How CBD Works: Endocannabinoid System (ECS) Explained - Dutch Natural Healing

How CBD Works: Endocannabinoid System (ECS) Explained

Feb 22, 2023Mert Gokceimam

The study of the effects of CBD on the body is a relatively new field, but there’s growing evidence to suggest that the compound offers numerous benefits as part of a holistic health and wellness regime.

Early research indicates that CBD products such as CBD oil, patches, capsules, and cosmetics impact the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), with strong anecdotal evidence to support claims that CBD improves sleep, aids recovery from exercise, and increases overall well-being.

The system is important for both humans and animals, and although more research needs to be done to understand the relationship between CBD and the ECS, there is little doubt that the two play a vital role in our health and well-being.

What is CBD?

CBD stands for cannabidiol — an oily phytocannabinoid compound found in the hemp plant. Discovered in 1940, it is known to be closely allied in structure to the body’s endocannabinoids and may, therefore, be a useful tool in supporting the work of the ECS.

Supplements containing CBD take many forms, with their efficacy largely determined by their formulation; water-soluble CBD supplements such as CBDActive+offer the greatest bioavailability and therefore potency.

What Does CBD Do?

CBD may support a range of physiological systems by acting upon the body’s endocannabinoid system and numerous studies point towards it having benefits in:

  • Cardiovascular health
  • The nervous system
  • Skin health
  • Recovery from exercise
  • Physiological balance or homeostasis
  • Mood and emotional well-being
  • Sleep
  • Immune response
  • Digestion
  • Energy and focus

All the above systems are governed in some way by the ECS and there’s strong evidence to suggest that the above systems are also supported by the use of a good-quality CBD supplement.

CBD and the Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

What is the Endocannabinoid System (ECS)?

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is part of the body's chemical signaling apparatus and acts upon the nervous system, likely supporting a range of physiological functions, such as the efficient running of our internal organs and the regulation of our central nervous system.

Although scientists have only relatively recently discovered the ECS, they have identified it as a key tool in achieving homeostasis — the body’s ability to reach a state of balance after being subjected to external stress factors.

The ECS acts as the body’s own internal communication system and regulates important processes by acting upon cannabinoid receptors (CB receptors) that are found throughout the whole body. These CB receptors are particularly concentrated in the brain, skin, and digestive tract.

The body maintains homeostasis by sending chemical messages to these receptors and can manage, for example, feelings of satiety and hunger. The other key systems the ECS may control are:

  • Metabolism
  • Pain
  • Sleep
  • Mood
  • Movement
  • Body temperature
  • Memory and learning
  • The immune system
  • Inflammatory response
  • Neurological development
  • Neuroprotection
  • Cardiovascular function
  • Digestion
  • Reproductive health

With such a potentially overarching influence on the body, the effects of the ECS on health and well-being cannot be ignored, and future research will undoubtedly help us better understand the system and how it can best be supported.

What are cannabinoid receptors?

Cannabinoid receptors are proteinaceous molecules that bind to specific “signal” molecules, such as anandamide and 2-AG.

When a signal molecule binds to one of these receptors, it does one of three things: it activates the receptor; inhibits it; or prevents it from binding to other signal molecules.

Receptors are vital for transmitting chemical messages from signal molecules outside cells, across the cell wall to the cytosol — the inside of a cell.

They are normally found on cell membranes and the surfaces of organelles but can also occur in the cytosol itself or be moved to the cell membrane as part of other biological processes.

There are two types of CB receptors in the body, CB1, and CB2. CB1 is known to bind to anandamide, a fatty acid neurotransmitter, and CB2 is known to bind to 2-AG, an ester formed from arachidonic acid and glycerol.

CB1 receptors are primarily found in the brain and central nervous system and CB2 receptors are mostly found in peripheral organs and cells associated with the immune system. See the diagram below to learn more about their specific functions.

The function of enzymes in the ECS

Enzymes govern the breakdown of spent endocannabinoids in the body and are an integral part of the ECS. The two most important enzymes in this process are the fatty acid amide hydrolase, which breaks down AEA, and monoacylglycerol acid lipase, which tends to break down 2-AG.

How does CBD affect the ECS?

We aren’t entirely sure how CBD affects the ECS, but scientists do know that CBD doesn’t bind to CB1 or CB2 receptors in the same way as THC.

One theory posits that CBD prevents endocannabinoids from being broken down by the body, thereby amplifying their effect on the body. Another school of thought believes that CBD may be binding to an as-yet-undiscovered receptor.


How long does it take for CBD to work?

The speed with which a supplement affects the body depends on the formulation of the product and the method it uses to deliver its CBD.

Not all CBD supplements are created equal and supplements that use water-soluble CBD tend to be faster-acting because of their CBD’s greater bioavailability — that’s why we recommend CBDActive+.

How long does CBD stay in your system?

The time CBD stays in the body varies from person to person and can range from days to several weeks. The duration depends on the dosage used, the method by which the CBD is taken, and how long the supplement has been used.

Is CBD safe? Are there side effects?

CBD is generally considered to be safe, but it can produce side effects in some people. These are reported to be: reduced appetite; drowsiness; fatigue; diarrhea; and mouth dryness. CBD is also known to interact with some prescription medicines, such as blood thinners.

Does CBD help anxiety and PTSD?

There is strong anecdotal evidence to support the claim that CBD can help with anxiety and combat the effects of PTSD. However, as with all supplements, it should only be used to manage these conditions as part of a doctor-approved treatment plan.

Does CBD help sleep and depression?

Many people that take CBD report that it can help improve their sleep, mood, and emotional well-being. Again, it’s important to remember that supplements should not be used to treat a clinical condition unless prescribed by a medical professional.

Is CBD legal?

CBD supplements are legal in most states and countries as long as they are free of the psychoactive compound, THC. However, we recommend that you check your local regulations before purchasing.

Dosage: how much CBD should I take?

Everyone is different and how much CBD to take depends on your product’s recommendations and the effect you want from your supplement. We recommend that you start with a low dose at first and gradually increase your intake according to your needs.

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