How Does CBD Work?

CBD (Cannabidiol) is a completely natural cannabinoid, being one of over 100 of these compounds found in the cannabis plant. It is the second most prevalent active ingredient within the plant, after the psychoactive, and therefore, controlled substance THC. But how does this increasingly popular cannabinoid, CBD, work?

With under the tongue ‘sublingual’ dosage being the most effective method of consumption, once in the bloodstream, CBD mainly interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system. This system comprises endocannabinoids which are neurotransmitters that bind to CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors and certain proteins that are expressed throughout areas of our central nervous system and brain. As an initial example, CBD’s pain alleviation properties are linked mainly to these two receptors. However, it is believed that CBD also binds to a number of other receptors, including GABA receptors and 5-HT1 receptors to alleviate anxiety. But firstly, let’s examine how to take CBD for optimal results.

Taking CBD

CBD can be consumed as gummies, vaped, and even applied locally. But CBD is utilised most efficiently by placing droplets under the tongue. Known as ‘sublingual consumption’, the underside of the tongue is home to mucous glands that quickly and thoroughly absorb the CBD oil, allowing more CBD to pass into the bloodstream.

Once with the bloodstream, several enzymes break down the CBD, which then interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system.

More on the Endocannabinoid System

The Endocannabinoid system exists within all mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, and possibly within some invertebrates. It comprises cannabinoid receptors that are found throughout the body, with the greatest concentrations being found within the central and peripheral nervous system, as well as within the immune system.  

The endocannabinoid system is believed to be responsible for controlling a variety of bodily functions, including sleep, mood, temperature, immune response, perceptions of pain and pleasure, fertility, memory, and appetite.

The system comprises three main components: 

1: Endocannabinoids, also known as endogenous cannabinoids, are compounds made by your body that are similar to the cannabinoids found in cannabis. 

2: Cannabinoid receptors. These receptors are found on the surface of cells within the nervous system, as well as within other organs. Endocannabinoids bind to cannabinoid receptors, allowing them to communicate with several bodily systems. The two main cannabinoid receptors are the CB1 and CB2 receptors. More on these to come. 

3: Enzymes. Once the endocannabinoids bind to the cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), the enzymes Anandamide with FAAH and 2-SG with MAGL work to break them down to prevent their build-up.

There is also research from King’s College, London and the University of San Paulo, Brazil that indicates that CBD in high concentrations directly activates the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor and thus can play a significant role in countering anxiety.

CBD also directly interacts with various ion channels, namely the TRPV1 receptors, and is thought to mediate pain perception, inflammation, and body temperature because of this.

CBD is thought to exert anti-cancer effects by activating PPARs (peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors) which may exert anti-proliferative effects, as well as an ability to induce tumor regression in human lung cancer cells. Cannabidiol PPAR-gamma agonist may also be useful for Alzheimer’s patients.

CBD’s anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety effects are also considered attributable in part to CBD’s inhibition of adenosine reuptake. By delaying the reuptake of this neurotransmitter, CBD boosts adenosine levels in the brain. Research has shown A1A and A2A adenosine receptors play a significant role in cardiovascular function, regulating myocardial oxygen consumption and coronary blood flow.

CB1 and CB2 Receptors

The CB1 and CB2 receptors are responsible for the behavioural effects of CBD.  

CB1 receptors are located on nerve cells within the brain, spinal cord, and to a lesser extent, within some organs and tissues. These include the spleen, white blood cells, endocrine glands, as well as parts of the reproductive, gastrointestinal, and urinary tract. The primary role of the CB1 receptor is to inhibit neurotransmitter release. They are expressed more densely in the central nervous system and facilitate the effects of cannabinoids binding in the brain. 

Being the most common of the two receptors, depending on which area, particularly of the brain they are located in, the CB1 can play significant roles in CBD’s effects on memory, mood, motor function, and the perception of pain. Where present in parts of the body other than the brain, CB1 receptors may facilitate CBD’s effects on hormone production, cardiovascular health, and digestion.

CB2 receptors are located mainly within the peripheral nervous system and are especially associated with the immune system. Therefore, CB2 receptors are linked to CBD’s ability to control inflammation and to control pain.