Our bodies are constantly at work monitoring important functions. Is your temperature too high or perhaps too low? Is your heart beating at a controlled rate? What about your hormone levels? Is everything in balance? 

These are some of the functions that your endocannabinoid system, or ECS, regulate on a daily basis. As such, the endocannabinoid system plays an extremely important role in the body of humans and animals alike. 

When your body has an imbalance, the ECS is activated to get things back to normal. You have your ECS to thank for cooling down when you get overheated or for regulating your heartbeat when it’s beating overtime. Your endocannabinoid system also regulates functions like appetite, sleep, and mood. 

Needless to say, the endocannabinoid system is essential to healthy every day living, even though most people have never heard about it until they start researching the endocannabinoid system and CBD in particular. 

So let’s discuss the endocannabinoid system and CBD in more detail and why the skyrocketing popularity of CBD and cannabis products have put the ECS into the spotlight like never before. 

What is the Endocannabinoid System?

Blue picture of neural receptors and transmitters in the brain to represent the endocannabinoid system.

The endocannabinoid system is a system in the human body made up of receptors that interact with cannabinoids like THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). Research on marijuana and cannabis use over the years has led to this exciting discovery of a previously undiscovered communication system in the human body. 

The endocannabinoid system plays a role in regulating our mood, physiology, pain, inflammatory response, and other functions throughout the day. You can think of the endocannabinoid system as you would any other regulatory system in the human body like the immune system or the central nervous system. 

As researchers have continued to study the system, they have made discoveries in the relationship between cannabinoid receptors (or CB receptors) in the human body and the cannabinoid receptors in the cannabis plant. What they discovered was a signaling system between endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids that is now known as the Endocannabinoid System. 

This all makes sense once you learn the mechanisms underlying the benefits of cannabinoids for you as well as your pets. But what makes CBD so special?

Endocannabinoid System and CBD

So, you may be wondering how CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system and which positive effects these phytocannabinoids can have on the system. 

CBD is one of the exogenous cannabinoids of the cannabis species and it is known as a phytocannabinoid or a plant cannabinoid. It comes from either the marijuana plant or from the hemp plant.

When CBD is introduced into the endocannabinoid system, there can be a wide range of positive effects on the body. CBD helps to maintain a normal inflammatory response and supports normal cardiovascular, immune, and neurological function.

It’s interesting to note that the human body also produces cannabinoids on its own. These are called endogenous cannabinoids, since they come from inside the body, whereas exogenous cannabinoids come from outside of the body. 

Basically, these cannabis constituents are neurotransmitters produced in our bodies that bind to cannabinoid receptors in our immune system, brain, and other parts of our body. These cannabinoids can activate certain receptors which play a role in supporting normal physical and mental performance. Examples of such neurotransmitters are anandamide, 2-arachidonoylglycerol, and virodhamine. 

CBD in particular works to inhibit Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase (FAAH), which creates higher levels of endocannabinoids like the neurotransmitter anandamide. Anandamide is a chemical compound called “the bliss molecule,” and it plays a role in pleasure and motivation in the brain. The word “anandamide” actually comes from the Sanskrit word “ananda,” meaning bliss, and given its role in the human body, the name makes sense. 

For those who have a chronic illness or whose body simply doesn’t produce enough cannabinoids, CBD use is a seamless way to introduce cannabinoids into the endocannabinoid system in a non-psychoactive way. This is because unlike other cannabis products, CBD products are derived from the hemp variety of the cannabis plant (marijuana’s cousin, if you will) and only contain trace amounts of THC (typically less than 0.3%). 

This means that CBD products won’t give the body the sensation of being “high” the way marijuana-derived products do. In other words, people and animals can experience potential health benefits by using CBD products and don’t have to worry about nasty side effects, since hemp-derived CBD typically has little to no side effects. 

So, what are some of the positive effects that CBD can have on the endocannabinoid system? Well, according to multiple studies, the potential benefits of CBD are plentiful!

A pair of gloved hands holding cannabis plants that are being used for CBD.

What are the Effects of CBD?

CBD can have the following effects:

  • Supports normal cardiovascular, immune, and neurological function
  • Promotes a calming effect on the nerves
  • Helps maintain healthy joints and connective tissue 
  • Enhances the body’s immune response 
  • and more! 

These are just some areas where CBD can benefit the endocannabinoid system, but there is ongoing research in many areas with new discoveries happening constantly. 

Endocannabinoid Receptor

Endocannabinoid receptors are located throughout the body. They are a class of cell membrane receptors in the C protein-coupled receptor family and are activated by endocannabinoids and plant cannabinoids as well as synthetic cannabinoids. 

The first type of endocannabinoid receptor was found in 1988 in the brain of a rat, and it was discovered that it specifically interacted with THC. These receptors were found concentrated in the areas of the brain that are responsible for memory, emotion, and high cognition. THC is normally found in higher concentrations in products like medical marijuana or other types of medicinal cannabis. 

Other studies led to more discoveries about cannabinoid receptors in the brain in the 1980s. The first cannabinoid receptor was named cannabinoid receptor type 1, or CB1 receptor. Later, in 1993, a second type of cannabinoid receptor was discovered, and this was named CB2. 

What are CB1 and CB2 Receptors?

CB1 receptors and CB2 receptors may seem very similar but they actually have different functions in the body. 

The CB1 receptor exists in high numbers in the brain, gathered mostly in the hypothalamus, amygdala, and hippocampus. They can also be found in the intestines, gonads, central nervous system, and other glands. 

These CB1 receptors help regulate key functions of the human body such as enhancing brain function, helping to maintain calmness, and helping to manage normal stress. 

There are extensive benefits to activating CB1 receptors such as:

  • Supporting normal blood pressure
  • Promoting relaxation
  • Supporting a healthy inflammatory response

CB2 receptors are distributed throughout the body in peripheral organs and work with the immune system, muscular system, and cardiovascular system. They are commonly in the immune cells, tonsils, spleen, and thymus, and unlike CB1 receptors, only a small number of CB2 receptors are present in the brain. 

A picture of the endocannabinoid system and CBD effects, highlighting where the CB1 and CB2 receptors are located.

Changes to the CB2 receptors can cause many types of diseases like cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, and psychiatric problems. CB2 receptor function also plays a role in connective tissue support, enhancing bone and joint health, and supporting a normal inflammatory response. 

Some studies even suggest that activating the CB2 receptors in the body destroys the beta-amyloid protein, which is the main source of plaque found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. 

The interesting thing about these receptors is that both the CB1 receptors and CB2 receptors bind with THC in a very strong way, but CBD has no such binding property. Instead the benefits of products with CBD content are created through indirect actions on the endocannabinoid receptors. 

Endocannabinoid System and CBD: Bottom Line

Overall, CBD’s effect on the endocannabinoid system makes it useful for supporting the physical and mental well-being of the body with non-psychoactive effects and little to no side effects. 

Using CBD oil and other CBD products is a great way to stimulate your endocannabinoid receptors to experience many potential benefits in the body. Research by the Food and Drug Administration into these areas of health are just beginning, and it is and will remain a promising area of study for years to come. 

The naturally occurring cannabinoids in hemp like CBD is especially great for dogs and cats, who also have endocannabinoid systems, and there’s a clear trend in CBD products for animals like CBD tinctures, CBD bites, and CBD chews–not to mention CBD-infused products like peanut butter and coconut oil.  

When it comes to working with CB1 and CB2 receptors, using CBD is a fantastic way to enjoy potential health benefits without the common side effects of THC. 

CBD activates your endocannabinoid system in a gentle way that can have lasting health benefits.