid system throughout your body, usually creating relaxing effects in the body. CBD works differently for everyone and can have varying benefits depending on how it’s used and in what dosage.
People can be deficient in cannabinoids, just like you can be iron or serotonin-deficient, and taking CBD can be a way to supplement your body’s deficiency. It’s thought that if your body is deficient in its production of a certain cannabinoid like anandamide, you’ll feel more pleasure from eating certain foods that contain it, like chocolate.
The endocannabinoid system isn’t widely talked about because it wasn’t discovered until the 80's and 90's. Doctors and researchers are still studying the system’s specific functions and reactions in the body, which is part of the reason there's conflicting evidence of CBD’s effects on the body.