There’s a biological reason why CBD works so well for remedying stress, anxiety and a slew of other health conditions. The cultural obsession isn’t just a trend — it’s actually linked to a major innate regulatory system in our bodies. All mammals, not just humans, are born with an endocannabinoid system. Understanding how the endocannabinoid system works reveals why the cannabinoids in hemp and other plants have therapeutic effects.
What is the Role of the Endocannabinoid System?
In school, we learn about a handful of essential systems within our bodies — circulatory, respiratory, skeletal, muscular — but there’s one that is key for fine-tuning most of our vital physiological functions, yet it’s only just starting to get the attention it deserves.
Our endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is part of our nervous system, assists in the regulation of homeostasis across all major systems. It helps regulate everything from sleep, appetite, and inflammation to memory and mood. The role of the ECS is ensuring that everything works in sync with each other. It also explains why natural cannabinoids — such as those found in cannabis products like CBD — has such a potent healing effect.
Because of its crucial role in homeostasis, the ECS is widespread throughout the animal kingdom. Its key pieces evolved a long time ago, and the ECS can be found in all vertebrate species.
How Does the Endocannabinoid System work?
According to the experts at Leafly: The three key components of the ECS are the cannabinoid receptors found on the surface of cells, endocannabinoids which are small molecules that activate cannabinoid receptors, and metabolic enzymes that break down endocannabinoids after they are used
Cannabinoid receptors sit on the surface of cells and “listen” to conditions outside the cell. They transmit information about changing conditions to the inside of the cell, kick-starting the appropriate cellular response. According to Leafly,”there are two major cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2. These aren’t the only cannabinoid receptors, but they were the first ones discovered and remain the best-studied. CB1 receptors are typically found in the brain and throughout the nervous system]one of the most abundant receptor types in the brain. CB2 receptors are more abundant outside of the nervous system, in places like the immune system. However, both receptors can be found throughout the body.”
Endocannabinoids are molecules that bind to and activate cannabinoid receptors. Some endocannabinoids are introduced to the body from an outside source — such as CBD or THC in cannabis or even some vegetables like kale and broccoli — but our bodies also produce some naturally. Breast milk has been found to contain endocannabinoids. New science shows that a lack of endocannabinoids could relate to certain chronic health and wellness issues.
The third piece of the endocannabinoid triad includes enzymes that ensure that endocannabinoids get used when they’re needed, but not for longer than necessary. According to Leafly, “this distinguishes endocannabinoids from many other molecular signals in the body, such as hormones or classical neurotransmitters, which can persist for many seconds or minutes, or get packaged and stored for later use.”
How Does It Interact With CBD?
During a CBD-infused party we hosted with Sagely, we learned much about the endocannabinoid system: This network of CBD receptors is located along our central nervous system. When we take CBD, it engages these receptors and communicates with the rest of the body to fix imbalances, from sharpening our immune response to regulating anxiety, stress and pain sensation. Like adaptogens, CBD can read what your body needs and knows what it needs to do to help you adapt. It doesn’t force our bodies to feel something, but rather it naturally stimulates certain molecules (like the “bliss molecule” anandamide) to help increase the availability of it.
More from the women behind Sagely: One thing people are always shocked to learn is that CBD is similar to a compound that our bodies produce naturally, and from birth, called endocannabinoids. Cannabinoids aren’t just found in the cannabis plant, they’re also naturally occurring in nature (again, in kale and broccoli) but they are the most potent in cannabis.
When we consume cannabinoids, they stimulate the endocannabinoid system, a system of receptors throughout our central nervous system and almost every organ of our bodies (our skin, digestive tracts, etc.). Cannabinoids are the keys that unlock these receptors and this system is incredibly important to our health because they can help with our immune systems, protect our brains, help us manage stress and even keep our bodies in balance (“homeostasis”).
We like to think of CBD like a vitamin. For example, we’re born with calcium in our bones and as we age, our natural reserves of calcium deplete. Much in the same way that we’re encouraged to start taking calcium supplements to keep our bones strong, we also need to supplement our natural reserves of CBD as we get older to help keep our bodies in balance.
How Can We Benefit from CBD?The research is still emerging, but it’s clear that CBD directly helps to activate the healing, homeostasis-seeking system. Due to the complexity of the endocannabinoid system, it may require trial and error to determine what product may best suit you.
In addition to playing around with CBD products, supporting the endocannabinoid system calls for a holistic approach. Be sure to pair your CBD obsession with other efforts to reduce stress and inflammation, improve sleep and eat your way across the plant kingdom.
The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programs.