The Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system is a relatively new discovery and is an incredibly large and complex system. For the sake of understanding how CBD works, this is an overly simplified explanation of the system.
The human body has an abundance of cannabinoid receptors that are found in every major system of the body. This network is called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). The ECS is possibly the most important system in maintaining health, pleasure, energy, and well-being. This complex system performs differently in each area of the body but the goal is always the same: to create homeostasis by maintaining balance throughout the entire body.
The receptors in the ECS are named CB1 and CB2 and are activated by cannabinoids, a specific class of chemicals that are made both in our body and by plants. The most well-known cannabinoids made by plants (phytocannabinoids) are THC: the psychoactive chemical found in cannabis and CBD: the non-psychoactive chemical found in hemp. The main cannabinoid produced by the body (endocannabinoids) is called Anandamide (ANA) and is known as the “bliss molecule”.
The largest number of CB1 receptors are found in the brain and affect our response to pain, anxiety, mood stabilization, pleasure, and well-being. CB2 receptors are found most abundantly in all types of tissues in the peripheral body but especially the immune system. When activated they have an anti-inflammatory response.
Surprisingly, CBD does not actually work directly with the CB1 and CB2 receptors, but instead, CBD blocks the enzyme that breaks down endocannabinoids. Having more endocannabinoids present in our system is important to the vitality of our ECS and thus promotes and maintains the health and wellbeing of every major body system.
Obtaining a healthy and balanced ECS can be difficult in this day and age because our modern lifestyle works against this natural system. High stress, poor diet, and lack of exercise can all throw the balance of the ECS into disarray. Along with healthy lifestyle choices, supplementing with phytocannabinoids is one strategy in supporting this vital system.