How does CBD work inside our body?
CBD (cannabidiol) is one of the dozens of cannabinoids naturally occurring in cannabis, but it has attracted a lot of attention in recent decades, not only from the general public but especially from doctors and scientists. It turns out that CBD can have a number of positive benefits for the human body and alleviate the symptoms of health problems that would be worthy of an article in itself. It is only thanks to the curiosity and diligence of scientists and researchers that we can now give you an insight into how CBD interacts with the natural mechanisms in our bodies and what uses it can offer us.
Epilepsy, anxiety, chronic pain, nausea, insomnia, multiple sclerosis, endocrine disorders (diabetes and thyroid disease are among the most common) and various neurodegenerative diseases are most often mentioned in connection with the beneficial effects of cannabidiol on human health. These result in the gradual degeneration or outright death of nerve cells and cause problems with movement (ataxia) or mental function (dementia).
You may be wondering how one compound can have such diverse benefits and offer so many benefits to our bodies. At the core is the mechanism by which CBD works within our body and how it interacts with it. In the following lines, we will try to give you at least a rough outline of these mechanisms.
The importance of the endocannabinoid system
CBD has the ability to interact with endocannabinoid system (ECS) in our body.
It has a significant effect on maintaining homeostasis. In slightly simplified terms, this means that CBD can regulate the system that keeps the entire advanced factory on behalf of the human body in balance. It suppresses processes that are overactive and out of the normal range, but it also works the other way around. It strengthens functions that are deficient.
The action of cannabidiol in our body is thus fundamentally different from the action of conventional drugs or dietary supplements, which usually have a specific "direction" of action and focus on a specific process in the body, which they enhance or inhibit.
The ECS has 3 components - endocannabinoids, receptors and enzymes. The body makes its own endocannabinoids, which bind to the two main endocannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, and act on the body through them. After the endocannabinoids have done their job, enzymes come into play to break them down, to get rid of them.
Endocannabinoid receptors are found in the skin, in various organs, but especially in the brain. Learn more about the endocannabinoid system in our article.
How and why does CBD work differently from THC?
In terms of effects, the main difference between CBD and THC is that THC is psychoactive. It causes the familiar 'high' and induces a feeling of 'high' during which the perception of reality may change in various aspects. Cannabidiol has no such effects, although it is not entirely accurate to say that CBD is not psychoactive. Below we will try to explain why.
The different effects of CBD and THC on the human body are mainly due to the fact that both substances interact differently with the ECS, i.e. they act differently on its receptors.
THC mainly targets the cannabinoid receptor CB1, which is mainly found in the central nervous system. This receptor is responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis. Therefore, in order for the body to experience psychoactive effects, THC must bind to and activate this receptor.
CBD also "interacts" with the CB1 receptor, but in a different way. It does not activate it, but it does make it more difficult for other substances to activate it. CBD thus de facto moderates the effects of THC by creating a barrier for THC to bind to the CB1 receptor.
Therefore, the presence of CBD has a significant effect on the psychoactivity of THC-containing products. For the same reason, the ratio of the two cannabinoids is important for estimating the effects of cannabis preparations. According to recent research, other substances in cannabis such as terpenes and flavonoids also play an important role. It is therefore not just the relationship with THC that is important, as CBD works in conjunction with many other substances and can have a spectrum of benefits.
How CBD specifically (co-)works with our body's mechanisms
CBD acts as an inhibitor of the enzyme FAAH (fatty acid amidhydrolase). This means that CBD prevents this enzyme from doing its job - breaking down the endocannabinoids inside cells that our bodies produce themselves. By preventing the FAAH enzyme from working (inhibiting it), CBD provides support for the endocannabinoids that occur naturally in our bodies (2-AG and anandamide). By this mechanism, CBD contributes to the maintenance of homeostasis.
CBD activates vanilloid receptors and thus reduces pain. Vanilloid receptors perform a variety of tasks in the body, primarily regulating the transmission of pain, inflammation and body temperature signals. So when the vanilloid pain receptors are activated, they block the transmission of pain signals to the brain. Cannabis is not the only plant that interacts with these receptors. Other such plants known for their analgesic effects include ginger, black pepper, and chili peppers.
CBD increases GABA activity. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is the so-called primary relaxant neurotransmitter. Its main function is to regulate the activity of neurons. It acts as a brake pedal for the nervous system. It relieves nervous and muscular tension, has a dampening effect, calms and protects neurons from damage. It is associated with relaxation and is important for sleep hygiene. It helps to prepare our brain for the night mode, i.e. to fall asleep.
When GABA doesn't work properly, we can become anxious and find it difficult to "turn off" the stress response or fall asleep, resulting in anxiety and insomnia. This neurotransmitter also plays an important role immediately after a stressful situation. This is because it slows the heart rate, lowers blood pressure and allows us to relax and recover from the effects of stress. GABA dysfunction can indirectly lead to lowered immunity and also to digestive problems if the problem persists for a long time.
CBD is a so-called allosteric GABA modulator. This means that CBD does not directly activate the acid receptor, but facilitates the naturally occurring GABA to bind to the receptors themselves. The result is an increased sense of relaxation and an attenuation of the symptoms of over-stimulation of the brain, which manifests as anxiety, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc.
The above processes involved in CBD show how versatile cannabidiol can be and why its ability to reduce pain, act as an anti-inflammatory, regulate stress and promote relaxation and good sleep are most often mentioned in the debate about its effects. We'll discuss the specific uses of CBD and its potential to benefit the human body and help fight a variety of ailments in a future article.
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