Imagine you have an important message to convey to another person, a message with crucial details. The person waiting for your message is responsible for relaying this vital information so each member of their team can make appropriate adjustments to their assigned task. Now imagine what could happen if your message never made it to your intended recipient.
This same type of communication breakdown can happen in your body. Nearly every essential function necessary for your survival is regulated by an elaborate system of messengers and receptors, your Endocannabinoid System (ECS). To understand the health and wellness potential of CBD, it’s helpful to understand the role of your ECS receptors and how they function within this system.
The receptors often referred to as CBD receptors, are technically known as cannabinoid receptors. These essential G-protein receptors are located on the surface of cells throughout your body, from your brain to your nerve endings. Your cannabinoid receptors receive information from your Endocannabinoid System messengers and use this information to initiate an appropriate response. Since cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabinoid, a lipid that functions as a neurotransmitter, it interacts with the receptors of your Endocannabinoid System.
Your Endocannabinoid System is the largest system of neurotransmitters and receptors in your body. It’s your ECS that modulates your brain function, organ function, and keeps essential endocrine processes functioning efficiently. Your ECS is instrumental to so many important functions that many researchers today believe it is responsible for homeostasis, the processes that restore balance when functions in your body are disrupted by internal or external forces.1
The response initiated by your endocannabinoid receptors is dependent on the chemical composition of the message it receives. The interaction between the messenger and receptor will determine the appropriate response, and excitatory response, inhibitory response, or secondary message to other regulatory systems. Just a few of the many processes regulated by the functions of your Endocannabinoid System include:
Your sleep cycles are regulated by circadian rhythms, the 24-hour internal clock that regulates numerous essential functions.2 While your circadian rhythms are regulated by your exposure to light and darkness; it’s the function of your Endocannabinoid System that regulates your circadian rhythms and stabilizes sleep cycles, as well as numerous processes that can interfere with restful sleep.3
Your metabolism, also regulated by the ECS, is determined by the complex interaction of your gastrointestinal system, liver, muscle, and fat storage. The activation of CBD receptors modulates nutrient processing, appetite regulation, fat distribution, and metabolic pathways.4
The endocannabinoid receptors in your amygdala regulate emotional responses and memories. The role of the ECS and our emotions has been clearly established, affecting our feelings of happiness as strongly as depression or anxiety. The endocannabinoid receptors in the emotional centers of your brain influence the release of serotonin, dopamine and other neurotransmitters that have a direct impact on your mood.5
Your Endocannabinoid System is believed to be the driving force of your immune system. The organs and cells of your immune system, including your mast cells, T-cells, tonsils, and lymphocytes are rich with endocannabinoid receptors. The ECS is believed to play a key roll in preventing immune system overactivity and balancing inflammatory responses.6
Endocannabinoid receptors are located in key areas in your body and brain that modulate pain perception and reward-seeking behavior.7 Your body also manufactures the neurotransmitters (anandamide and 2-AG) than interact with the endocannabinoid receptors to regulate pain.8 Activation of endocannabinoid receptors increases the production of these pain modulating cannabinoids or inhibits the enzymes that break them down.
You have a high concentration of endocannabinoid receptors in areas of your brain that play a crucial role in memory and learning, called the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. Research suggests that your Endocannabinoid System directly influences cognitive processing by regulating synaptic plasticity11, the ability of your brain to adapt to information.12.
Thermoregulation refers to the processes that help your body temperature stay within established parameters. Your ECS maintains thermoregulation through involvement with your autonomic nervous system. When external temperatures affect your body, a response from your sympathetic nervous system modifies your heart rate, respiration, and vasoconstriction to help maintain essential balance. Endocannabinoid receptors also respond to signals from your immune system, raising your temperature to fight infection.13.
It’s the interaction between messengers and receptors that keeps your Endocannabinoid System working efficiently and effectively. There are two different types of endocannabinoid receptors in your body. They are easy to remember, CB1 and CB2. While both receptors are found throughout your body, they are found in different concentrations within specific areas. For example:
CB1 receptors are found most abundantly in your central nervous system, your brain, and spinal cord. The location of the receptor will influence its basic function. While the CB1 receptors in your amygdala regulate your emotional responses and memory, the CB1 receptors in your hypothalamus help regulate your metabolic processes.
The receptors found most abundantly in your peripheral nervous system are your CB2 receptors. Your peripheral nervous system extends from your spinal column to your organs, muscles, and other areas of your body. CB2 receptors are intricately involved in immune system function and inflammatory responses.
Soon after the discovery of your endocannabinoid receptors, researchers discovered that our bodies manufacture cannabinoids. The two main cannabinoids made in your body (anandamide and 2-AG) are called endocannabinoids. In a perfect world, your body would make all the endocannabinoids needed to interact with the endocannabinoid receptors. But it does not always work that way. When there are not enough messengers to interact with the cannabinoid receptors, the message is lost.
CBD mimics the effects of the cannabinoids created in your body and interacts with the endocannabinoid and several non-endocannabinoid receptors. When you take hemp-derived CBD, the cannabinoids circulate through your body until they find a receptor they can connect with, attaching to neurons. Since so many essential functions are dependent on the messengers and receptors of your ECS, the effects are dependent on the system influenced.
Today, researchers understand that there are two types of cannabinoids that influence the receptors of your Endocannabinoid System. The first type of cannabinoids that act as ECS messengers are your endocannabinoids, the cannabinoids produced in your body. The second type are the plant-based cannabinoids (phytocannabinoids) found in cannabis plants.
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