Updated: August 6, 2021
The Endocannabinoid System, or ECS, is one of the most amazing systems in the human body. But the ECS was only discovered about 30 years ago. So, we don’t have much data about how the ECS works. But, we do know that cannabidiol (CBD) appears to interact with the ECS. By reading this article, you will learn about CBD and the ECS, and how to choose the best CBD oil to get the most benefits for your ECS. Think of this post as the "Endocannabinoid System for Dummies."
What is CBD?
CBD is short for “cannabidiol.” It is one of at least 150 different known cannabinoids present in Cannabis sativa. Each cannabinoid plays a role in communicating with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). "Hemp" is different from "marijuana". Federally legal hemp is defined as cannabis which contains no more than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) by dry weight. Marijuana with high levels of THC content are federally prohibited, and only permitted in states with specific state laws allowing medical or recreational marijuana use. When we talk about CBD and CBD products, we are usually referring to federally legal hemp-derived CBD containing less than 0.3 percent THC.
CBD is a great option for those who want to experience the wellness potential of cannabis without the psychoactive effects of marijuana. CBD does not get you high like THC does. If any negative effects occur from CBD, it's either from taking too much of it, a cannabis allergy, or from other interactions. CBD is generally regarded to be a safe wellness additive due to the low risk of negative effects.
What is the Endocannabinoid System?
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) network is a series of receptors located throughout the body.1 We are still learning all of the ways that the ECS helps the body maintain general wellness. Since cannabinoid receptors are found throughout the body, it seems that many body functions could potentially be affected by the ECS. The ECS has been described as “an ancient lipid signaling network which in mammals modulate neuronal functions…”2
When Was the Endocannabinoid System Discovered?
An American chemist named Roger Adams first discovered cannabidiol (CBD) in the early 1940’s. The U.S Patent Office granted him a patent for his CBD isolation process in 1942. However, the onset of World War II sidelined his research. That work to isolate CBD and THC continued in the 1960’s in Israel by a team led by the famous cannabis scientist, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam.3
Despite understanding these phytocannabinoids, scientists didn’t discover the endocannabinoid system until 1992. That year at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a multinational team discovered the first endocannabinoid, known as anandamide.
While working to understand the metabolic pathways of cannabinoids inside the body, these researchers discovered an unknown signaling system on a molecular level that regulated a wide range of other bodily systems. This was science’s first glimpse of the endocannabinoid system.4
How Does the Endocannabinoid System Work?
Scientists are still trying to understand the wide ranging effects of the ECS. Its cannabinoid receptors are found along the central nervous system. CB receptors are also found in high concentrations in brain cells, the immune system, and in the digestive system. They are found in lesser concentrations all throughout the other areas of the body.
Unfortunately, medical schools still don’t teach students about the ECS.5 According to experts, faculty and administrations don’t want to add new material to an already overloaded curriculum.
The ECS affects each body differently depending upon the concentration of receptors. Cannabinoids bind to the two primary receptor types, CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors appear concentrated in the central nervous system, while CB2 receptors can be found throughout the body.6
CB1 receptors appear to be concentrated in the central nervous system, particularly the brain.7 CB1 can be found in the hippocampus and associational cortical regions, the cerebellum, and the basal ganglia. But CB1 receptors are not found in areas of the brain that control your heart rate and breathing. This may be the reason why there is no risk of fatal CBD overdose.
Unlike CB1 receptor activation, which can cause a person to feel “high,” the activation of CB2 receptors simply doesn’t do that. That’s because CB2 receptors appear to serve a role in non-psychoactive functions like general wellness.8,9 CB2 receptors have also been found in the spinal cord, and in regions of the brain.10
Endocannabinoid System and Cannabis
The word “cannabinoid” comes from the Cannabis sativa plant. It is the only plant on Earth to produce phytocannabinoids. The most common compounds are THC and CBD. THC is associated with recreational use, while CBD is non-intoxicating.
The ECS consists of two sets of cannabinoid receptors to which cannabinoids can bind. This system of receptors remained invisible to Western medicine for centuries. It wasn’t until scientists began to research the cannabis plant that led them to the discovery of the ECS.
Research into endocannabinoids is still incomplete. We don’t know if we have identified all the cannabinoids produced inside the body. A full understanding of phytocannabinoids is even less clear. Most of the study on phytocannabinoids has focused on THC. However, a full inquiry into the effects of THC have been severely limited by legal constraints and politics. Also, the predominant delivery method of THC (via smoking dried marijuana flowers) is unconventional in a clinical setting.
But there’s more to cannabis than THC. Other phytocannabinoids, like CBD, in combination with terpenes like β-caryophyllene, have lived too long in THC’s shadow. But in the last few years, an explosion of scientific inquiry has begun to unlock the secrets of cannabis and how its components interact with the ECS.
Endocannabinoid System and CBD
So, how does CBD communicate with your body’s ECS? Studies show CBD to be non-intoxicating and low abuse risk. Compared to THC, CBD has virtually no psycho-activity.11,12
CBD’s impact seems to come from how it interacts with CB2 receptors.13 The more studies done with CBD on cannabinoid receptors, the better our understanding will be of this sensational chemical compound.
CBD Entourage Effect
The term “entourage effect” means increased efficacy derived from combining phytocannabinoids and other plant-derived molecules.14 Cannabinoids administered together appear to be more effective than the use of a single agent like CBD isolate. 15
What are the components of the entourage effect? Well, we know that phytocannabinoids that have useful properties without psychoactive effects include CBD and other lesser known cannabinoids, such as THCV, CBG, and CBC.
In addition to these minor cannabinoids, terpenes play a role in the entourage effect. Terpenes are molecules that create flavors and fragrances in plants. The Food and Drug Administration has designated terpenes to be “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS).16
Endocannabinoid System and Terpenes
Terpenes exist throughout nature in different plants, including fruits and vegetables. Anecdotal reports suggest that terpenes may contribute to the potential of hemp-derived cannabinoid extracts like full spectrum CBD oil.
For instance, the terpene β-caryophyllene (read as “beta-caryophyllene”) is found in a number of plants, including black pepper, cinnamon, and cannabis. Some scientists believe that this terpene could also impact the ECS receptors. This means that the cannabis plant could potentially be found to produce multiple compounds that interact, like β-Caryophyllene and CBD.17
Endocannabinoid System Research
Cannabis research is booming. Many large academic institutions are getting involved, including UCLA, UC Davis, University of Mississippi, and University of Illinois, just to name a few. This research is looking into every facet of the ECS.18
The effectiveness of CBD in communicating with the ECS can depend on the method of administration. The administration method dictates how much CBD is absorbed into the system, also known as its bioavailability. The most bioavailable method of consuming CBD is by inhaling smoke. That is followed by sublingual tinctures. The least bioavailable method is taking a CBD capsule.19
Why Choose Cornbread Hemp?
Cornbread Hemp is a family-owned company that makes their CBD oil from organic hemp grown in Kentucky. Only hemp flowers are used to make Cornbread Hemp's extract. Stems and leaves have little CBD content, so they are excluded from Cornbread Hemp's raw material.
Most companies use a supercritical CO2 extraction process to pull a full spectrum of cannabinoids from hemp. While this process produces a relatively safe extract, it is a harsh method that leaves the end product tasting bitter. Cornbread Hemp chooses to use the organic sugarcane ethanol method in small batches for extraction instead. This method is far more gentle, and the end product is smooth tasting with no need for added flavors or sweeteners.
Cornbread Hemp knows that full spectrum CBD is the best, so all of Cornbread Hemp CBD products have the full range of cannabinoids present in hemp. This includes the federally legal amount of less than 0.3 percent THC, so all the compounds can work with each other for maximum wellness potential. For their CBD products, Cornbread Hemp uses organic MCT coconut oil as a carrier for their flower-only extract.
Cornbread Hemp goes the extra mile for safety and transparency by putting QR codes on all of their products. Scanning the code with a smartphone takes the consumer directly to the product’s third-party lab reports. Cornbread Hemp’s CBD oils also bear the USDA certified organic seal, proving their safety right away.
For high-quality organic CBD oil that you can trust, choose Cornbread Hemp.
Endocannabinoid System and CBD: Conclusion
Cannabis has been used by humans since ancient times, but there has never been the research to back it up as a beneficial plant, until recently. We hope this blog post provided you with the foundation to understand CBD and the endocannabinoid system.
About the Author
Dr. Leslie Mudd, PharmD
A board certified oncology pharmacist with 25 years experience at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center in Louisville, Kentucky, Dr. Leslie Mudd now serves as the Cornbread Hemp resident pharmacist and medical expert. Read Dr. Mudd's full author bio here.
What bodily functions does the Endocannabinoid System control?
The ECS network is a series of receptors located throughout the body. We are still learning all of the ways that the ECS helps the body maintain general wellness. Since cannabinoid receptors are found throughout the body, it seems that many body functions could potentially be affected by the ECS.
How does the ECS effect the body?
The ECS affects each body differently depending upon the concentration of receptors. CB1 receptors appear concentrated in the central nervous system, while CB2 receptors can be found throughout the body.
How does CBD work with the ECS?
CBD and other compounds, including THC, are phytocannabinoids. The ECS consists cannabinoid receptors to which cannabinoids can bind. Phytocannabinoids can replace or supplement the body's own cannabinoids in the ECS.
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