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How Does CBD Work in Your Body: What the Research Says



It can be tough to make sense of all the widespread benefits cannabidiol (CBD) provides. We’re going to solve this problem by providing you with all the critical information you need to know about CBD. Today, you’ll discover the answer to the question: “How does CBD work in the body?” We’ll explore the science based on the findings of numerous research studies. 

Scientists have become incredibly interested in the therapeutic potential of CBD. There has been an explosion of research involving cellular, animal, and human study models. With this rapid growth of research, it behooves us to take some time to reflect on everything we’ve learned about the ways CBD interacts with the human body. 

Let's take some time to reflect on everything we’ve learned about how CBD interacts with the human body.

Table of Contents

1. How Does CBD Enter the Body?
2. How Does CBD Work in the Body?
    2.1 The Endocannabinoid System
    2.2 Reuptake Inhibitor
    2.3 GPR55 and Our Bones
    2.4 Serotonin Receptors and Anxiety
    2.5 Vanilloid Receptors and Pain
    2.6 Peroxisome Proliferator Activated Receptors (PPARs)
3. How CBD Works: What Are the Effects of Cannabidiol on the Body?
4. How Does CBD Leave the Body?
5. Final Thoughts

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1. How Does CBD Enter the Body?

 

Before discussing how CBD works in our bodies, let’s briefly discuss how it enters our system. The ability of CBD to be absorbed and spread throughout the body is the first step to consider. The most common delivery methods of CBD are smoking / vaping and CBD oils / infused CBD products

When we inhale CBD compounds, they enter our bloodstream via the tiny sacs inside our lungs that exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. Ingestion of CBD leads to the absorption of CBD compounds inside the intestines into the bloodstream. Either way, these CBD compounds then rapidly spread around the body, concentrating in areas of high blood flow. [1]

CBD can easily be absorbed and spread to every nook and cranny in our bodies.

RELATED: How to Take CBD Oil

This is crazy:

Since CBD is a lipid, it can easily flow between layers of tissues, reaching our adipose tissues (fat cells) and muscles. Furthermore, CBD molecules can cross the blood-brain barrier, leading to effects on our central nervous system that result in widespread benefits. (Click to tweet)

All right, so now we know how CBD can easily be absorbed and spread to every nook and cranny in our bodies. [1]

2. How Does CBD Work in the Body?

 

CBD is able to interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Furthermore, CBD exerts effects on at least 65 different molecular targets. We’ll explore what we know from science regarding the ways CBD interacts with specific targets inside our bodies. [1]

CBD exerts effects on at least 65 different molecular targets.

RELATED: Endocannabinoid System Explained

2.1 The Endocannabinoid System

Focusing on the endocannabinoid system (ECS), CBD can interact with cannabinoid receptors 1 and 2 (CB1 and CB2). Unlike THC, CBD does not directly bind with either of these receptors. Instead, CBD shifts the state of CB1 and CB2 receptors to impact their ultimate activity. CB1 receptors are heavily concentrated in the central nervous system. CB2 receptors are also found in the brain. However, they primarily play a significant role in the functioning of our immune system. 

The fancy scientific phrase used to express the actions of CBD at CB1 receptors is “non‐competitive negative allosteric modulator.” Explained in English, this term describes how CBD serves an indirect role in inhibiting CB1 receptor activity. The activity is non-competitive because CBD does not interfere with other compounds targeting these receptors. This modulation is negative because it inhibits receptor activity. [2]

Want to know the best part?

This activity is thought to explain certain therapeutic effects of CBD partially. For example, the antipsychotic, anti-seizure, and anti-depression properties of CBD are all thought to be at least partially explained by this negative allosteric modulation at CB1. [2]

Now, we turn our attention to CB2. We mentioned how these receptors are found on immune cells throughout our body. CBD has been shown to have an inverse agonist effect on these CB2 receptors. This mechanism is what scientists use to explain the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD. [3]

CBD exhibits antipsychotic, anti-seizure, and anti-depression properties.

RELATED: How Cannabinoids Interact with Their ECS Receptors

2.2 Reuptake Inhibitor

CBD also has complicated interactions with transport molecules that produce some incredible results. Without getting too deep into the details, CBD appears to impede the production of an enzyme (called FAAH) responsible for breaking down anandamide. As a natural endocannabinoid, also called the bliss molecule, anandamide exerts numerous benefits to humans. [4]

The suggestion from scientific studies is that CBD reduces the breakdown of anandamide, resulting in higher levels overall. The breakdown of anandamide by FAAH is called “reuptake” because the base compounds are recycled for reuse. In summary, CBD appears to inhibit the reuptake of anandamide by reducing the actions of FAAH. [4] 

This is crazy but amazing:

It is this mechanism that is speculated to be part of the reason CBD has been found helpful for certain seizure-related conditions. Epidiolex was the first CBD-based pharmaceutical to receive approval for such use. But this is not the only “reuptake” that CBD blocks, as we’ll soon discover.

CBD has been found helpful for certain seizure-related conditions.

CBD has been shown to inhibit adenosine breakdown through indirect agonistic activities at adenosine receptors. These adenosine receptors are also G protein receptors for those noticing specific trends. The result of this CBD activity is increased levels of adenosine in the human body. This mechanism (the inhibiting reuptake at adenosine receptors) is thought to produce the anxiety-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties of CBD. [1]

It gets better:

But there is far more to CBD than just its interactions with the ECS. We’ll break down the actions of CBD based on the type of receptors and system to make the mechanisms more straightforward for you. In the following sections, we’ll explore the effects of CBD on:

  • GPR55 receptors and our bones
  • Serotonin receptors and anxiety
  • Vanilloid receptors and pain
  • PPARs and energy metabolism

There is far more to CBD than just its interactions with the ECS

RELATED: Here's Why CBD Is Inflammation’s Worst Enemy

2.3 GPR55 and Our Bones

We are starting with GPR55, not because of its appealing name but instead because of its potential. This receptor is currently an “orphan receptor” not belonging to any specific family. That said, this G Protein-Coupled Receptor (GPR) has a very similar structure to the CB1 and CB2 receptors (which are also GPRs). For this reason, one day, we may have to change the name of this receptor to CB3. Until that time, let’s see what we know about this orphan.

But here’s the kicker:

The actions of CBD on GPR55 impact our bone physiology through regulating osteoclast (bone-builders) activity. These effects may one day lead to the recommendation of CBD for those suffering from conditions involving the weakening of bones, such as osteoporosis or after bone injuries. [5] (Click to tweet)

The actions of CBD on GPR55 impact our bone physiology.

RELATED: How CBD Works

2.4 Serotonin Receptors and Anxiety

CBD has been shown to activate the 5-HT1A (hydroxytryptamine) serotonin receptor directly. The 5-HT1A neuro-receptor is involved in the mechanism of actions behind anti-anxiety, anti-depression, and antipsychotic medications. These receptors are also G protein-coupled receptor types, and they are found in high density in the brain. Numerous studies have confirmed the role of serotonin receptors in human anxiety and depression levels. [6] [7]

Based on animal model studies, researchers discovered that CBD directly binds with these serotonin receptors. They noted effects on these animals that had nothing to do with CB1 or CB2 activity. What did they find? Researchers discovered that the effects of CBD on these serotonin receptors led to reductions in signs of anxiety and depression. [6] (Click to tweet)

CBD is well-recognized for its ability to reduce anxiety in humans, but more research is needed on the effects on depressed states. For example, one clinical study has found that CBD helped reduce the anticipatory anxiety induced by a staged public speaking event. Participants also noted reduced cognitive impairment and discomfort in their speech performance. [8]

Researchers discovered that the effects of CBD on these serotonin receptors led to reductions in signs of anxiety and depression.

RELATED: CBD and Anxiety: What Does the Latest Research Say?

2.5 Vanilloid Receptors and Pain

Vanilloid receptors are a family of Transient Receptor Potential (TRP; pronounced “trip”) channels. The most well-studied of this family is the TRPV1 receptor, a key target for pain management treatments. TRPV1 (also called vanilloid receptor 1) plays a role in the transmission of noxious neurological signals that may lead to the perception of pain once they reach the brain. These receptors react to physical or chemical threats by sending nociceptive signals that can result in pain. [9]

CBD is known to bind with TRPV1, acting as an agonist of these channels. Agonists are compounds that promote the activity of a specific receptor (while antagonists reduce the activity of receptors). What we know for sure is that CBD can influence the perception of pain via this TRPV1 activity. It is unclear why this action plays a role in the pain-reducing ability of CBD specifically. [1]

CBD can influence the perception of pain via this TRPV1 activity.

RELATED: Recent Study Suggests Topical CBD Can Help Inflammation and Muscle Pain

2.6 Peroxisome Proliferator Activated Receptors (PPARs) 

PPARs are nuclear receptors, which means that they are found on the surface of a cell’s nucleus. A cellular nucleus is like the CPU of a cell. It is where DNA is stored, and messages are sent around the cell to direct all activity. 

CBD is beneficial in animal models of Alzheimer’s disease. The reduction of beta-amyloid plaques and inflammation in rats’ brains was mediated by the actions of CBD on PPARs. [10] (Click to tweet)

The impacts of CBD on PPARs are also thought to mediate its antitumor properties. There is a massive need for more research on this topic since CBD may one day be considered part of a well-rounded cancer treatment regimen. [10] 

Now:

Furthermore, PPARs are also heavily involved in energy homeostasis, insulin sensitivity, and metabolism. Several diabetic medications target these receptors, and CBD may one day be used for the same purpose. [10]

Several diabetic medications target these receptors, and CBD may one day be used for the same purpose.

RELATED: How CBD May Help with Inflammation and Allergies

3. How CBD Works: What Are the Effects of Cannabidiol on the Body?

 

There is a vast collection of downstream effects from consuming CBD, and we’re going to cover as many as we can right now. You have already discovered the mechanisms that are said to produce these effects. 

It is also critical to describe what CBD does not do to your body. CBD is non-intoxicating and does not produce similar motor and cognitive impairment produced by tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The World Health Organization has stated that CBD has not been shown to have any abuse potential or cause any public health-related problems. Furthermore, CBD does not have the potential to create dependence. Overall, CBD is well-tolerated with a good safety profile. [11] (Click to tweet)

“In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential.” -World Health Organization” [11]

CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential.

RELATED: CBD Oil Effects Declared Safe by World Health Organization

What’s the bottom line?

So what does CBD do? Based on the science we explore above and more, we know that CBD has a broad list of effects. These include: [1]

  • Reducing inflammation
  • Decreasing pain
  • Reducing nausea and vomiting
  • Antipsychotic properties
  • Anxiety-relieving
  • Anti-seizure properties

CBD has a broad list of effects

RELATED: CBD Oil’s Most Important Benefits: 2020 Update

4. How Does CBD Leave the Body?

 

We already discovered how CBD enters the body and circulates via our bloodstream. After that, we learned about what targets CBD can reach through this circulation. Finally, we explored the therapeutic effects and their mechanisms of action. 

Now, you may be wondering how CBD exits the body.

As CBD circulates our system, it is cleared from the body via our urine and feces. A small portion of CBD remains nearly wholly intact as it is vacated from the body. The CBD compounds that reach their targets are likely broken down into specific metabolites. Both CBD and its metabolites can be found in human urine and feces after consumption. [1]

When looking at drugs in the body, we often use the term “half-life.” This term describes how long it takes for half of the drug to be broken down as it circulates our body. The breakdown of CBD works alongside the direct excretion to eventually remove all CBD from our body. 

Here’s the deal:

The half-life of CBD depends on the method of delivery, whether smoked or ingested. Smoked CBD has a half-life of 27–35 hours, while oral consumption results in a half-life of 2–5 days. (Click to tweetBased on this scientific fact, consumers who want more sustained CBD effects should strongly consider CBD oil, like our Natural Tincture and other oral forms of CBD

Consumers who want sustained effects from CBD should strongly consider CBD oil.

WATCH: SOL*CBD Cannabidiol (CBD) Tinctures

5. Final Thoughts

 

Great job on making it through this guide to how CBD works in the body. You have likely learned many new terms, but each has combined to help us understand the therapeutic effects of CBD

We started by learning about how CBD can enter the body through our digestive system. Once circulating the bloodstream, CBD rapidly disperses all over our body. You discovered the mechanisms of action behind CBD’s effects on our vanilloid, GPR55, serotonin, PPAR, and cannabinoid receptors. 

After that, you have the knowledge you need to understand the therapeutic effects of CBD, including anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, and analgesic properties. Finally, we completed the story by exploring how CBD leaves the body via our urine and feces. Taken together, you now understand the entire journey of CBD through the body and the outcomes that result from its actions. 

You now understand the entire journey of CBD through the body.

Sources: 

  1. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-medication/cannabis/information-medical-practitioners/information-health-care-professionals-cannabis-cannabinoids.html#a4.7
  2. https://bpspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/bph.13250
  3. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/6558573_Cannabidiol_displays_unexpectedly_high_potency_as_an_antagonist_of_CB1_and_CB2_receptor_agonist
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25666611/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2737440/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24923339/
  7. https://psychopharmacologyinstitute.com/publication/5-ht1a-receptors-in-psychopharmacology-2123
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21307846/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2430674/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4882496/
  11. https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/CannabidiolCriticalReview.pdf

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