How Do CBD and the Endocannabinoid System Interact? (+How You Benefit From This Interaction)

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1 in 5 Americans suffers from chronic pain, according to a study by the CDC. That’s almost 50 million people suffering pain on the daily. Scientists are constantly studying new ways to alleviate this pain. One such way is through the endocannabinoid system.

Though CBD is often looked at as a supposed miracle drug with little promise, it shouldn’t be dismissed so quickly. If you suffer from chronic pain, you know that anything to ease it is welcome. Studies on the endocannabinoid system are fairly new, but learning what it does and how it can help you can be a huge game-changer, especially when combined with CBD.

Keep reading to find out how to reap these benefits. 

Understanding the Endocannabinoid System

So, what is the endocannabinoid system (ECS)?

It was discovered only recently in the 1990s, during research on cannabis directed by Ronald Reagan’s administration. The goal was to prove that cannabis was dangerous, but what occurred instead was discovering this system in the body. The name is so similar to cannabis because the cannabinoids that makeup ECS are very similar to those found in hemp or cannabis. 

Basically, ECS is a complex network of cannabinoid cell receptors and neurotransmitters. You can find this system in mammals, reptiles, birds, and fish. Its main function is to keep your body in homeostasis, meaning keeping the body internally balanced. 

It is most concentrated in the immune system and in the central and peripheral nervous system. It is such a unique system because it does not do one specific function, but many, working with other systems in the body to keep it balanced.

Functions ECS Regulates

As the primary function of ECS is to keep the body in homeostasis, it regulates many different functions in the body. One of the best examples is temperature. When you are working out and getting hotter, ECS will cool you down by making you sweat. If the temperature outside drops, ECS will make your body shiver to create heat. 

There are many other functions it balances as well, such as: sleep, mood, memory, appetite, digestion, immune response, perception of pain and pleasure, motor control, inflammation, and fertility. 

Three Main Components 

There are three main components of ECS: endocannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors, and enzymes. Endocannabinoids are chemical compounds similar to those found in cannabis, though those are known as phytocannabinoids. The first two endocannabinoids that have been discovered in the body are anandamide and 2-AG.

Like other receptors in the body, cannabinoid receptors are found on the surface of cells in the nervous system and on the organs. Endocannabinoids are able to bind to cannabinoid receptors. This allows them to communicate with other bodily systems to keep the balance. The two main types of cannabinoid receptors are CB1 and CB2. 

After the endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors have bound and performed their functions, enzymes in the system break them down to avoid excessive build-up. Anandamide is associated with the enzyme FAAH, and 2-AG is associated with the enzyme MAGL. 

CBD’s Role in ECS

CBD and THC are the most abundant cannabinoids found in cannabis. Because of this, when CBD or THC is used in or on the body, it can bind to cannabinoid receptors and control physiological functions as endocannabinoids do. However, the two compounds interact with the body in very different ways. 

THC binds to the CB1 receptors in the brain, similar to anandamide. Anandamide only provides a calming effect on the brain and is very susceptible to getting broken down by FAAH enzymes. THC provides a psychoactive effect on the brain, and FAAH are not as effective on THC, which allows the psychoactive effect to last longer. 

CBD binds to both the CB1 receptors in the brain and CB2 receptors in the whole body. CBD provides a relieving effect without the psychoactive effects, benefiting many different parts of the body and mind.

It can alleviate certain mental conditions such as anxiety or stress, and provide relief to physical conditions such as muscle spasms, joint pain, and swelling. This is the main reason that CBD has been used in so many new and different ways, such as with oil, lotions, bath bombs, and there is even CBD cream for pain relief

CBD Indirect Effects

Regulating enzymes is a big part of what ECS does in the body. CBD is an inhibitor for the FAAH enzymes, which is the enzyme responsible for degrading anandamide. This means that CBD blocks the enzyme from breaking down anandamide. In turn, this allows that endocannabinoid to exist in the body longer. 

Because anandamide provides a calming effect in the brain, by blocking the FAAH enzymes from breaking it down, CBD is indirectly helping to treat mental disorders, specifically anxiety, stress, and possibly depression. Science is just getting started with learning all the benefits you can get from CBD, but it has already provided much-needed relief for many people. 

Apply the Science

Now that you’ve learned how your endocannabinoid system works, what it does for your body, and how CBD interacts with it, you can apply the science to benefit from it. Though it’s not very likely CBD is going to solve all of your problems, using it in the right way can help take away your pain and provide you with a much needed relaxing effect. 

Consider trying a CBD cream to provide relief for sore muscles, or perhaps CBD oil to alleviate a migraine. There are so many different ways to use it, and you will find that using it in different ways could help with various issues. Go out and try that CBD, and then browse through more of our articles for all of your curiosities. 

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