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How Does CBD Interact with the Endocannabinoid System?

How Does CBD Interact with the Endocannabinoid System?

By EvolutionCBD   |   October 16, 2020

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound of the cannabis plant, well-known for its beneficial properties. But few people know that its benefits arise from the specific CBD effect on the endocannabinoid system.

The endocannabinoid system regulates many bodily processes. It affects the immune system response, metabolism, memory, and more. The endocannabinoid system and CBD interaction thus can affect all these processes, too.

So, how does CBD interact with the endocannabinoid system? We're here to answer that question today in this comprehensive guide to endocannabinoid and CBD. We'll touch on the specifics of both the endocannabinoid system and cannabidiol CBD, including the make-up of each and the chemical changes that occur in your body when the two interact. 

Cannabidiol (CBD) and the Endocannabinoid System

The discovery of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) occurred in the early 1990s by researchers who were studying and exploring how THC worked. These researchers were pioneers in what would become a field of endocannabinoid system and CBD research. 

Scientists are still trying to understand exactly how endocannabinoids work. However, they are fully aware that the system regulates processes in the body such as:

  •           Sleep
  •           Mood
  •           Appetite
  •           Memory
  •           Reproduction

This system exists even if you are not a cannabis, THC, or CBD user. However, when you do partake in cannabis products, it can amplify the CBD oil/endocannabinoid system (ECS) effects. 

We give a more extensive overview of the ECS later. Knowing more about this bodily process will help to expand your understanding of CBD and the endocannabinoid system. For now, let's dive into the specifics. 

Components of ECS System

“Endo” means “originating within the body.” The endocannabinoid system, or ECS, involves three main components: endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes.


Endocannabinoids (endogenois cannabinoids) are similar to cannabinoids. These are natural products of your body. There are two key endocannabinoids identified by experts so far: anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG). 

Both of these endocannabinoids keep your body's internal functions running as they should. In scientific terms, they keep your body in a state of homeostasis. The human body makes these endocannabinoids as needed.


You can find endocannabinoid receptors throughout the human body, including in the brain, skin, and nervous system. The endocannabinoids that naturally occur in your body bind to the receptors (CB1 and CB2). From this process, the ECS gets one of two signals. Either everything is happening normally in the body, or the ECS needs to take action to regulate a process in the body. 

In terms of receptors, there are two primary kinds: CB1 and CB2.

  •           CB1 receptors help in keeping a functioning brain and are the moderators of memory, mood, motor function, and perception of pain.
  •           CB2 receptors moderate inflammation and the immune system's response to pathogens. 

Endocannabinoids will target a particular receptor to signal to the body that action needs to take place. Let's say you are skiing and you fall on your tailbone. Your ECS will send endocannabinoids to the CB1 receptors in your spine or the spinal nerve to signal that your body needs to relieve pain. 


The final components of the ECS are the enzymes. ECS enzymes break down endocannabinoids once they have served their purpose. Fatty acid amide hydrolase breaks down anandamide (AEA), while monoacylglycerol acid lipase breaks down the 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG). 

We'll go further into this later, but sometimes the enzymes are overactive, or the body doesn't have enough endocannabinoids to keep the body in homeostasis. In this case, CBD can help regulate the receptors and enzymes so that the body can regulate itself. 

What Is CBD and How Does It Work?

The make-up of cannabidiol is part of what makes the human body's natural ECS so receptive to the cannabis plant. Here, we explain more about this specific compound in cannabis plants.


CBD (cannabidiol) is a compound found in the cannabis plant. It is one of several compounds in the plant, such as THC and various terpenes. Unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive. It does not produce hallucinogenic effects. 

Manufacturers have found ways to separate the CBD from the THC in plants, namely from breeding the cannabis plant to have a low percentage of THC and a higher percentage of CBD (this variety is hemp). Instead of producing hallucinogenic effects, CBD works with the endocannabinoid system to regulate body processes. 

CBD Effects: Sorting Fact from Fiction

Some people believe that when you take CBD, your body creates new endocannabinoids that bind to the body's natural receptors. This hypothesis has not proven to be true. What we do know is that CBD oil in the endocannabinoid system does one of two things:

  1.         It can either prevent enzymes from breaking down the body's natural endocannabinoids, OR
  2.         It can act as “synthesized” endocannabinoids and bind to the body's CB1 and CB2 receptors to aid in the regulation process.

Some others believe that the CBD binds to an as yet undiscovered receptor in the body; this suggestion also has yet to find solid proof. 

CBD and ECS Receptors

Most cannabinoids can bind to both kinds of ECS receptors. However, research suggests that CBD doesn't directly trigger the receptors. Instead, it modifies the receptors' ability to bind to cannabinoids. CBD can also influence other types of receptors, occupy enzymes, and enhance your natural levels of endocannabinoids. 

For cannabinoids to travel through your body to reach the receptors, they get help from endocannabinoid transport proteins. These proteins help the endocannabinoids flow through the body's waterways and arrive promptly at the receptors when needed. 

Once the endocannabinoids have done their jobs, the body needs to essentially “shut them off” so that they don't continue to stimulate the ECS indefinitely. The “off” switches are the enzymes we discussed earlier: Fatty acid amide hydrolase, or FAAH, breaks down anandamide while monoacylglycerol acid lipase (MAGH) breaks down the 2-AG. 

Endocannabinoid System and CBD Research

Researchers are still studying how CBD and the endocannabinoid system work together. For instance, they are studying how CBD oil can help the endocannabinoid system do its job to maintain homeostasis in the human body. 

Although the endocannabinoid system and CBD research is ongoing, most researchers have determined that you can use CBD for several things, including for endocannabinoid deficiency. Let's dive more in-depth to what ECS deficiencies are, and how using CBD can help those with endocannabinoid deficiencies.

Using CBD for Endocannabinoid Deficiency

Just like the body can have an iron or vitamin D deficiency, it can have an endocannabinoid deficiency. The deficiency of endocannabinoids may have various health implications.

More research is necessary on the subject, but the current consensus is that CBD can help those with ECS deficiency. 

CBD endocannabinoid deficiency treatment has potential benefits. As stated before, CBD may help to break down enzymes that should break down the endocannabinoids once they have completed their functions. 

For someone with an endocannabinoid deficiency, their enzymes will break down the few endocannabinoids they have. In this case, the endocannabinoids do not have a chance to serve their purpose before the body destroys them. By treating your endocannabinoid system with CBD oil, your endocannabinoids can serve their purpose to regulate the body before enzymes break them down. 

CBD for the Endocannabinoid System

There are various CBD products for the endocannabinoid system. For instance, CBD oil presents a very convenient and simple way to consume the substance. It is usually consumed via a dropper and different concentrations of oil (or water soluble CBD) are available. 

Those who need a more potent solution can opt for a higher concentration (such as the extra strength CBD  water soluble), while those who need lower doses or are just starting can opt for a lower concentration. CBD gummies, lotion, and other products are also available for those who do not want the oil. 

Another convenient method for consumption is CBD gummies. These are good for those who do not like the taste of the oil. CBD gummies come in different concentrations just like oils. The only drawback of using gummies instead of oils is that they often have a lower bioavailability. 

The bioavailability of a substance is another name for how much of it is absorbed by the body by the time it is processed. Most gummies have a bioavailability of about 20%. This means that consuming a 10mg CBD gummy will give you about 2mg by the time you digest it.

CBD lotion is more for localized use on the skin, but some suggest that it's good for slow absorption and relief. 

Overall, you can use CBD for endocannabinoid processes. All you need to do is shop around and look at the ingestion options, concentration, and price to find the best solution for your purposes.

The Endocannabinoid System and CBD (Video)

So, you've read almost everything about the endocannabinoid system and how CBD interacts with it. If you still have some questions that this article has not yet answered, please enjoy this video about the endocannabinoid system and CBD on YouTube. The video goes a little more in-depth about the subject, explaining the interactions using cool visuals and graphics so you can understand it better. 

As you can see, this video helps you understand the interactions between the ECS and cannabinoids a little better. In the next section, we'll continue using some graphics and images to explain some concepts further. 

The Main Components of the Endocannabinoid System

As said before, there are plenty of components within the endocannabinoid system that need to be addressed. Sometimes, reading too much about these components (or anything, for that matter) can get confusing and an image of it can help you understand better. Here's one that can help you visualize the endocannabinoid system and how it works. 

Although there are no CBD endocannabinoid receptors, the ECS receives endocannabinoids and cannabinoids through the CB1 and CB2 receptors. The yellow dots are the body's natural endocannabinoids. Cannabinoids, as taken in CBD products, are not an “unnatural” product, but rather a different form of what our bodies naturally produce to regulate different systems and processes.

The natural endocannabinoids (yellow dots) are produced and received by the receptors. While they are being received, they are transmitting signals around the body to regulate different processes such as memory, mood, and digestion. 

Once the signals are received and the endocannabinoids have done their jobs, the enzymes (green ovals) have the task of breaking down the endocannabinoids so they do not send the signals forever.

Sometimes, the ECS is lacking in endocannabinoids and the body cannot efficiently regulate the processes because the enzymes are breaking down what little endocannabinoids they have. In this case, CBD can help because it stops the enzymes from breaking down the few endocannabinoids that the body can produce. 

In a nutshell, cannabinoids help the body by aiding in the already-occurring system of regulating body processes. 

CBD and Cannabinoid Receptors

Let's explore how CBD and endocannabinoid receptors work in a little more depth. You can find endocannabinoid receptors throughout the human body, to which the natural endocannabinoids in your body bind to. The ECS gets signals from these receptors that either the body is fine and the processes are working as they need to, or the ECS needs to regulate something that is not working properly. This is exhibited by getting hungry, changing your mood, recalling a memory, and several other things. 

CB1 receptors are the receptors that moderate your memory, mood, motor function, and pain perception. Since these are the receptors that are in charge of pain and motor function, you can find them all around your body. You can primarily find them in the brain, CNS, lungs, liver, and kidneys. They are also found in the skin.

CB1 receptors are the target receptor for THC, making it a major player in the euphoric effects of cannabis. However, CBD uses this receptor to regulate body processes as well. CB1 regulates the release of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate. The CB1 receptor is essentially a crossing guard for neurotransmitters: By using CBD, you are regulating the activity of this receptor so your neurotransmitters are controlled.

CB2 receptors are receptors that relate less to pain relief and more to the immune system. CB2 is a strong target for 2-AG and anandamide. Activity at and around CB2 turns on intracellular processes that promote homeostasis, such as regulating inflammation and cell proliferation. As opposed to CB1, CB2 receptors only present in the brain when there is inflammation or injury to the body. When there is inflammation, CB2 inhibits the inflammation signal so the body can come back to a state of homeostasis. 

In terms of CBD, there are no specific receptors in the body. Instead of binding to any specific receptor, cannabinoids bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors where they act as agonists or antagonists. Agonists mimic endocannabinoids produced naturally by the body to “activate” receptors, while antagonists block these receptors and limit their activity. In other words, CBD does what it needs to help the body regulate itself–a definite benefit to using CBD. 


The endocannabinoid system is only recently discovered, and is found to regulate body processes such as mood, appetite, and inflammation. The system is made up of several components, including the endocannabinoids, the receptors (CB1 and CB2) which receive a signal from the endocannabinoids, and the enzymes which break down the endocannabinoids once they're finished doing their jobs. All this noted, sometimes the ECS needs a little help in its regulation of the body. This is where CBD comes in.

CBD helps in the regulation of body processes by either acting as an antagonist and blocking receptors from receiving signals it doesn't need, or by acting as an agonist to activate receptors that need help. The process by which CBD helps the endocannabinoid system do its job can be difficult to understand, but it is fascinating. We hope you've learned a lot about how the endocannabinoid system works and what benefits using CBD to help this system can offer you.