How CBD Works

CBD has taken off in popularity over the past few years. Hundreds of thousands of people are experiencing amazing benefits from the plant compound, and our customers are no different.

CBD, short of cannabidiol, is the primary active ingredient in the hemp plant. Even small amounts of this plant-derived molecule have a significant impact on health, so maybe it’s not surprising that people are, well, surprised at just how well CBD works.

In a quest to explain this impact, various terms get thrown around — technical stuff like endocannabinoid system, cellular signaling, or homeostasis. While these terms can be useful, they speak to a larger concept that’s actually pretty easy to understand. And it’s this overarching concept that truly explains why, and how, CBD does just what it does. Let’s take a look.

Have you ever wondered what life is? Not in a spiritual or existential way, necessarily, but from a biochemical basis?

While the field of physics explains a lot, up until recently it couldn’t really explain the flowing nature of life or the natural world. Its theories, while useful, remained ‘fixed’ within a snapshot of time. There were a lot of things these theories just couldn’t account for.

Within the world of endocannabinoid system science, for example, you may have seen diagrams like this:

How CBD Works

Photo courtesy of CBD Jubilee

This visual can be helpful in helping one grasp where endocannabinoid receptors are and what they do. But it doesn’t — and it can’t — really do justice to the ECS.

That’s because in reality these receptor sites and their densities are constantly changing! They actually change based on what the body needs, on where there’s inflammation. Static physics doesn’t take this into account.   

But things have improved with the advent of a new field of physics, called far from equilibrium thermodynamics. (Don’t worry, we won’t get any more technical than this). The only thing to take away from this thermodynamics is that flowing energy organizes matter.

In other words, that energy gives life the fuel it needs to efficiently structure itself.

Think about the human body for a second. It’s an incredibly complex system that has been designed to efficiently process flowing energy…through itself. There’s a lot of moving parts: trillions of cells, hundreds or thousands of energy-producing mitochondria per cell, billions of pairs of DNA, etc. Most of these elements are spinning or otherwise in motion.

This complexity is there for a reason. It allows us as human beings to move, act, think, and ultimately thrive as we move throughout our environment. It allows us to stay far from equilibrium — far from the baseline. Unlike single-celled organisms, we don’t just exist. We can do stuff!  

But what holds all these systemized complexities together? Once again, traditional biochemistry and physics didn’t really have an explanation. Until now.

In the late ‘80s, it was discovered that the human brain contains receptors that could be activated by cannabis. Then, in the early ‘90s, Israeli scientists discovered the first endocannabinoid, anandamide. Anandamide helped regulate mood, emotion, memory, stuff like that.

Intrigued, they kept searching. By the middle of the decade, these isolated discoveries had been pieced together… and it turned out that humans actually had an entire endocannabinoid system.

This system was discovered to be incredibly far-reaching. It was interwoven into every other biological system in the body, and worked behind the scenes to support health in many (mostly subtle) ways. There were endocannabinoid receptors in the brain, in the nervous system, in the heart; in muscle fibers and fat cells.

These many receptors were getting ‘fed’ by a constant flow of endocannabinoids, little molecules that pulled themselves out of cell membranes and traveled back and forth to send signals.

While the existence of most other organ systems has been pretty much established as scientific fact for hundreds of years, it’s only now that we understand there’s another system designed specifically to hold all the rest of them together: the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

Endocannabinoids aren’t the only things that balance out the ECS. Intuitively enough, phytocannabinoids from plants do, too.

And CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of the most potent cannabinoids out there. It’s also among the most gentle. These qualities make it the perfect candidate for boosting the endocannabinoid system. A boosted ECS, of course, means better health!

You know how people report so many different health benefits from CBD? How one person might experience pain relief (which is what they need), while another might only experience the sleep improvements…that they need? In many ways, the versatility of the endocannabinoid system explains the versatility of CBD. It’s a truly holistic solution.

Let’s say you’re taking CBD in full spectrum oil form, which is what we recommend. Hold the oil sublingually for a little while, and some of its cannabinoids will seep into the bloodstream (via glands in the mouth and under the tongue) almost immediately. This explains why those with anxiety or epilepsy can get fast relief from CBD in many cases.

Fully ingest the CBD oil, and the rest of its cannabinoids (and terpenes, and flavones, and chalcones…) get processed in the liver. It’s there that partial conversions to other cannabinoids take place, and then everything is released into the bloodstream. The entire process may take an hour or two.

At this point, really good things really start to happen. Soon enough, individual molecules of cannabidiol find their way to endocannabinoid receptors. Unlike resident compounds like anandamide, CBD doesn’t bind directly to ECS receptors; it has what researchers call a “low affinity” for them.

Instead it actually helps these receptors ‘open up’ more fully so that they can be totally saturated with endocannabinoids! The plant molecule has this impressive effect mostly at type-2 receptors (located in the body), though it’s also indirectly involved in improving function at type-1 receptors in the brain.

CBD’s activity isn’t limited to the endocannabinoid system, either. It also gently activates receptors for serotonin (improving mood and reducing anxiety) and adenosine (improving sleep and muscle relaxation).

One more significant interaction: CBD quiets inflammation via directly activating the TRPV1 system. That’s the same one responsible for your perception of heat… like how you feel when eating a capsaicin-filled hot pepper.  

And that’s just the start. Listing everything CBD interacts with as it promotes health would take some time. As we said, the endocannabinoid system is incredibly far-reaching — and so is CBD!

Our hope is that in reading about some of these mechanisms you can better appreciate just how holistic CBD is. At the hearts of its qualities is this amazing ability to maintain homeostasis, or balance, in the body… allowing one to overcome equilibrium and truly thrive.

To summarize everything in just one sentence: CBD helps the body heal itself and rise above external stress. Sounds pretty good, right? And it’s all factual, from a scientific perspective.

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