The Endocannabinoid System: The Role CBD Plays in Inflammatory Processes in the Body

Did you know that virtually every organism on Earth has an endocannabinoid system moderated by cannabinoids like CBD? Let’s dive into how CBD work in the human body…

Cannabis affects the body because its bioactive compounds bind to and activate tiny receptors encoded by our genes. These receptors are proteins on the membranous surface of our cells. Due to the fact that they bind selectively to cannabinoid- shaped molecules, they are referred to as cannabinoid receptors. Furthermore, where these receptors are located will determine the particular effect the exposure to the cannabinoids will be (Piomelli 2003).

The brain and nervous system contain a different set of receptors (CB1) than the receptors used primarily in our immune system/inflammation (CB2). It is precisely the shape of the the molecules that act as a molecular key to the specific biological lock (the cannabinoid receptors.

photo of pain salve product on shelf os store with a shelf-talker next to it detailing product attributes such as - vegan, organic, fair-trade, cruelty free

The internal physiological signals that support the function of our CB1 and CB2 receptors are a family of molecules present in the brain and other tissues- not just in humans, but all over the animal kingdom (McPartland et al. 2006) They are called the endogenous cannabinoids- aka endocannabinoids- just as “endorphin” is an abbreviation of the words “endogenous morphine” (Snyder and Childers 1979).

I’m sure you have asked yourself the question now- but how and why can Cannabis of all things hold “molecular keys to our biological locks?”. If we look at the the Cannabis plant’s ancestral lineage, compounds evolved that are much more accurately biochemical mimics of our own endocannabinoids (often abbreviated as eCBs). To take this even further, eCBs appeared much earlier in evolutionary history than did the Cannabis plant, as indicated in so many diverse and early life forms, including primitive marine organisms (McPartland et. al 2006; Elphick and Ergotova 2009).

Now that we have broken down the endocannabinoid system and its history in evolution, lets look to see how it works.

So, there are currently 2 well-studied and readily- detectable eCBs in our body: anandamide and 2-arachidonylglycerol (2-AG). Each of these are made up by our body in response to signals to activate functionality in the CB1 and CB2 receptors. This Endocannabinoid System regulates functions throughout human body; including neurological , cardiovascular, autonomic, metabolic, and inflammatory states.   The complex cellular interactions modulated by the ECS suggest  prevention of many disease states by changing central nervous and immune cell endocannabinoid signaling.

Warning: the following gets a little “science-y” (as if this whole article wasn’t already). If you want to read about the end results of all this, scroll down a paragraph 😉

An in-depth description of how CBD plays a role in the anti-inflammatory process in the body:  Both CB2 receptor agonists and antagonists have been reported to induce anti-inflammatory immune cell responses. And peripheral immune CB2 receptor  activation is anti-inflammatory. PEA (beta-phenylethylamine (a naturally occurring endogenous stimulant) has been investigated for its involvement in the control of both excitatory and inhibitory transmission in the murine striatum, a brain region strongly modulated by the ECS.   By  electrophysiologically recording the transmission within neuronal synapses,  it shows that PEA modulates inhibitory synaptic transmission through activation of GPR55 receptor.  GPR55 receptor, an orphan G-protein-coupled receptor, which is involved in processes of inflammation, might be a third cannabinoid receptor.  Furthermore, PEA, acting on GPR55, enhances GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid)  transmission in the striatum, and triggers a parallel synthesis of 2-AG (2-arachidonyl glycerol) at the postsynaptic site.  This in turn acts  to inhibit GABA release through stimulation of CB1 receptors at pre-synaptic sites.

Because CB2 activation dampens inflammatory responses, it has the potential to serve as a molecular target for diminishing  inflammation linked to pathogenic disorders such as MS, ischemic/perfusion injury following an induced stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and osteoporosis pain. (Centonze et. al 2007)

Neuroinflammation is key to both autoimmune disorders (multiple sclerosis, lupus, psoriasis, etc) and Neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, etc) (Wolf Tauber, and Ullrich 2008; Pryce, Jackson and Baker 2008).

If you have stayed with me this long, I want to say thank you. I hope you have learned about the important role Cannabinoids play in our immune responses and what this means for inflammation and its role in pain and our general well-being. I look forward to discussing the Endocannabinoid system further, and in particular what exactly an “Endocannabinoid Deficiency” is.

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Please let me state that I am not a doctor, and this is not medical advice. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. These statements have not been evaluated by the food and drug administration (FDA). 

This article was written by Rylee, with contributions from my friend Robin, Research & Product Development Specialist. Thanks for reading!

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7 thoughts on “The Endocannabinoid System: The Role CBD Plays in Inflammatory Processes in the Body

  1. Very informative and well written article! Looking forward to reading the next one! I’m a frequent user of the CBD salve. As a former athlete this has really helped with old injury flare ups. I always keep some in my gym bag

    Liked by 2 people

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