You may have wondered how CBD — short for cannabidiol — interacts with your body. It’s because of a vast, complex system found in all mammals. Our bodies have natural cannabinoid receptors, which are responsible for maintaining and regulating our physical well-being. In other words, they help keep our bodies in homeostasis.
These natural cannabinoid receptors are part of a larger structure called the Endocannabinoid System, or ECS. Via a combination of microscopic proteins, enzymes and receptors, the ECS is receptive to CBD cannabinoids.
Research shows that we have two main types of receptors: cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2). CB1 receptors are located in the brain, lungs, vascular and reproductive system and muscles while CB2 are in the spleen, colon, immune system and bones. Both CB1 and CB2 are found in the liver and pancreas. The beauty of the endocannabinoid system is that endocannabinoids can bind to either receptor, depending on the relief needed. For example, endocannabinoids would target CB2 receptors when the body is inflamed due to an autoimmune disorder.
Unlike CBD — which is derived from industrial hemp plants — endocannabinoids are produced in the body. And while endocannabinoids are in charge of keeping our internal systems functioning optimally, there is still insufficient data to fully grasp its potential functions. That said, it is known that the ECS is tied to many elements: our appetite, mood, sleep, immune response, liver function, memory, muscle formation and more.
Although the ECS is responsible for managing the endocannabinoids that are naturally present in our bodies, it also reacts to external cannabinoids, such as CBD. And simply put, cannabinoids and their receptors are like lock and key. Influencing the body’s receptors, CBD enhances our innate levels of endocannabinoids, allowing the enzymes and cannabinoids to target areas of the body that need the most relief.
Among the dozens of cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, the two most prominent are CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol — widely known as THC. Although both CBD and THC interact with the ECS, CBD derived from industrial hemp does not have any psychoactive or intoxicating effects.
There are numerous ways to incorporate CBD into a wellness-centric lifestyle. From tinctures, oils, creams and capsules, CBD can be an integral component of a daily routine. CBD oil, for example, which is made by extracting CBD from the cannabis plant and diluting it with a carrier oil, can be taken via tincture form and easily added to smoothies, beverages or even yogurt.
However, keep in mind that the body absorbs different forms of CBD at varying rates. For example, holding CBD sublingually (under the tongue) for 60 seconds will increase the rate of absorption of CBD into the bloodstream. On the contrary, when taking CBD in pill form, it can take longer to feel its effects.
Edie Horstman is a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, wellness blogger, and freelance writer. She works with health-focused brands, co-creating content in the digital marketing space. She lives in Denver, Colorado.