How Does CBD Work?

Riding on the tail of marijuana legalization, CBD products have become all the rage over the last few years. People swear by them and use them for a wide variety of ailments and issues. In fact, you’ve probably asked a friend for advice about a specific health problem and heard a resounding “CBD” as their answer. But what exactly is CBD and how does CBD work?

What is CBD?

CBD stands for cannabidiol. It’s essentially concentrated cannabis oil, derived from the Cannabis Sativa, the marijuana plant. The first thought in many people’s minds when they hear “cannabis” is, of course, getting high. That’s mainly because people confuse THC with CBD. However, the misconceptions that your mind can’t function properly while using CBD are gradually receding. Still, let’s set the record straight.

THC is only one of the several thousand compounds in the cannabis plant. It’s a psychoactive substance that will get you high. However, CBD is a phytocannabinoid that doesn’t have any psychoactive effects. Thus, it is mostly used for the numerous alleged health benefits it brings to both body and mind.

While there are a lot of cannabis oils out there that can get you high, CBD oils are not one of them. The main difference is in the manufacturing process. CBD oils either do not contain THC or contain less than 0.3% of it. What’s more, they are made from hemp plants. A close relative of marijuana, hemp often gets confused with it.

So, now that we know it doesn’t get you high let’s see what CBD can actually do for you.

How Does CBD Work?

There have been numerous claims that CBD can treat anxiety, depression, seizures, chronic pain, and inflammation. Although none of that has been scientifically proven, there are a lot of testimonies out there claiming the positive effects of CBD. If you’re wondering how one type of product can be the answer to so many issues, you’re not alone.

Preliminary research shows that CBD can affect pain, inflammation, and mental health issues. However, given that it’s rather limited, CBD is not yet FDA approved, and there aren’t a lot of ongoing studies with human participants. Thus, the full effect of CBD can only be speculated about.

Still, it’s clear that CBD has a strong effect on our nervous systems. CBD actually influences and enhances your endocannabinoid system (ECS).

ECS is a receptive and modulative system. It is a vital part of our central nervous systems, and it communicates and regulates the endocannabinoids produced in our body. However, it also responds to outside endocannabinoids. Thus, by using CBD, you can influence your  ECS.

ECS — what does it regulate?

Our bodies produce endocannabinoids. You can think of them as messengers of the ECS. Now, ECS uses them to send and receive information from the body and regulates them. ECS is basically a web of pathways, receptors, and enzymes.

Cannabinoid receptors receive messages from the endocannabinoids. Given that endocannabinoids are neurotransmitters, and cannabinoid receptors have the sole purpose of being bound to one, the receptors are essential when it comes to any potential effect of the neurotransmitters. Receptors can sit on different cells. Thus, their downstream effect differs. They can affect consciousness, immunity, mood, sensations, etc. That’s how endocannabinoids affect all aspects of our minds and bodies. In turn, that’s also how CBD can be the potential solution to many ailments.


Unlike endocannabinoids, our bodies do not produce phytocannabinoids. As mentioned, CBD is a phytocannabinoid. To explain this further — “phyto” is the Latin word for “plant” while “endo” stands for “within the body.”

That means that phytocannabinoids come from a plant and thus outside your body. However, your ECS can still regulate it, just like it does with endocannabinoids.

CB Receptors

There are two main receptors of the ECS. Receptors CB1 and CB2 sit on a wide variety of cells and thus give out a wide range of answers when stimulated.


CB1 receptors are very high in number. We can find them in the amygdala, the hypothalamus, and the hippocampus. Therefore, they play a big role in higher brain functions — mood, perception, memory, and motor function, as well as pain perception. Given that taking CBD influences your ECS, it’s clear how it can positively affect all these cognitive and perceptive functions.

It’s important to note that CB1 receptors also interact with THC. Thus, they are responsible for the pleasant high you experience when taking marijuana or other products that contain THC.


CB2 receptors mostly interact with the immune system. They moderate and regulate how our bodies fight pathogens. They also induce or diminish inflammation. If your immune system is overactive, thus causing a lot of swelling, CB2 receptors will moderate endocannabinoids to keep it under control. However, they will also regulate cannabinoids taken externally (phytocannabinoids). That’s how CBD can help with arthritis, digestive issues, autoimmune illnesses such as Lupus and MS, and asthma and allergies.

How CBD Influences CB Receptors

CBD doesn’t directly bind itself to CB receptors. In fact, it only modifies their ability to link to other cannabinoids. So, how does CBD work? It moderates the way CB receptors bind themselves to cannabinoids, and it influences other types of receptors. Therefore, it can have a major effect on a lot of functions of the nervous system. CBD enhances the natural levels of endocannabinoids.

Proven and unproven effects of CBD

ECS has a hand in regulating many higher brain functions. Thus, CBD, that interacts with ECS has many potential effects.

The scientific research of the full effects of CBD on the human body is still in its infancy. Although we know how CBD works, we still don’t know the full extent of its potency or the possible side effects.

There are strong preliminary results of several studies that show that CBD has a large effect on child epilepsy, as well as anxiety and depression. However, there are no human clinical trials that prove other alleged effects of CBD. Still, many people use CBD to treat or help with secondary symptoms of many illnesses.

Social anxiety, chronic pain, inflammation, and nausea are secondary symptoms of several different diseases. Individual testimonies talk about CBD helping with most of them. However, although CBD may seem like the answer to everything, you still need to use it with caution. That’s especially true if you suffer from a severe illness. There’s no way of knowing how CBD will interact with not only your symptoms but also other medication you may be using.

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