Cannabis Science

21 February 2019

How CBD works and how its affect on the body

More and more people are becoming familiar with the positive effects of CBD, but few understand how the cannabis compound really works. This is partially because we are only just beginning to understand the true science behind CBD. In this guide, we’ll cover what we do know about the way CBD works and what its effects are on the body.

Cannabidiol CBD, a compound found in cannabis plants or hemp plants, has grown in popularity thanks to its non-intoxicating and therapeutic effects. Whether a newbie looking to buy CBD or a frequent CBD user, it’s likely you’re familiar with the positive effects and health benefits Cannabidiol can have. But it’s how CBD works on a scientific level that is often less understood.

Whether helping to relieve pain, alleviating symptoms of Parkinsons disease, working at improving memory, or reducing anxiety, the benefits of CBD come down to intricate processes within the body. Some of these processes are still being further researched, but there are some things we do know about the way CBD works.

One is that CBD shows promise for encouraging homeostasis (a balance in the body) by supporting one of the most important physiological systems in our body — the Endocannabinoid System (ECS).

Understanding the Endocannabinoid System is crucial to understanding how medical cannabis works, and more specifically how cannabinoid compounds like CBD and THC can benefit health and wellness.

What is 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

What is 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.

The ECS is responsible for many functions within your body.

How does CBD affect the body?

The science behind the effect of CBD is complex. In simple terms, 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).

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 and wellness. They can even block certain chemical messengers from binding with receptors at those sites. So how does CBD get inside of a human cell to bind to a receptor? It’s thought CBD passes through the cell membrane by grabbing a ride on the backs of fatty acid-binding proteins (FABPs).

Here are some examples of other types of receptors CBD can activate:

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.

TRPV1: Named after the flavourful vanilla bean, TRPV1 vanilloid receptors are known to mediate pain and 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.

Does CBD make you high?

Since CBD is extracted from marijuana plants it is often assumed CBD products will make you feel high or intoxicated. However, this is not the case. CBDs effects are non-intoxicating, meaning users can enjoy some of the benefits of medical marijuana without feeling psychoactive effects.

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 CBD to work depends on mg of CBD per dosage, the kind of CBD products, as well as on other factors that can affect the rate of absorption.

Here’s a look at how quickly different methods for consuming CBD are absorbed:

Ingestion: Ingesting CBD means it will be absorbed slowly by the digestive system, passing through the stomach and liver before taking effect.

Sublingual: Taking CBD sublingually helps bypass the digestive system, reaching the bloodstream much faster by being absorbed through mucous membranes in the mouth.

Vaporization: Vaping CBD allows the cannabinoid to pass relatively quickly through the lung’s alveoli. Once through the alveoli, the CBD molecules are then immediately transferred into the bloodstream.

Topical application: CBD topicals ensure the CBD molecules pass through the epidermis or hair follicles slowly, over time.

How quickly you will feel the desired medical benefit from CBD will vary from person to person. 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 on your own physiology and the medical condition you are trying to alleviate.

How does CBD interact 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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