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  • by Nicola Boulton August 26, 2022 5 min read

    How Does CBD Work?

    Cannabidiol (CBD) interacts with cannabinoid and non-cannabinoid receptors in the body to provide its benefits. This article highlights CBD, how CBD works to manifest its therapeutic benefits, how long CBD takes to work, and the benefits of CBD.

    Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the active chemical compounds available in the cannabis plant. It offers a wide range of potential benefits like pain and inflammation reduction, mood-boosting, and improving sleep conditions. Its mood-boosting attribute is not linked to the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), making it non-psychoactive due to its absence. Due to this, CBD has become people's favorite natural remedy for treating various health conditions. CBD interacts with various receptors in the body in several ways. It's still unclear how it interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and its cannabinoid receptors. Some of the receptors it interacts with include; CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors and serotonin and pain receptors like TPRV1.

    Understanding CBD

    Burstein (2015) stated that CBD is one of the cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant, majorly the hemp plant. It adds up to almost forty percent of the cannabis, making it one of its most abundant compounds. The good thing about it is that it is non-psychoactive though some individuals claim it has mild psychoactivity. It also dampens THC effects. The World Health Organization (WHO) stated that CBD does not have dependence potential. CBD is available in three formulations: full spectrum, broad spectrum, and isolate. The full spectrum CBD contains most of the compounds present in the cannabis plant, such as terpenes and THC. Its THC levels do not exceed 0.3 percent; hence you do not have to worry about any mind-altering effects. Full-spectrum is the most powerful type since it provides the full entourage effect whereby all other chemical compounds work together with CBD to enhance its benefits. Broad-spectrum has most of the cannabinoids excluding THC, while CBD isolate has CBD alone.

    How CBD Works To Manifold Its Therapeutic Benefits

    Sharf (2017) noted that CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) of the body to provide its benefits. The ECS is responsible for various functions of the body. It provides balance to the body. Moreover, ECS helps relieve pain, memory, moods, and stress.

    Below is how CBD works with various receptors and the immune system:

    CBD and Serotonin Receptors

    According to Jenkins et al. (2016), the serotonin receptor is responsible for our moods. CBD binds to a specific serotonin receptor known as 5-HT1A. It activates this receptor causing an anti-anxiety effect. This explains its effectiveness as an anxiolytic, neuroprotection, and anti-depressant chemical. The 5-HT1A receptor is responsible for various biological and neurological processes like addiction, pain perception, nausea, and anxiety. This serotonin receptor is available in the central and peripheral nervous systems.

    Cannabidiol acid (CBDA) is the raw version of CBD, and it has a strong rapport with the 5-HT1A receptors than CBD. Pre-clinical studies show that CBDA is a stronger antiemetic than CBD and has anti-nausea properties.

    CBD and Vanilloid Receptors (TRPV1)

    Cannabidiol interacts directly with several ion channels to provide its therapeutic effects. An example is its interaction with the TRPV1 receptor, an ion channel. Since this receptor is responsible for pain perception and inflammation, CBD's interaction with it leads to its analgesic and antiemetic properties. CBD also has analgesic properties since it modulates the alpha opioid receptors. Therefore, CBD changes the processing of pain signals. Allosteric modulators are volume controls that turn up or down the body to respond to a specific signal. The receptors attach themselves to the allosteric modulators. Therefore, it may explain why CBD is used in treating opioid addiction. Learn more about high cbd strains of hemp

    CBD and Orphan Receptors (GPR55)

    CBD acts as an antagonist that deactivates the GPR55 receptor. GPR55 is referred to as the orphan receptor since scientists are still unsure if it is in a larger family of receptors. GPR55 is found in the brain, specifically the cerebellum. This is responsible for regulating bone density and various physiological processes. When activated, it leads to cancer cell proliferation hence the reason it is expressed in various cancer types. Since CBD blocks it, it causes a decrease in both reabsorption and cancer cell proliferation. Learn more about list of cannabinoids

    CBD and Nuclear Receptors (PPAR)

    CBD contains anti-cancer effects since it activates the PPAR receptors found on the nucleus cells' surface. When activated, it causes an anti-proliferative effect and induces tumor regression in the lung cancer cell. When the PPAR receptors are activated, it reduces the amyloid-beta plaque, which is linked to Alzheimer's disease development.

    CBD and the Immune System

    The ECS contains two receptors, namely CB1 and CB2. According to Spiller et al. (2019), CB1 is present in the central nervous system while CB2 is in the peripheral nervous system. CBD suppresses cytokine production hence alleviating inflammation linked to immune response. However, CBD's immunomodulatory effects depend on a patient's medication and goals. CBD is not recommended for cancer patients since it may clash with other medications. Therefore, you should always communicate with your doctor first before using CBD as a medication.

    How Long Does It Take For CBD To Work?

    CBD is available in various formulations like oils, vapes, edibles, and capsules. Each form takes a different time for its effects to kick in depending on various factors. Below is how long CBD takes to kick in depending on its method of delivery:

    • Topical products (creams and lotions) - CBD takes around one hour for its effects to be felt when used topically.
    • When vaped, CBD takes around fifteen minutes, making it one of the fastest ways for CBD effects to be felt.
    • When consumed sublingually, it also takes about fifteen minutes.
    • CBD edibles take around two hours for their effects to kick in.

    The effects of CBD last for around 2 -6 hours. If you want to maximize its effects, you must use it consistently during the day.

    Benefits of CBD

    Due to its interactions with various receptors, CBD reaps benefits such as:

    • Pain relief
    • Anxiety alleviation
    • Improve skin conditions like acne
    • Curbing cancer treatment symptoms like nausea


    CBD interacts with both cannabinoid and non-cannabinoid receptors in the body to yield its therapeutic effects. When it interacts with the serotonin receptor, specifically the 5-HT1A receptor, it produces anti-anxiety effects since the serotonin chemical is linked to our moods. It desensitizes the TRPV1 receptor, a pain receptor; hence its interaction with it leads to its analgesic and antiemetic properties. CBD suppresses cytokine production hence easing inflammation linked to the immune response. Its interaction with the brain gives out its neuroprotective properties, helping manage several brain functions like memory and mood. However, before using CBD as a medication, you should communicate with your doctor to know the ideal dosage for your body and its effects.


    Burstein, S. (2015). Cannabidiol (CBD) and its analogs: a review of their effects on inflammation. Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry23(7), 1377-1385.

    Jenkins, T. A., Nguyen, J. C., Polglaze, K. E., & Bertrand, P. P. (2016). Influence of tryptophan and serotonin on mood and cognition with a possible role of the gut-brain axis. Nutrients8(1), 56.

    Scharf, E. L. (2017). Translating endocannabinoid biology into clinical practice: cannabidiol for stroke prevention. Cannabis and cannabinoid research2(1), 259-264.

    Spiller, K. J., Bi, G. H., He, Y., Galaj, E., Gardner, E. L., & Xi, Z. X. (2019). Cannabinoid CB1 and CB2 receptor mechanisms underlie cannabis reward and aversion in rats. British journal of pharmacology176(9), 1268-1281.

    Nicola Boulton
    Nicola Boulton

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