Have you ever wondered why CBD or THC has an effect on our brains? Maybe you are new to the cannabis community and aren’t sure if CBD even works at all. There is no denying that THC makes users high. You can see their blood shot eyes and the remaining candy wrappers left in their wake. But CBD is much harder to prove. There aren’t any immediate tell-tale signs of a CBD user. The reason why both compounds have an effect on our bodies is because we have cannabis like compounds inside our bodies apart of a larger endocannabinoid system.
What are Cannabinoids?
During the course of a cannabis plant’s life, the plant’s biochemistry evolves. Valuable chemical compounds known as cannabinoids begin to form. There are over 100 of these compounds that we currently know of. THC, CBD, CBN, and CBG are all cannabinoids. In the 1940s, THC and CBD were first extracted from the cannabis plant. 12 years later their stereoacuity and structures were created in a lab. In 1965, Raphael Mechoulam synthesized these compounds and cannabis research was born!
What is the Endocannabinoid System?
It wasn’t until the early 1990s before scientists were able to figure out how THC was getting people high. Scientists were able to prove in rat models that THC could bind with a receptor in the brain by cloning that receptor. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) consists of 3 major parts. There are neurotransmitters or cannabinoids, the receptors they react with called endocannabinoid receptors, and enzymes that influence the production of endocannabinoids.
These neurotransmitters are molecules made inside our bodies that resemble cannabinoids. It throws people off that we would have things inside of us named after cannabis. This is because of the discovery that THC closely resembles one of these molecules. So far, we know of anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG). According to Healthline, ‘these help keep internal functions running smoothly. Your body produces them as needed, making it difficult to know what typical levels are for each.” THC resembles AEA. This molecule is known as the ‘bliss molecule.’ Your body produces it in a number of situations, one example is during a ‘runner’s high.’
There are two known endocannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 is one of the most common G-protein-coupled receptors in the body. They are found mostly in the brain but also exist in peripheral nerves (nerves outside body) and some other locations such as the eyes and spleen. THC gets users high because it binds with CB1 receptors.
CBD and the Endocannabinoid System
We know way less about CBD’s effect on the ECS. One reason is because THC has had the little bit of research money available, probably to uncover the dangers of the substance. Now that we know that THC won’t kill you and there are other important compounds in cannabis, we will see more and more research done for CBD. It is believed that CBD reacts with the ECS in an indirect way. It doesn’t bind with CB1 like THC does, but it still has an effect on the receptor. CBD is thought to stop or slow an enzyme that reduces the production of AEA. Very confusing I know. Just remember that when CBD enters your body, it creates healthy production of a molecule that will make you feel good.
The Role of the Endocannabinoid System
Many experts believe the ECS is responsible for mood, appetite, inflammation, memory, sleep, and stress. The ECS potentially keeps our bodies in homeostasis. All these parts work together to keep us healthy. The ECS is a potential regulator of the chemicals and receptors that make your body go to work. For example, when you are injured, your brain sends signals to increase white blood cell production and sends them to the injured area. We are just beginning to understand the ECS. We do know one thing, CBD and other cannabinoids have a profound effect on arguably the most important parts of our body.