Cannabinoid Receptors And CBD
Now that we know more about the human endocannabinoid system (ECS), research is geared towards our cannabinoid receptors.
Medical research has shown that the ECS has been present in primitive animals for the past 600 million years. All animals, including mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish have an endocannabinoid system. It is a ubiquitous system that has evolved throughout our existence.
Our ECS works with endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors. Think of them as keys and locks. Just like a specific key unlocks a single lock, certain endocannabinoids bind to specific receptors.
Clinical trials and medical studies are trying to understand how cannabinoid receptors work and what triggers them. They also explore if and how CBD could potentially make them work better and more efficiently, as evidence seems to suggest.
Cannabinoid receptors appear to be crucial in the way the body maintains its homeostasis—its natural balance—and fixes any problems. Researching cannabinoid receptors can help us both better understand human conditions and how CBD could possibly treat them.
How does the endocannabinoid system work?
What is the endocannabinoid system?
The endocannabinoid system is a complex arrangement of endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes. These are mainly found in our brain, central nervous system, peripheral nervous system, and immune system.
What does the endocannabinoid system do?
Our endocannabinoid system is responsible for a number of bodily functions, including pain, appetite, sensation, inflammation, thermoregulation, reproduction and fertility, metabolism, stress, motivation and reward, mood, and muscle control.
What is the purpose of the endocannabinoid system?
The purpose of the endocannabinoid system is to keep our body in balance, or what is called homeostasis.
For instance, the feeling of being hungry is regulated by our ECS. Once the ECS is alerted that our cells need nourishment, it sends a message to the brain that translates into a rumbling stomach and a feeling of hunger.
Other functions are directly dealt with by our ECS, without the need to inform us that action is needed. For example, when there is an intruder in the body, the ECS works with our immune system to inflame the area in question, thus killing any dangerous invaders.
How does our ECS bring homeostasis?
Our ECS is the key regulatory mechanism in our brains. The body activates the ECS whenever it is necessary. It has to be precise in its response so that the ECS only impacts the area that requires attention. Otherwise, it may create worse problems than the ones it solves, as is the case with autoimmune disorders.
What is our endocannabinoid system made of?
Our ECS is made of three compounds: cannabinoid neurotransmitters, cannabinoid receptors, and cannabinoid enzymes.
Our body produces cannabinoid neurotransmitters—our endocannabinoids. These act as chemical messengers of the ECS, delivering information from one cell to the next.
So far, we have discovered two endocannabinoids, anandamide and 2-AG. However, there may well be more that are still waiting to be discovered.
Endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes
Does your body naturally produce cannabinoids?
Endocannabinoids are produced naturally by the body whenever their need arises and then bind to their respective receptors to transmit the message to the cells.
Our endocannabinoids have different locations and purposes. Anandamide is synthesized in the brain and is mainly found in brain tissues. 2-AG is found in the brain as well, but also in our immune system and the gut.
How do you activate cannabinoid receptors?
Cannabinoid receptors work as keys that match to the endocannabinoids.
The endocannabinoid system cannot stimulate all receptors. Endocannabinoids are the keys and the receptors are the locks: not all keys fit all locks.
Cannabinoid receptors sit on cell surfaces throughout the body, although they are found in vast quantities in specific body tissues.
So far, we have discovered two cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2. Both cannabinoid receptors have attracted scientific attention in relation to diseases, particularly neurodegenerative and autoimmune ones.
How do CB1 receptors work?
CB1 receptors are mainly found to the brain, the liver, and the lungs.
CB2 receptors are found in the brain, the immune system, and the gut system.
Many tissues contain both CB1 and CB2 receptors.
CB1 receptors are crucial for healthy brain functioning. They moderate memory, perception of pain, perception of pleasure, and mood, among others.
Interestingly, CB1 receptors are involved in numerous neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s disease, and multiple sclerosis, although scientists are still uncertain as to the exact connection.
How do CB2 receptors work?
CB2 receptors moderate inflammation and our immune reaction to external pathogens and harmful intruders.
CB2 receptor seems to be connected to Alzheimer’s disease, as a study has shown, and cardiovascular diseases, as this study suggests. And they could be important in regulating neuroinflammation and thus several neurodegenerative diseases.
Our cannabinoid enzymes
The body activates the ECS, which then produces its two endocannabinoids. These meet up with the matching cannabinoid receptors and activate the cells.
Once their job is done, the endocannabinoids need to be discarded, otherwise, they will continue stimulating the cells and lead to an overreaction. For example, after they alert us that we are hungry, they need to be dispensed with—or we’ll have a constant feeling of hunger.
The shedding of the endocannabinoids occurs through specific enzymes that break down anandamide and 2-AG.
This constant dance between endocannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors, and enzymes makes sure our body remains in balance.
What is the interaction between CBD and cannabinoid receptors?
Research has shown that CBD is closely related in chemical composition to 2-AG. CBD interacts with both CB1 and CB2 receptors but has a closer affinity to the CB2 one.
However, current research suggests that CBD does not actually stimulate cannabinoid receptors. Instead, CBD increases their ability to bind to endocannabinoids. In essence, it appears that CBD makes the receptors more sensitive and more responsive to our endocannabinoids.
There is also preliminary research showing that CBD stops enzymes from breaking down the endocannabinoids too quickly. This allows for the beneficial effects of endocannabinoids to linger longer in the body and be more efficient.
Researchers are also studying whether CBD may increase the number of our endocannabinoids and their respective cannabinoid receptors.
CBD interacts with other receptors as well
CBD appears to communicate with our endocannabinoid system but also with other neurotransmitter systems.
CBD interacts with the 5-HT1A serotonin receptors, linked to depression and anxiety. It also interacts with the TRPV-1 vanilloid receptors, involved in the transmission of pain messages.
Research is now trying to establish how CBD’s interaction with these neurotransmitters’ could help with various diseases and conditions.
What if we didn’t have cannabinoid receptors?
Why are cannabinoid receptors so important?
Research done on mice that have no CB1 receptors showed some interesting facts: these mice had “improved memory, decreased appetite, a decreased tendency to become addicted to opiates, an increased sensitivity to pain, reduced locomotive activity, and shorter life spans than normal mice, suggesting a role for endocannabinoids in each of these systems.”
Cannabinoid receptors are vital in our body
Therefore, CB1 and CB2 receptors appear to be crucial in regulating several significant functions. Stimulating them with CBD could potentially help with various conditions where these cannabinoid receptors have a role to play.
More research is underway regarding the potential of cannabinoid receptors and how to enhance receptor stimulation. Since the discovery of the human endocannabinoid system, researchers have increasingly studied its function and interaction with other systems.
The human population has known for thousands of years about CBD and THC. Science is now trying to establish how CBD reaches our cannabinoid receptors and how it could improve their activity and effectiveness. Anecdotal evidence is promising but in order to recommend CBD as a treatment for particular diseases, solid clinical trials are required.