Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the major cannabinoids, or chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD has no psychoactive effects (meaning it will not get you “high”).It does, however, have numerous health benefits and uses. CBD has been known to reduce inflammation and pain, reduce the likelihood of seizures, treat anxiety, and even prevent cancer. The key to CBD’s effectiveness is in the way the body responds to cannabinoids. Our bodies have what is known as an endocannabinoid system, which is a biological system of receptors activated by cannabinoids. While the body naturally produces cannabinoids, the endocannabinoid system can also be activated by external cannabinoids such as THC and CBD.
There are two types of receptors in the body that CBD acts upon, CBD1 and CBD2. The primary difference is that CBD1 receptors are found mostly in the brain and nervous system, where CBD2 receptors exist mostly in immune cells throughout the body. CBD1 receptors were first discovered in 1990, and exist in high numbers in parts of the brain such as the hypothalamus, amygdala, and hippocampus. They can also be found throughout the central nervous system, connective tissues, and intestines. CBD1 receptors are responsible for regulating movement, coordination, memory, emotion, and cognition. The benefits that they are therefore most associated with, include alleviating symptoms of depression, anxiety, and nausea. Conversely, CBD2 receptors were discovered slightly later (1993) and exist primarily in the immune system, with a high concentration in the spleen and gastrointestinal tract (very little are found in the brain). CBD2 receptors help regulate pain, inflammation, appetite, and bone and skin health.
Though CBD1 and CBD2 receptors are found in different parts of the body and perform separate tasks, together they regulate vital bodily functions. Being aware of the roles that each receptor plays can help one use cannabinoids to combat health issues and/or preserve healthy bodily activity. For example, there is a high concentration of CBD2 receptors in the gastrointestinal tract. In turn, patients suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Chron’s disease can use CBD medication to alleviate symptoms. That is, CBD binds with the receptors in the gastrointestinal system, which then provides pain relief and reduces inflammation caused by stomach-related ailments. Furthermore, each person has a different number, concentration, and balance of receptors, and therefore may respond to cannabinoids differently depending on their individual makeup. Some people might have greater levels of CBD1 receptors, in which they would most likely be more sensitive to the psychoactive effects of THC, for example. Conversely, others might have a much greater concentration of CBD2 receptors. Someone with a greater level of CBD2 receptors would need to consume greater quantities of CBD and/or other cannabinoids to experience its health benefits. Thus, it is helpful to know the difference between CBD1 and CBD2 receptors when determining how to use CBD for physical ailments or other health conditions. The endocannabinoid system and cannabinoids are also burgeoning areas of scientific research, and therefore insight and benefits associated with CBD use will likely continue to grow significantly.