How does CBD work?

CBD or cannabidiol is the primary active compound in hemp and - unlike THC - it has no psychoactive effect and therefore does not get you "high" or "stoned".

Inside the human body, there is a system called the Endocannabinoid System with receptors in the brain and around the body (you can read much more about the Endocannabinoid System in this article). THC activates the CB1 and CB2 receptors, while CBD does not directly stimulate these receptors.

The cannabinoid receptors are involved in a series of processes in all human bodies such as regulating mood, perception of pain, appetite and memory. These receptors can be activated by endocannabinoids produced by the human body or by plant-based cannabinoids such as hemp or cannabis, and are grouped into two main categories: CB1 and CB2.

CB1 receptors are found primarily in the central nervous system and in smaller numbers in the liver, kidneys and lungs, while CB2 receptors are part of the immune system and are also found in haematopoietic blood cells. CB1 plays a role in the production and release of neurotransmitters. Cannabis products that exert psychoactive effects stimulate these receptors. CB1 receptors are also involved in the lipogenesis process that takes place inside the liver and appears to play a role in maintaining homeostasis (the body's internal equilibrium). Various studies suggest that CB1 also affects pleasure, concentration and appetite, memory and pain tolerance. CB2 receptors, on the other hand, affect the immune system, being involved in a number of functions such as immune suppression or apoptosis (programmed cell death). Studies suggest that CB2 modulates the sensation of pain and could play a role in various diseases, from liver and kidney problems to neurodegenerative diseases.

How does CBD work and what are its effects on the body?

CBD does not stimulate these two receptors; instead, it activates other receptors, such as vanilloid, adenosine and serotonin receptors. By activating the TRPV-1 receptor, for example, cannabidiol plays a role in mediating body temperature, pain perception and inflammation. CBD then inhibits the FAAH enzyme, a compound that activates the CB1 receptor. By doing so, CBD minimizes the activation of CB1 by THC, reducing its psychoactive effects.

Activation of adenosine receptors by CBD provides anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory effects of cannabidiol. Adenosine receptors are also involved in the release of dopamine and glutamate, two neurotransmitters that play major roles inside the body. Dopamine is involved in cognition, motor control, motivation and reward mechanisms, while glutamate is one of the main mediators of excitatory signals, involved in memory, learning and cognition.

High concentrations of CBD have been shown to activate the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor, which exerts antidepressant effects. The same receptor is involved in a range of processes from pain perception, appetite, nausea and anxiety to sleep and addiction mechanisms.