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How CBD works

How CBD works

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a natural compound extracted from the hemp plant. CBD is one of over 100 chemical compounds, known as cannabinoids found in this plant. How CBD works in the body, its benefits and possible uses have been extensively researched in recent years with studies showing that CBD elicits its effects in the human body through its interactions with the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

What is the endocannabinoid system?

If you're new to CBD you may not have come across the endocannabinoid system before, and even as an avid CBD user you may not be fully aware of what this system does and how it relates to using CBD oil.

When broken down, the word "endocannabinoid" has two key parts: “endo”, short for “endogenous” meaning from within your body, and “cannabinoid” which are plant-like compounds that are found in the hemp plant, as well as occurring naturally within your body.

Healthline describes the ECS as a complex cell-signalling system, which was identified in the early 1990s by researchers and is comprised of three core components: endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes.

What does the endocannabinoid system do?

Whilst research continues to fully understand the ECS, researchers have established this system is a vitally important one. It works like the dashboard to our bodies, with different control panels, switches, sliders, and signals that direct and regulate our core physiological, cognitive and emotional health. In doing so its role is to maintain homeostasis in the body, this is our state of biological balance and harmony where the body is happiest and functioning as it should.

Initial research showed that ECS receptors were only present in the brain and nerves, however today we know that they are found throughout the body with the ECS involved in balancing and regulating; sleep, stress response, mood, energy, pain, memory, appetite, metabolism, immune system, and our reproductive function.

How do the ECS and CBD work together?

Your body produces its own cannabinoids that work within the ECS, however just like other nutrients in the body levels can fall meaning the body has less available to maintain functionality than it requires and may need support. This is where CBD can help, your body can also use phytocannabinoids, "phyto" meaning plant, such as those in the hemp plant.

Whilst the mechanisms of interaction are still being understood researchers suggest that CBD works by blocking the breakdown of your body's own endocannabinoids meaning more of what the body is naturally producing is readily available. 

Researchers do know that CBD does not bind to endocannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, in the same way THC does (the psychoactive element found in cannabis). This is considered to be the reason why CBD can't get you 'high' and instead leads to a gentle sense of calm and balance; reducing anxiety, brain fog and fatigue, and improving sleep and pain.


1. De Laurentiis A, Araujo HA, Rettori V. Role of the endocannabinoid system in the neuroendocrine responses to inflammation. Curr Pharm Des. 2014;20(29):4697-706. doi: 10.2174/1381612820666140130212957. PMID: 24588819.

2. Alger BE. Getting high on the endocannabinoid system. Cerebrum. 2013 Nov 1;2013:14. PMID: 24765232; PMCID: PMC3997295.

3. A simple guide to the endocannabinoid system. Healthline. 2019.


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