CBD and the Endocannabinoid System

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If you take CBD oil orally or as a CBD patch or cream, you may wonder what happens when it’s absorbed. Let’s take a closer look….

What is the endocannabinoid system?

One of the most exciting areas of research into this natural plant compound concerns the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This is a complex signaling system found on cell membranes throughout the body. There are currently two known classes of this system, known as cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2, including their associated enzymes. They feature on cell surfaces on almost every cell type in the body:

–          There are CB1 receptors in the brain, central nervous system, and many other parts of the body

–          There are CB2 receptors on cells related to the immune system. They play an essential role in immune function, pain management and inflammation. There are very few CB2 receptors in the brain.

What do endocannabinoids do?

In the 1990s scientists discovered that the body produces its own endocannabinoids—natural cannabis-like molecules whose primary function is to maintain ‘homeostasis’, or biological harmony in response to changes in the environment.

These endocannabinoids play a role in physiological functions including cognition, mood, sleep, appetite, reproduction, as well as others. When the body senses an imbalance within a process regulated by the ECS, it produces cannabinoids that interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors. Researchers suggest that consuming cannabinoids may mimic this internal process, helping the ECS to maintain homeostasis in the body.

How does CBD affect the endocannabinoid system?

However, unlike THC—the compound in the cannabis plant that makes you ‘high’—CBD only has weak interaction with these receptors. CBD affects the endocannabinoid system by binding to other receptors and enhancing the body’s own production of endocannabinoids.

Some research suggests that CBD may inhibit the breakdown of anandamide, a fatty acid neurotransmitter. This chemical plays a role in reward centres in the brain, influencing sensations of pain and wellbeing. In fact, CBD activates these other receptors that make you feel good and encourages higher levels of anandamide to be produced.

CBD receptors on the skin

Although you may be familiar with all the different ways you can take CBD orally—as drops, sprays, capsules, and gummies—recent research shows that CBD may be just as effective, if not more so, when applied to the body. Researchers term this the ‘transdermal’ delivery route. Your body has CB1 and CB2 receptors almost everywhere, including almost all skin cell types—even in the sebaceous glands! Given the skin is our largest organ, this route works efficiently to absorb CBD into the skin and is particularly helpful when you want to use it in a local area.

Therefore, many CBD companies—Zen CBD included—are now developing bodycare ranges to go with their oral products. These include massage creams and lotions, as well as slow-release transdermal patches. These patches stay on the skin and deliver a constant supply of CBD over a 24-hour period. In our next post, we will take a closer look at these body care types and how they work.