Your Quick Guide to the Endocannabinoid System, CBD, Cannabinoids, and More
If you are familiar with hemp-derived products like CBD edibles, then you know these are most commonly used for their soothing benefits on the body and mind. These products are known to support feelings of relaxation, reduced physical discomfort, and overall balance on the inside and out. But how do CBD oil and edibles work?
To answer that, you first need to know about the endocannabinoid system, or the ECS for short.
What Is the Endocannabinoid System?
The endocannabinoid system is a complex network of chemicals, receptors, and enzymes that are responsible for regulating the body's homeostasis. The best way to describe it is as an "internal balancing system." This internal balancing system is primarily made up of neurotransmitters that bind with cannabinoid receptors in the brain and throughout the rest of the body. When this happens, they help regulate moods, appetite, memory function, pain sensation, inflammation levels-and more!
What Are Cannabinoid Receptors and Neurotransmitters
Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers that carry signals between neurons (nerve cells) in the brain. Cannabinoid receptors are proteins found on the surfaces of some types of cells that are activated by chemical compounds called cannabinoids.
Cannabinoids are produced naturally by the body (known as endocannabinoids), but they can also be obtained from outside sources. The best-known cannabinoids today are those found in hemp, such as CBD, THC, CBN, and CBC.
So How Does the Endocannabinoid System Work?
Cannabinoids like CBD bind directly to cannabinoid receptors in order to "activate" them. These receptors then interact with neurotransmitters, which act as messenger molecules that carry signals between neurons.
Once activated, neurotransmitters are able to send messages through the nervous system by either stimulating or inhibiting nerve cell firing in various regions of the brain and central nervous system (CNS). This is how a cannabinoid like CBD affects different biological processes like appetite, mood, memory recall, pain sensation, and more.
The Effects of Cannabinoids on the Body and Mind
When a particular cannabinoid stimulates the body, it responds in different ways. For example, when CBD binds to receptors, these interact with neurotransmitters responsible for regulating your body's inflammatory response, sleep patterns, and stress response.
THC, on the other hand, binds to a different set of cannabinoid receptors that are responsible for appetite, pain sensation, mood, and memory recall. Additionally, THC binds to what is known as CB1 receptors in the brain, which can produce feelings of euphoria or anxiety depending on the amount consumed. Hence, the "high" is often associated with marijuana and other products with a high THC concentration.
THC and CBD are by far the most popular cannabinoids today. Recently, however, other cannabinoids have begun to draw attention from scientists and consumers alike. One such cannabinoid is CBN, or cannabinol, which has been found to have a unique set of properties that promote natural sleep and improved rest over time.
The Entourage Effect
When we consume cannabis products like hemp-derived CBD oil or marijuana, our bodies take in dozens of cannabinoids and botanical compounds like terpenes and flavonoids. We already went over the most well-known cannabinoids, but these other compounds are always present in lesser abundance.
Each of these compounds delivers different effects and benefits, and their behavior (and effects) may change in the presence of other compounds. The combined interaction of all these compounds with your endocannabinoid system help define the overall properties and benefits of a particular strain. This is what scientists call the entourage effect.
So How Do You Pick the Perfect Product for Your Needs?
Because each type of cannabinoid delivers a unique set of benefits, you must pick the product that's right for you. So if you are not sure what’s the difference between CBD and THC, here’s what you need to know.
CBD-rich products are ideal for everyday use, as they can help with common daily challenges like stress, poor sleep, discomfort, and fatigue. Additionally, CBD does not produce psychoactive effects like THC, making it an excellent option for those seeking support at any time of day without any undesired side effects.
Products infused with high levels of THC can help you disconnect and relax on a deeper level. However, because this cannabinoid is psychoactive, marijuana and products like THC oils are only appropriate during certain times of the day. They may be more likely to produce unwanted side effects if used at the wrong time or in excess.
It's important that you understand the difference between these compounds as they offer entirely different experiences. Always check your product's label for CBD and THC content!
Where to Buy Hemp Products
CBD products are widely available nationwide thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp-derived CBD. As a result, CBD-based oils, cbd edibles and gummies, and cbd topicals can now be found in many supermarkets, smoke shops, and holistic stores across the country. Currently, there are only a handful of states and local jurisdictions where CBD is not legal, so we recommend that you verify its legal status in your area before consumption.
In contrast, products containing more than 0.3% THC are only legal in 18 states. These are the states with legal "recreational use" of marijuana. Products with 0.3% or less THC won't get you high--in fact, some legal CBD products contain <0.3% THC.
Still More to Learn
Because the endocannabinoid system hasn't been studied thoroughly, there are still many things we need to learn about it. However, we can be sure that if it weren't for this complex system and the way it works, we wouldn't be able to experience the benefits of one of mother earth's most wonderful natural remedies.