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How does CBD work?

CBD and the endocannabinoid system

CBD is no longer a caveat emptor story. People are reaping the benefits behind the compound that breathes life into cannabis legalization across the globe. But wait, is it really clear how the cannabinoid compound works to release its benefits? Many understand that the compound is active and when taken, it can impact our bodies positively. 

This article goes deep into the roots, rises through the stem, branches and leaves all the way to the shoot to bring you how exactly CBD works. You don’t want to miss this, do you?

Refresher course: What is CBD

Now if you are in the dark on what CBD is, no worries. CBD is an abbreviation used to refer to the cannabidiol compound. It is one of the many compounds that can be located in the cannabis plant. CBD is a cannabinoid (a group of cannabis compounds that actively engage our body functioning). 

Let us get down to how CBD works but then first things will always be first. 

The endocannabinoid system helps us understand CBD action

Just like your breathing or digestive or even circulatory systems, the endocannabinoid system is tucked in our bodies. Initially, it was the understanding of how we get high from cannabis use that spurred it’s becoming of a research topic. But now we can clearly understand how other active cannabis compounds work.

The action of CBD is through the endocannabinoid system. Yes, after you have the compound in your direct circulation, the ECS takes things from there. That is why understanding its components and functioning is vital. 

The endocannabinoid system is made up of three major components

  • Endocannabinoids
  • Cannabinoid receptors
  • Enzymes


These are compounds produced in our bodies to help with activating the ECS functioning. Endocannabinoids work by attaching to their specific receptors which have an “activating effect”. One core thing about endocannabinoids is that they are only synthesized whenever the need arises. That means that they can not be stored in our bodies like fats that await future use.

Cannabinoid receptors

These are the welcoming sites where cannabinoids get attached to. The receptors are cannabinoid specific. When it comes to cannabis plant cannabinoids, there are two main receptors which are CB1 and CB2.


From our basic biology, we understand the function of enzymes to be impacting the rate of physiological reactions in our bodies. You see, after the interaction of cannabinoids and their receptors, a whole lot of reactions are triggered.

Don’t get this wrong, the reactions triggered by cannabinoid activation are homeostatic. They are meant to bring the body back to normalcy. Just like when you are bleeding, the body produces certain compounds to stop the bleeding naturally.

Now, whenever the need arises, cannabinoids get synthesized, and reactions begin. The core function of endocannabinoid enzymes is to prevent the toppling of the hard achieved balance. This is done by breaking down any remaining cannabinoids. This stops any homeostatic reaction started by the system. That’s amazing, right?

Endocannabinoids vs phytocannabinoids

Think about the bleeding case. Sometimes, the body can not contain the blood loss through coagulation. Applying some coagulants to the bleeding site may help the situation. For the endocannabinoid system, the coagulants are CBD and here is the explanation.

Endocannabinoid deficiency is caused when the synthesized cannabinoids in our bodies (endogenous cannabinoids or endocannabinoids) are insufficient. Take an example of chronic conditions where the endocannabinoids have to be produced on a regular basis. 

This is where CBD comes in. For the record, CBD is a phytocannabinoid meaning that it is a cannabinoid found in plants. Cannabidiol supplements the action of endocannabinoids by simulating their action. 

You may ask, but why CBD? There are far more abundant cannabinoids like THC.  That is true as the CBD compound is only second in abundance to the THC phytocannabinoid. Here is the crown that CBD wears which THC doesn’t.

Cannabidiol mainly works through CB2 receptors. These are mainly located alongside the immune system. Its effects are easily felt across the body’s wellness state. That is why we can apply CBD on our skin to ease inflammation.

As for the THC phytocannabinoid, its main receptors are the CB1. They are associated with the brain and impact coordination between the body organs. When used in higher concentrations, THC causes psychotic side effects. In prolonged abuse, it may lead to dependence. All these are avoided by taking CBD supplements rather than THC. 

Wrapping it all up

The endocannabinoid system is a pillar of CBD action. Its accidental discovery has led to many states approving the legalization of medical cannabis all over the world. We can now also understand why we get high from using weed. From being an accidental discovery, the endocannabinoid system is now a cannabis hero. No wonder it was named after the cannabis plant. That’s how intriguing it gets.

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