CB1, CB2 & CBD: How our receptors interact with cannabinoids
You may have heard that cannabidiol (CBD) can help with a variety of common issues such as anxiety, pain and appetite stimulation. But why does cannabidiol work on your body?
CBD is a cannabinoid that is processed by our endocannabinoid systems (ECS). Animals and humans possess an internal system of receptors, endocannabinoids such as anandamide and 2-AG, and enzymes that define how our bodies process cannabinoids. Most importantly, our bodies have receptors specifically designed for cannabinoids like THC and CBD.
These receptors are known as CB1 and CB2 receptors and bind with cannabinoids to create sensations in our bodies, such as relieving pain or easing digestion.
In 1992, the endocannabinoid system was discovered by Dr. Ralph Mechoulam, who later went on to discover the CB1 and CB2 receptors. The ECS produces powerful endocannabinoids that also bind with each of these receptors.
CB1 receptors are primarily found in the brain and central nervous system, though they have also been found in reproductive organs.
Unlike those receptors that narcotics target, these receptors do not interact with the areas of the brain that are responsible for regulating vital bodily functions such as heart rate or respiration, allowing cannabinoids such as CBD and THC to act on the body without a risk of overdose.
CB1 receptors primarily bind with THC, while CB2 receptors are much more receptive to CBD. These CB1 receptors are often associated with the “high” that many cannabis users report after consumption, and are connected to other parts of the brain that are responsible for regulating pain relief, memory, and anxiety.
While CB1 receptors are usually found in your central nervous system, CB2 receptors are most commonly found in peripheral tissues and the immune system; the highest concentration of CB2 receptors in your body is found in your spleen.
As a result, the psychotropic effects of CB1 stimulation that are often limiting (the “high”) can be avoided and are of particular therapeutic interest, being the subject of multiple studies since the early 2000s.
CBD is one of many cannabinoids that binds well with CB2 receptors, which may be related to the lack of psychoactive experiences reported during its use.
Researchers caution that CBD could still contain psychoactive properties if taken in large amounts.
Targeting CB2 receptors with a cannabinoid like CBD can help with the treatment of inflammation, neuropathic pain, chronic pain and acute pain, as well as potentially offering benefit for diseases with neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative components.
Briefly, we wanted to touch on the importance of the metabolic enzymes FAAH, which breaks down anandamide, and MAGL, which breaks down 2-AG. These enzymes are utilized by the ECS to remove leftover endocannabinoids (and cannabinoids) from the body after a need or use has passed.
CBD is believed to inhibit FAAH, preventing the breakdown of anandamide and allowing the body to produce and absorb more than it would naturally allow, affecting the homeostasis of the body and conditions that can be attributed to chemical imbalance in the brain and body.
Much more has yet to be researched on the interactions between CBD and the entire endocannabinoid system.
Everyone’s endocannabinoid system is different and we process cannabinoids differently because of this, but everyone’s body contains CB1 and CB2 receptors, metabolic enzymes and endocannabinoids that are designed to help your body maintain homeostasis.