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  • by Nicola Boulton September 28, 2022 5 min read

    Endocannabinoid System and CBD

    Cannabidiol (CBD) interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) to exert its therapeutic benefits.  The ECS is a complex signaling system in the body responsible for critical bodily functions including but not limited to sleep, pain, and appetite. Herein we discuss what CBD is, and its interaction with the ECS.

    CBD compound is taking over the health and beauty world due to its myriad benefits. However, a few know how these benefits come to be. The body comprises a complex system known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS was discovered in the 1900s when scientists explored how THC, another prevalent cannabinoid works. Available research shows that ECS is responsible for regulating various critical bodily functions such as sleep and reproduction. Most cannabinoids interact with the ECS by binding or activating its receptors and enhancing their effects.

    So, What Is the Endocannabinoid System?

    The ECS is a complex signaling system responsible for bringing homeostasis to the body. The ECS is formed by three parts; receptors, endocannabinoids, and enzymes.

    Endocannabinoid Receptors

    Endocannabinoid receptors are available in the whole body. The two primary endocannabinoid receptors are:

    • CB1 receptors functional in the central nervous system
    • CB2 receptors available in the peripheral nervous system

    Endocannabinoids bind to either CB1 or CB2 receptors. For instance, endocannabinoid binds to the CB1 receptor to alleviate pain (Corroon & Felice, 2019); the CB2 receptor a signaling neurotransmitter that sends signals to the brain whenever inflammation occurs.


    Enzymes break down endocannabinoids once they are done with their purpose. The two main enzymes are; monoacylglycerol acid lipase, which breaks down 2-AG, and fatty acid amide hydrolase, which breaks down AEA.


    Endocannabinoids are molecules naturally processed by the body. What sets them apart from cannabinoids is that they are produced in the body, while cannabinoids are produced mainly by plants such as the cannabis Sativa (Corroon & Felice ,2019). The two main cannabinoids are anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoglycerol (2-AG). These endocannabinoids ensure that the internal functions of the body run smoothly.

    Functions of the ECS

    According to Corroon & Felice (2019), the ECS is responsible for regulating;

    • Appetite
    • Muscle formation
    • Motor control
    • Sleep
    • Mood
    • Learning
    • Inflammation

    The above functions and more ensure that homeostasis is maintained in the body. For instance, if an external force like pain occurs and interferes with the body’s homeostasis, the ECS kicks in and returns the body to its proper operation.

    What Is CBD?

    Burstein &Sumner (2015) stated that CBD, short for cannabidiol, is one of the most prevalent cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. It is directly extracted from the hemp plant since it contains low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels. Additionally, it does not cause any mind-altering effects. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), CBD cannot lead to dependency or abuse. It is safe and well tolerated by most bodies; it rarely causes side effects. However, when taken in more significant amounts, it may lead to consequences such as dry mouth, fatigue, and drowsiness.  The cannabis extract exists in three forms; full spectrum, broad spectrum and isolate CBD. Full spectrum CBD is the most potent form; it constitutes all cannabinoids including THC (at low levels of less than 0.3 percent). It is popularly known for the entourage effects since all the other cannabinoids work synergetically with CBD to enhance its therapeutic benefits. On the other hand, broad-spectrum CBD contains multiple compounds except THC. In contrast, the isolate CBD is the most refined form; it contains cannabidiol solely.

    CBD and the ECS

    There is a correlation between the absence of endocannabinoids and chronic diseases. Experts believe that endocannabinoids regulate multiple bodily functions like sleep and mood. Corroon & Felice (2019) opined that CBD indirectly binds to the CB1 and CB2 receptors, unlike THC (the psychoactive compound in the cannabis plant). Consequently, CBD does not produce the "high" like THC. Instead, it provides a relaxing effect to the body. Also, CBD attaches to the TRPV1 receptor present in the endocannabinoid system to activate it system and initiate vital physiological processes.

    The Aftermath of the Interaction of CBD and ECS

    When CBD interacts with the ECS, it leads to various benefits such as:

    Anxiety Relief

    Anxiety is one of the most common mental health conditions affecting most individuals. CBD interacts with the 5HT1A receptor, a subtype of serotonin hormone. Low serotonin levels are linked to anxiety and stress. Additionally, serotonin plays a role in eating and sleeping patterns. According to Skelley et al. (2020), the interaction between CBD and serotonin may explain why it has anxiolytic effects.

    Pain Relief

    The ECS is responsible for regulating pain in the body. Eskander et al. (2020) commented that, CBD’s an-inflammatory property interacts with the ECS to alleviate pain and inflammation. The cannabis derivative treats pains like arthritis and multiple sclerosis (Evans, 2020).

    Improves Sleep

    One of the most common causes of sleep disruption is anxiety and pain. As stated before, CBD helps alleviate both pain and anxiety. As a result, it automatically helps improve sleep. Babson et al. (2017) opined that CBD interacts with the hypothalamus to relieve tension and stress, thereby suppressing insomnia; the hypothalamus is responsible for various sleep-related functions, like synchronizing sleep patterns.

    Helps with Skin Conditions

    Most skin conditions are a result of inflammation. CBD helps treat acne and other skin-related conditions due to its anti-inflammatory effects (Evans, 2020).  The cannabis extract contains moisturizing and hydrating properties that treat dry skin. CBD also regulates the production of sebum oil in the sebaceous glands. Over production of sebum oil leads to acne, while under production causes dry skin.


    CBD is one of the over one hundred and thirty cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. It is famously known for its non-intoxicating results. On the other hand, the ECS is a complex signaling system responsible for maintaining homeostasis; it comprises receptors, enzymes, and endocannabinoids. CBD indirectly binds to the CB1 and CB2 receptors present in the ECS. Activating these receptors exerts its effects on the body. CBD's most popular benefits are pain relief, anxiety alleviation, and improved sleep quality. Since most body types well tolerate CBD, it hardly has any side effects. Before taking CBD, consult your doctor; e each person reacts differently to the cannabis extract.


    Babson, K. A., Sottile, J., & Morabito, D. (2017). Cannabis, cannabinoids, and sleep: a review of the literature. Current psychiatry reports, 19(4), 1-12.

    Burstein, S. (2015). Cannabidiol (CBD) and its analogs: a review of their effects on inflammation. Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry, 23(7), 1377-1385.

    Corroon, J., & Felice, J. F. (2019). The Endocannabinoid System and its Modulation by             Cannabidiol (CBD). Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine, 25.

    Eskander, J. P., Spall, J., Spall, A., Shah, R. V., & Kaye, A. D. (2020). Cannabidiol (CBD) as a treatment of acute and chronic back pain: A case series and literature review. J Opioid Manag, 16(3), 215-8.

    Evans, J. (2020). The Ultimate Guide to CBD: Explore the World of Cannabidiol. Fair Winds             Press

    Skelley, J. W., Deas, C. M., Curren, Z., & Ennis, J. (2020).Use of cannabidiol in anxiety and anxiety-related disorders. Journal of the American Pharmacists Association, 60(1), 253-261.

    Nicola Boulton
    Nicola Boulton

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