Cannabis Science

21 February 2019

How CBD works and its affect on the body

The deep science simplified

By Mell Green

We are just beginning to understand the true science behind CBD. However, with the growing popularity of CBD use, many are still unaware of the exact mechanisms of this cannabinoid. For this reason we at CSG want to take a closer look and ask the question;  just how does it work inside of the human body?

CBD has a host of effects, and scientists are still adding to the list. One thing we do know, is that CBD shows promise for encouraging homeostasis, by supporting one of the most important physiological systems in our body — the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). With that said, CBD may very well be one of the safest therapeutically active substances we’ve ever known.

The ECS is responsible for many functions within your body.

The Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system shares a close relationship with our nervous- and immune system. In short, the role of the endocannabinoid system is to keep your body in a balanced, neutral state. The ECS contains millions of cannabinoid receptors found in virtually all of the tissues in our bodies. Within these tissues the human body naturally synthesizes lipid-based retrograde neurotransmitters, called endocannabinoids, with the help of associated biochemical machinery, such as precursors, synthetic, degradative enzymes, and transporters.

Endocannabinoids bind to cannabinoid receptors all throughout the body. In their interaction, endocannabinoids trigger the release of other neurotransmitters to relay information from one nerve cell to another, also known as neurotransmission. The endocannabinoid system is continually using this neurotransmission to make the necessary adjustments to maintain proper cell function. These receptors play a significant role in regulating many bodily functions like:

  • Pain
  • Memory
  • Appetite, digestion, hunger
  • Mood
  • Temperature regulation
  • Immune function
  • Reproduction and fertility
  • Pleasure and reward
  • Sleep
  • Motor control

Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CED)

The body naturally synthesizes endocannabinoids on demand, but research suggests in some cases, a person might not have enough cannabinoids; thus, the endocannabinoid system is not able to work effectively. A condition called Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CED) is what happens when the ECS is out of balance and can cause a number bodily dysfunctions and symptoms such as chronic pain, mental fog, inflammation or fatigue. Luckily, when an imbalance occurs, CBD (together with other cannabinoids and terpenes) can stimulate a chemical response that works to return the physiological process back to homeostasis.

How CBD interacts with the ECS’s receptors

You can think of CBD as the molecular key to two primary cannabinoid receptor sites in the body: the central nervous system (CB1 receptors) and immune system (CB2 receptors). That’s all well and good, but how does CBD get inside of a human cell to bind to a receptor? From our understanding, CBD passes through the cell membrane by grabbing a ride on the backs of fatty acid-binding proteins (FABPs).

Now, while CBD does not stimulate CB1 and CB2 receptors directly, it can bind to and activate them and other receptors crucial for optimal health. They can even block certain chemical messengers from binding with receptors at those sites. Here are some examples of those ‘other’ receptors that are activated by CBD:

Adenosine: CBD gives anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory effects by activating adenosine receptors. Also, adenosine receptors are involved in the release of two neurotransmitters in the body. One is dopamine, which involves cognition, motor control, motivation and reward mechanisms, and the other, glutamate — a mediator of excitatory signals involved in memory, learning, and cognition.

5-HT1A: 5-HT1A serotonin receptors are found throughout the brain and are responsible for a series of processes that control sleep, appetite, nausea, pain perception, anxiety, and addiction mechanisms. CBD has been shown to activate the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor, which exerts rapid-acting antidepressant-like effects, especially in higher concentrations.

The interaction between cannabinoids and our receptors.

TRPV1: Named after the flavorful vanilla bean, TRPV1 vanilloid receptors are known to mediate pain perception, inflammation and body temperature. CBD binds to these receptors, which influences pain perception and is said to reduce hypersensitivity to pain, which is a common occurrence with those who consume large amounts of opioids.

GPR 55: GPR 55 is a G-protein embedded in the cell membrane. When CBD is consumed, it acts as an antagonist to GPR 55 and blocks signaling, which decreases bone reabsorption – for stronger bones – and cancer cell proliferation. This turns out to be very important because the activation of GPR 55 is sometimes associated with various diseases like osteoporosis and several kinds of cancer.

How fast does CBD work?

CBD can only begin to interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system once the body absorbs it. How long it takes for effects to fully take hold depends on serving size and method of consumption, as well as on other factors that can affect the rate of absorption.

Ingested: CBD is slowly absorbed by the digestive system and passes through the stomach and liver before taking effect.

Sublingual (under the tongue): CBD bypasses the digestive system and reaches the bloodstream much faster by being absorbed through mucous membranes in the mouth.

Vaporization: CBD passes through the lung’s alveoli rather fast. Once through the alveoli, the CBD molecules are immediately transferred into the bloodstream.

Applied topically to the skin: the CBD molecules pass through the epidermis or hair follicles slowly, over time.

Some have reported noticing the effects after their very first serving of CBD oil, while others have said the effects were only noticeable after days, weeks, or even months of consistent administration. It all depends one’s own physiology and the type of ailments they are trying to alleviate.

One final note: CBD interactions with other medicines

Indeed, CBD has powerful therapeutic effects but, there are a few catches. Experts tell us that CBD may interact with some medications. Since the same cytochrome p450 enzyme that metabolizes CBD in the liver also metabolizes many medications. This means that it can potentially alter the effects of these drugs in the system. So, if you are using any medication for longer periods of time and you are considering using CBD, we highly recommend that you consult your physician first.

Post author
Mell Green
Mell Green is an enthusiast of all things cannabis and writes content that represents some of the best things that we as a people can strive for: good health and happiness.
See more from Mell Green

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