By now, you’re likely very familiar with the many benefits that cannabis has to offer. Different strains help to reduce pain and inflammation, alleviate anxiety, promote relaxation, boost energy and cognitive thinking, and so much more. You reap these benefits because the cannabinoids in the plant interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors in your endocannabinoid system.
What Is the Endocannabinoid System?
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a system within your body that helps you maintain internal homeostasis. It was discovered in the 1990s when scientists were researching the effects of THC on the body. The system might not be very well understood right now, but available research shows that it plays a role in regulating a variety of functions, including:
An important thing to keep in mind is that everyone has an endocannabinoid system. It operates even if you don’t use cannabis.
How It Works
Your endocannabinoid system consists of three components – endocannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors, and enzymes. Your body produces natural endocannabinoids (anandamide and 2AG). These compounds bind with the cannabinoid receptors to produce specific effects that restore balance to your body. Enzymes break down the endocannabinoids once their jobs are complete.
CB1 and CB2 Receptors
The endocannabinoid system has two types of cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors exist primarily in the central nervous system and brain. They’re also in various organs such as the lungs, kidneys, and liver. It’s associated with analgesic and psychoactive effects.
CB2 receptors exist mainly in the cells of your immune system, including your digestive system and other related organs. They’re often associated with anti-inflammatory effects.
While CB receptors mainly work with the endocannabinoids your body creates, you can also activate them with cannabinoids from cannabis.
How Cannabis Interacts With CB Receptors
Cannabinoids from cannabis work with your CB1 and CB2 receptors much like your natural endocannabinoids do. When you smoke, vape, or consume an edible, the cannabinoids enter into your bloodstream and travel throughout your body. When they reach your endocannabinoid system, they bind with the CB receptors and activate them.
THC, one of the most abundant cannabinoids in cannabis, interacts directly with your CB receptors. While it has an affinity for CB1 receptors, it will also bind with CB2. CBD interacts indirectly with the receptors. The molecules are bigger than those of THC, and therefore don’t fit into the receptors perfectly. They can, however, affect the binding of THC molecules, which may play a role in reducing the psychoactive effects a strain might cause. CBD also interacts with other receptors in your body, namely the vanilloid and serotonin receptors.
THC and CBD aren’t the only cannabinoids in cannabis. There are more than 100 different ones. While we don’t yet understand the effects of all of these compounds, we may once more research becomes available. For instance, CBN, a byproduct of THC, binds with CB1 receptors like THC, but only at one-tenth of the strength. Even so, the cannabinoid still provides many potential benefits.
Your endocannabinoid system and CB receptors play a significant role in helping your body maintain homeostasis. There’s still a lot we don’t know, though. With more research, we will hopefully gain a much better understanding of the system as a whole and how we can use various strains of cannabis to provide specific benefits.