CBD and the
Endocannabinoid System

CBD is currently being celebrated as this century’s miracle drug. The trouble is, most of that high praise is coming from testimonials. Testimonials from the average guy, not a scientist with a sharp, tailored white coat and a framed degree. For this reason, while some accept the idea that CBD can heal their ailments with no questions asked, others are quite skeptical of the health benefits of the hemp-derived product. 

Previously, that same skepticism was being exacerbated by the FDA’s total refusal to even look at CBD as anything but a myth, and worse, a myth that shares an ancestor with the infamous “Devil’s lettuce.” So, people started asking “Why does CBD work?” And while there have not been nearly enough studies performed on the matter to give us an answer to “Does CBD work?” we do know how CBD interacts in the human body, and on a larger scale mammal, body. 

How does CBD interact with our bodies? It’s detected by a mythical and under-utilized body system named “The Endocannabinoid” system.

The Endocannabinoid System and Cannabinoid Receptors

In the 60s and 70s, scientists isolated the various chemicals from the cannabis plant as they traveled through the body. They studied the effects of each individual phytochemical and thus revealed a web of receptors throughout the human body that could pick up on the different types of cannabis. This map of cannabinoid receptors is classified as the endocannabinoid system and it uncovers a fascinating web of biochemical pathways that illuminates how the human body’s own synthetic form of cannabinoids travel through the body. This same body of research uncovered that humans share this same system with most other mammals in the animal kingdom.

Because of the presence of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in other mammals, we can estimate a time stamp of the origin of the ECS at around 600 million years ago. This is determined by its presence in our close ancestors as well as animals like birds and amphibians. These early origins of the system explain why it has such a profound effect on other parts of the body, for as the body and system evolved side-by-side, it progressed and became a more integral part of the body. This evolutionary timeline explains why the endocannabinoid system has any effect at all on the physiological and neurological centers of our bodies.

How The Endocannabinoid System Works

There are three main components of the system and include the endocannabinoids (eCBs), cannabinoid receptors in the system (CB receptor) and the enzymes that break down the eCBs. 

In regard to endocannabinoids, there are two kinds: anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). These are the messengers that send signals throughout the ECS. They’re built from lipids, which is why both THC and CBD are fat-soluble and are often delivered in their most potent form in the shape of an oil base. These two molecules are essentially the reason why CBD interacts at all in the human body.


Anandamide, for example, has the base word of ananda which is the Sanskrit translation for bliss. This endocannabinoid affects your memory and appetite, and in women, it affects how you respond to pregnancy. Oddly enough, it’s the chemical that creates the “runner’s high” that so many athletes seek.


2-AG is the sister molecule to anandamide and while it’s hardly as integral in your day-to-day as anandamide, it does have effects on your emotional state, seizures, and even cardiovascular health. You might know it more personally than you think, as it’s the chemical that creates the contented, sleepy feeling after orgasm.

Cannabinoid Receptors

Receptors essentially act by sitting on the surfaces of cells and waiting for a special kind of neurotransmitter to come along to bind to. In the case of cannabinoid receptors, they sit on the surfaces of a huge variety of cells and each different cell type reacts to different types of eCBs which is what creates the effect, for example, of an anandamide giving you a runner’s high.

Types of Receptors

In the endocannabinoid system there are two types of receptors: CB1 and CB2. 

CB1 Receptors

CB1 receptors are one of the most common receptors in the nervous system. Depending on what part of your brain these receptors are in, they can affect your memory, mood, motor function, and even your perception of pain. This is the brain’s receptor that picks up and activates the psychoactive properties of cannabis when THC is consumed. CB1 receptors are more prominent in the nervous system, though they are present in other areas throughout the body. They can, at times, have roles in hormone production, pregnancy and even your digestive and cardiovascular health. 

CB2 Receptors

CB2 receptors can commonly be found in the immune system. These receptors, therefore, act as moderators for bodily responses like inflammation and other immune responses to outside factors like pathogens. These receptors come into play with issues like inflammatory bowel, autoimmune disorders, arthritis, asthma and even your allergies.

What Does
CBD Do In The Endocannabinoid System?

Cannabinoids are only the name for the phytochemicals present in the hemp plant or cannabis species. Cannabinoids, obviously, interact with the receptors in your endocannabinoid system. However, most of the phytochemicals present in the cannabis plant interact and cause reactions from both types of receptors, CB1 and CB2. CBD, however, breaks away from that mold. CB2 is affected by CBD in an odd fashion: CBD actually reverses the effects of the CB2 receptor. In this way, it promotes its anti-inflammatory properties and produces a pain relief effect. It also acts by negating the stronger psychoactive properties of THC by essentially binding to the CB1 receptors and creating a weaker, rather than a stronger reaction. In this fashion, it aids in relieving mental stresses like anxiety and other reactions that have a sort of runaway effect through the nervous system. 

Endocannabinoid Reward

Understanding the basic principles of the endocannabinoid system can help you to understand its power, and therefore CBD’s power, over the reward signaling system in your brain. To understand this, we’ll use an example demonstrated in the study you can find here. This study features information surrounding how cannabinoids can be used to help people that are nursing addictions. In regard to reward signaling in the brain, addictive substances activate a specific set of pathways in your brain that are known as the mesolimbic DA pathway that start in the midbrain region and carry reward-related information. These pathways are responsible for your brain’s assessment of rewards, anticipation of rewards and valuation of rewards. 

These DA neurons are directly tied to how cannabinoids interact with your brain. CB1 receptors, in fact, play a regulatory role in how the DA pathways modulate the tone and relative satisfaction of how your brain calculates the reward. When you ingest CBD or even THC you encourage upregulation of CB1 expression in the reward center of your brain. For reference, alcohol encourages a downregulation of CB1 expression, hence why it’s called “a depressant.” In the situation of addicts, DA release, or communicating a reward from receiving the addictive substance requires the presence of CB1 receptors. Hence, if they’re already being occupied by a different substance, the reward can not be communicated. In other words, CB1 modulates how motivational a reward can feel to your brain and how much your brain is reinforcing the effects of that reward. For example, chocolate tastes good, so your brain registers the reward, but your CB1 receptors could interrupt that and negate the idea that there’s a reward at all to eating chocolate.

Learn More
Via Self-Experimentation

As the studies pile up, there’s only one real thing to do: Give it a shot. The endocannabinoid system is powerful and intriguing. It affects the brain and body in ways we aren’t even sure of yet and only modern adventurers are currently giving it the chance it deserves. Start taking advantage of the positive effects a CBD regimen can have on your health and wellness now. Shop our simple and effective CBD oil products here at Delphi Life to start making a difference in your day-to-day quality of life now.


– CBD and Cannabinoid Receptors

– What is The Endocannabinoid System?

– The Endocannabinoid System’s Role In Reward Signalings

– Agonist and Antagonists

– What Does CBD Do In The Endocannabinoid System?

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