What You Probably Didn’t Know About CBD and Cannabinoid Receptors

If you’re interested in CBD, the hemp plant extract that’s taking the wellness world by storm, it’s important to know what you’re dealing with. Your body’s cannabinoid receptors are an essential part of how it interacts with CBD, allowing you to benefit from the therapeutic properties.

Plenty of information on CBD and the endocannabinoid system is being spread, but we’d like to go over what you might not know. Read on as we discuss some of the lesser known facts regarding the extract and how it interacts with your cannabinoid receptors.


What we know about the endocannabinoid system

Records of the medical use of cannabis go back 4,700 years, but it wasn’t until 1964 that anyone found out why the plant is so effective. After reporting THC as the main active compound in cannabis, Yechiel Gaoni and Raphael Mechoulam were the first to find out about the endocannabinoid system.

They dubbed THC a cannabinoid and discovered how the compound impacts the brain by affecting the neuronal signaling system. There was strong evidence showing that THC’s psychotropic effects on the brain were the result of these molecules binding to specific sites on the brain. With this information, the entire structure became known as the endocannabinoid system and cannabinoid receptors were discovered.

cannabinoid receptors person in black hoodie with hand on his face and smoke coming out


CBD can interfere with our cannabinoid receptors

CBD, which is not psychoactive, does not bind to the cannabinoid receptors strongly. Instead, it interferes and weakens the effects of compounds that bind to the cannabinoid receptors effectively.

THC, the psychoactive substance derived from cannabis, is an example of a compound that binds effectively to CB1 & 2 receptors. In essence, CBD weakens the psychoactive effects of THC, and your body enjoys its other side effects without the sensation of being “high.”

cannabinoid receptors bearded man holding twinkle led string lights


Your body has a lot of cannabinoid receptors

First discovered in the brain, cannabinoid receptors were later found to be the most common of the G-protein-coupled receptors. Since then, there have been several studies to show the expression of cannabinoid receptors throughout the nervous system as well. With recent research, we see the receptors found in neurons also aid in their regulation.

There are several regions within the brain known for high concentrations of cannabinoid receptors. These include the septum, amygdala, cerebral cortex, hypothalamus, and pieces of the dorsal horn and brainstem of the spinal cord. Other regions have low receptor expression: for example, the thalamus and the ventral horn of the spinal cord.

These receptors are common throughout the peripheral nervous system too. This includes the peripheral tissues, but it’s most common in the sympathetic nerve terminals. Cannabinoid receptors are also found in dorsal root ganglion, trigeminal ganglion, and dermic nerve endings of primary sensory neurons.

The gastrointestinal tract also has cannabinoid receptors. These are in the enteric nervous system as well as in non-neuronal cells located in the intestinal mucosa. This includes enteroendocrine cells, enterocytes, and immune cells.

Cannabinoid receptors are also common in the cells and tissues of the immune system. There is emerging data that indicates the CB2 cannabinoid receptor playing a role in treating inflammation.

cannabinoid receptors elderly person holding another persons arm


Changes in cannabinoid receptors could relieve the symptoms of numerous diseases

Many disorders are a result of changes or deficiencies in cannabinoid receptors. In patients with Huntington’s Disease, the endocannabinoid system is not being regulated properly because it has decreased function—the CB1 receptor expression is lessened. With the use of CBD and other cannabinoids, neuroprotection is provided to these patients and their symptoms progress much more slowly.

Improvements in multiple sclerosis can come about upon activating both CB1 receptors and CB2 receptors by an agonist. This produces dual anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective impacts felt throughout the central nervous system.

Alzheimer’s Disease also has CB1 receptor expression problems. With synthetic cannabinoid use, there have been reports of benefits relating to the behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia. CBD and other cannabinoids could be beneficial for those suffering from this disease as it can provide neuroprotection to CB1 and CB2 receptors.


Clinical endocannabinoid system deficiency syndrome could be causing problems

There are various common pain syndromes presenting symptoms that can vary in description and severity—conditions like fibromyalgia, migraines and irritable bowel syndrome for which diagnoses and treatments are difficult to pinpoint and procure. In what could be a major breakthrough for sufferers, it has been hypothesized that these could be the result of clinical endocannabinoid system deficiency syndrome.

These diseases are often called psychosomatic, a difficult label to bear for those enduring them, and what’s worse is how pharmacotherapeutic interventions and the medical system tend to fail them—first with reluctance to diagnose an issue and then with ineffective or insufficient treatment. These individuals often also have hyperalgesia and central sensitization as well as possible common underlying pathophysiology. It is possible that clinical endocannabinoid deficiency could be the culprit of this.

The idea behind this hypothesis is that there is an endocannabinoid tone found in the body. This covers endocannabinoid, anandamide, and 2-Arachidonoylglycerol levels in the body, their metabolism, production, and the abundance and health of the cannabinoid receptors. When changes regarding any of these variables in specific conditions occur, researchers believe there could be adverse effects impacting the entire endocannabinoid system, resulting in a multitude of issues resistant to pharmacotherapeutic intervention.

cannabinoid receptors neuron firing red and purple


The cannabinoid receptors treats those with post-traumatic stress disorder

Researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center found a connection between cannabinoid receptors and post-traumatic stress disorder. Their findings show that CB1 receptors found in the brain can lessen the impact of PTSD.

The researchers found that people who have PTSD have lower concentrations of anandamide, an endocannabinoid found in the brain. When anandamide levels dwindle too much, the brain starts compensating by producing more CB1 receptors. With this action, the brain is helping the body by using the endocannabinoids that are left.

This is great news for anyone suffering from this widespread issue. Of the 1.7 million people who served in the military during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, approximately 20% have PTSD.

It’s not just war veterans—people get PTSD from various kinds of trauma, including domestic violence, car accidents, violent assaults, sexual abuse, and even life-threatening medical diagnoses. With almost 8 million Americans suffering from PTSD each year, it’s easy to see this finding can and will assist a lot of people.


Concluding on CBD and the cannabinoid receptors

Understanding how the cannabinoid receptors help with the body’s regulation opens our eyes to the possibilities of treating with CBD. Cannabis derivatives are helping many people, and with so much research showing just how the body benefits from utilizing the cannabinoid receptors, more and more people are choosing to treat their ailments using CBD products.


Blog Credit: CBD for Life, The future of healing