NOTE: this article is a continuation of an article we wrote that covered the CBD & the endocannabinoid system generally. If you’re wondering what the ECS is and why it’s important, read that article by clicking on this link. Here, we dive deeper into the CB1 and CB2 receptors and discuss how they enable CBD and other cannabinoids to render us benefits.
So, you’ve heard that CBD works for humans because we all have endocannabinoid systems, which play a critical part in regulating many functions of the body.
But enough of the buzzwords. Let’s get down to the science.
In this article, we’re going to find out.
What Are the CB1 and CB2 Receptors?
First, let’s discover how CBD interacts with the ECS.
The ECS is a huge network of cellular receptors that is found throughout the brain and body. The receptors that CBD and other cannabinoids typically interact with are the CB1 and CB2 receptors.
There are some key differences between the CB1 and CB2 receptors:
- Where they’re found – whereas the CB1 receptors are found in the central nervous system and in tissues throughout the body, CB2 receptors are only found in those tissues
- What they control – the CB1 receptors typically process signals that affect the brain, while the CB2 receptors are more closely related to the body
As you’re about to find out, your CB1 and CB2 receptors can be affected in different ways.
How Cannabinoids Interact with the CB1 and CB2 Receptors
The basic purpose of the ECS is to keep the body in a state of homeostasis, or balance.
Whenever one of the bodily functions regulated by the ECS is off-balance, it produces endocannabinoids that interact with the CB1 and CB2 receptors, causing chemical processes that restore homeostasis.
- anandamide (AEA)
- 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG)
Endocannabinoids vs. Phytocannabinoids
Although the ECS produces cannabinoids by itself — endocannabinoids — if it’s in a state of severe imbalance due to illness or other external stressors, introducing external cannabinoids is necessary.
These are called phytocannabinoids, and they develop naturally in the cannabis plant and are used in gummies, tinctures, and other products.
To summarize, endocannabinoids are produced by the body, while phytocannabinoids come from the cannabis plant.
However, both types of cannabinoid interact with the CB1 and CB2 receptors in some way.
Agonists vs. Antagonists
A cannabinoids is either an agonist or an antagonist.
An agonist binds to a CB1 or CB2 receptor and creates a certain effect, while an antagonist binds to one of these receptors and blocks any effects from occurring.
On the other hand, CBD is an antagonist. It also binds to the CB1 and CB2 receptors, but in a different way.
Experts actually aren’t completely sure how CBD interacts with these receptors, but what they do know is that it has no major impact on these receptors as THC does.
CBD’s Impact on the ECS
Instead of direct interaction with receptors, many experts attribute CBD’s wide range of positive effects to that fact that it may help prevent endocannabinoids from being broken down.
It also regulates the production of endocannabinoids and ensures your body is responding as needed to imbalances. In other words, CBD helps maintain the ECS during times of stress.
Experts have also discovered that CBD suppresses the effects of THC. This is why you won’t get high when you take Full-Spectrum CBD, even though it contains a small amount of THC.
Conversely, if you use a Delta-9 THC product (that has no CBD), you will get high, even if the product contains just 0.3% THC due to legal restrictions.
CBD has similar effects and benefits for the body as THC does, but without the head high.
Some people enjoy getting high, but for those who don’t, CBD provides a wonderful all-around wellness solution. With CBD’s benefits in mind, it’s safe to say that whatever regulation CBD is providing for the ECS is pretty critical.
It’s easy to think that science has an answer to everything, but the ECS and the benefits of supplementing with phytocannabinoids such as CBD are largely still a mystery to scientists.
For example, some experts think there may be receptors in your ECS in addition to the CB1 and CB2 receptors.
There will need to be more research before we’re absolutely sure how CBD and other cannabinoids interact with the ECS.
However, the benefits that we have seen CBD render, as well as the what we know so far, tells us that we’re on the right track to figuring out exactly how CBD works, and why everyone could benefit from using it.