The Endocannabinoid System

09th Mar , 2019

Courtesy of Terpenes and Testing Magazine 

For thousands of years, humans have found a legion of benefits to be had from the inherent qualities that reside in the cannabis plant. While there has been a long struggle for advocates to translate these aspects to the scientific community and the public at large, over the past 30 years scientific research has finally begun to shed light upon how and why cannabis acts the way it does within the human body.

While the identification and understanding of cannabinoids found in plants has been researched since at least the 1940’s, it’s only since the 1980’s that what’s now known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS) has begun to be understood. To know how it works is an important step in better understanding how all cannabinoids, and their methods of application, can best be used to benefit those who seek all it’s benefits.

What are CB1 and CB2 Receptors?

The complexities of how exactly the ECS works aren’t always easy to wrap one’s head around, but in general, it’s important to first grasp the basics. Within the ECS reside a number of receptors, though the first identified, CB1 and CB2, are the main players in the system. Each one acts in different ways, not only counterbalancing the effects that come about from one versus the other, but also in various ways based upon the cannabinoids each is interacting with.

These receptors are activated by three different types of biomolecules or ligands: endocannabinoids (naturally produced in mammals), cannabinoids (found within plants such as cannabis), and synthetic cannabinoids. Most cannabinoids are able to bind to both CB1 and CB2 receptors, though the resulting effects differ.

The CB1 receptors are primarily found in the brain and central nervous system, though they also reside within various organs, including the liver, kidneys, and lungs. Depending on where receptors in the brain are found determines the function they serve, including the moderation of memories, motor functions, perception, and mood. They, along with CB2 receptors, are found on the ends of nerve terminals.

This synergy of cannabinoids with CB1 receptors is best understood by the psychoactive effects that result from their interaction with the high THC levels of what’s been traditionally referred to as marijuana. Additionally, THC acts directly with CB1 receptors, acting as an agonist (“a substance that initiates a physiological response when combined with a receptor”) when they interact.

Conversely, CB2 receptors are mainly found within the immune system (expressed as T cells), White blood cells (B cells), and hematopoietic or stem cells. While much is still being learned about CB2 receptors, what is known is that cannabidiol (CBD) works more directly with these receptors, moderating inflammation and pain, but CBD also works as an antagonist on CB1 receptors when THC is interacting with them (i.e. CBD blocks or dampens the impact of THC).

Relieving Benefits

While so much is still being understood about all the functions of the endocannabinoid system, what studies have been revealing since the 1990’s are the multitude of positive impacts cannabinoids do have, via the ECS, throughout the body.

In general, these interactions between various cannabinoids and the aforementioned receptors can collectively provide a greater balance or homeostasis between cells, tissues, and organs. With over 100 collective cannabinoids being present in cannabis (including CBD, CBN, CBG, THC and more) there are so many permutations of combined factors that provide calming relief in the form of these naturally occurring compounds.

The collective impact of many cannabinoids working through the ECS is commonly referred to as the "Entourage Effect”[link blog article] - scientific findings that the more compounds that are at work within the ECS at once, the greater the positive impact upon all the locations receptors are found throughout the body.

The reason CBD has taken the limelight among all these cannabinoids is it’s higher concentration within cannabis and the multitude of benefits that have been directly attributed to it’s interactions. Knowing how these compounds work and better understanding the functions of the ECS can only help when determining which delivery methods should be used for the most effective application.

It’s these positive impacts of CBD that have inspired Relief CBD to make a variety of products that allow for various delivery methods, all intended to properly promote wellness within the body. Be sure to take a look at the wide variety of CBD products we offer to provide relief.