The Endocannabinoid System and CBD: A Powerful Combination

The Endocannabinoid System and CBD: A Powerful Combination

CBD, short for cannabidiol, is an unmistakably powerful substance with incredible amounts of potential in the realms of health and wellness. With applications for anxiety, America’s most common mental illness; chronic pain, which affects 100 million people in the United States; sleep disorders such as insomnia; and more serious health conditions including epilepsy, Lyme disease, and diabetes, the use of CBD oil has become a topic of great interest within scientific communities.

If you’re one of the many people who is searching for relief from one of these ailments, or if you’re simply looking for a way to bolster your preventative health and wellness routine, you may be wondering if hemp derived CBD Oil  is capable of such miraculous results. CBD oil is more than just a trend or an internet hoax—it’s a subject of numerous scientific studies as academia and the medical community learn more about how CBD affects our physiology. 

It all boils down to the body’s endocannabinoid system, which is the biological basis for hemp CBD oil’s long list of therapeutic effects.

The Endocannabinoid System Defined

Dr. Bradley Alger may have said it best in his article published in scientific journal Cerebrum, where he describes the endogenous cannabinoid system as a “bridge between body and mind.” The endocannabinoid system, also called the endogenous cannabinoid system or ECS, is an essential part of every human body which encourages communication and regulation between many physiological systems.

It was research of the plant Cannabis sativa, the plant from which hemp is derived, which led to the discovery of the ECS and the many ways it is capable of maintaining both physical and mental health.

We now know that the ECS is common to all mammals, and it functions primarily to maintain homeostasis, a state of balance within our bodies. Capable of fine-tuning our sleep-wake cycles, appetites, moods, inflammation levels, and more, one doctor has even called the ECS “perhaps the most important physiologic system involved in establishing and maintaining human health.”

The Receptors

Cannabinoids binding to CB1 and CB2 receptors may affect neurotransmitter release in the brain, can regulate blood pressure and assist with cardiovascular function, and can reduce gastrointestinal movements that may contribute to nausea and vomiting.


The ECS is essentially a network of receptors throughout the body, along with naturally-occurring cannabinoids. These receptors, called CB1 and CB2, are located in numerous organ systems including the:

  • Brain
  • Immune system
  • Peripheral nervous system
  • Gastrointestinal tract
  • Reproductive system
  • Liver
  • Musculoskeletal system

When endogenous cannabinoids produced naturally in the body bind to these receptors, numerous effects can occur. For example, cannabinoids binding to CB1 and CB2 receptors may affect neurotransmitter release in the brain, can regulate blood pressure and assist with cardiovascular function, and can reduce gastrointestinal movements that may contribute to nausea and vomiting, to name only a few possibilities.

The Cannabinoids

These receptors, however, can cause none of these effects without the presence of cannabinoids—another part of the ECS. Two of these cannabinoids which occur naturally are called anandamide and 2AG, but plant-derived cannabinoids (called phytocannabinoids) like hemp CBD are also capable of binding to CB1 and CB2 and therefore working to fine-tune numerous bodily functions. Other synthetic cannabinoids exist, too, as scientists begin to create cannabinoids in the laboratory.

The ECS in Context: Microscopic Communication

To understand how the ECS works, it’s necessary to dig a bit deeper into the science behind the body’s communicative pathways. Our bodies have very specific ways of communicating, and this communication occurs via the transfer of chemicals at a microscopic level.

The Basics of Chemical Messengers and Receptors

These chemical messengers come in many different flavors and configurations, each capable of carrying out a specific role in the body. Cannabinoids such as CBD are examples of these small but powerful messengers which travel the body to incite change.

Cannabinoid binding to cellular receptors like CB1 and CB2 acts as the first phone call in a long game of microscopic telephone leading to a particular outcome within one of the body’s many organ systems.


However, these messengers can’t work on their own. In order to carry out their respective effects, chemical messengers rely on cellular receptors. In the ECS, these receptors are called CB1 and CB2, and they’re primed to bind to cannabinoids. These receptors hang out on the surface of cells and wait for messengers to come along—when a chemical messenger binds with a receptor, the real magic happens.

Of course, things start to get pretty tricky when we enter the complex world of cell signaling, but suffice it to say that cannabinoid binding to cellular receptors like CB1 and CB2 acts as the first phone call in a long game of microscopic telephone leading to a particular outcome within one of the body’s many organ systems.

Cannabinoids in the Brain: Understanding Neurotransmitter Release

Importantly, one more piece to the puzzle exists which can help to explain why cannabinoids like CBD have such powerful neurological and psychiatric implications. In the brain, neurotransmitters (another type of chemical messenger) are released in order to send a signal and get work done. These neurotransmitters travel across a small gap between neurons, called a synapse, before binding to receptors on the next neuron. Aptly, presynaptic neurons release neurotransmitters, and postsynaptic neurons receive these neurotransmitters.

So, where do cannabinoids come in? Cannabinoids act on presynaptic cells, meaning that they have a great amount of control over how much neurotransmitter is released. In other words, cannabinoids are a type of chemical messenger which affects the ability of other chemical messengers to function, making cannabinoids like CBD capable of influencing how our body’s messages are sent and eventually processed by other cells.

The Role of CBD

As a cannabinoid, CBD is capable of acting as a chemical messenger and binding to the CB1 and CB2 receptors throughout the ECS. When CBD binds to these receptors, signals are sent into the cell in order to incite change. While research is still being performed to understand the specifics of how CBD acts on CB1 and CB2, medical professionals believe that CBD may lengthen the amount of time that endogenous cannabinoids like anandamide remain within the synaptic cleft.

You might say, in other words, that CBD enhances the effect of cannabinoids which occur naturally in our bodies, therefore bolstering the homeostatic effects of the ECS.

CBD acts on dozens of other molecular targets, too, all of which are likely to work together with the ECS to play a role in human health and function.

Resulting Health Benefits

Now that you’ve learned about the ECS in its “natural habitat” and the ways that hemp-derived CBD oil can affect this powerful system, understanding CBD’s claim to fame as a novel medical treatment is a much simpler task. Take a moment and recall a few of the systems which are influenced by the endocannabinoid system and CBD:

  • Gastrointestinal system
  • Musculoskeletal system
  • Brain

While there are many more, these three systems serve as excellent examples of how the ECS relates to CBD’s ability to maintain health.

Studies show, for example, that the ECS is responsible for regulating nausea and vomiting. By bolstering the effects of the ECS, CBD, too, has implications as an option for nausea relief.

Also, remember that CBD has shown great promise as a treatment for inflammation and chronic pain. Why, you ask? Now you know that CBD works together with the ECS, found within the musculoskeletal system.

Perhaps most importantly is the role of the ECS in the brain. Capable of modulating everything from appetite to anxiety to sleep-wake cycles, consider hemp CBD as the endocannabinoid system’s little helper, keeping everything tuned up, balanced, and in place.

More and more is being learned about the role of cannabinoids and the ECS each day, so the best way to remain informed about the many ways that hemp-derived CBD may help to alleviate your own symptoms is to research often. Read, learn, ask questions, and become a part of this great medical movement yourself.

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