Whether you’ve been using medical or recreational cannabis for many years or you’re new to the world of cannabis, you’ve likely heard of its benefits. The effects are due to the many cannabinoids that cannabis contains. Moreover, we’re able to experience their benefits because of how they work with our cannabinoid receptors.
What Are Cannabinoid Receptors?
Cannabinoid receptors are a part of your endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system is one of the largest neurotransmitter networks in the human body. In addition, it functions to maintain the balance of several physiological functions, such as:
- Appetite and metabolism
- Body temperature
- Cognition and memory
The cannabinoid receptors, which are found throughout the body, work with cannabinoids, or chemical messengers. When cannabinoids connect with the receptors, a reaction is triggered that brings physiological functions back into balance.
Types of Cannabinoid Receptors
Cannabinoid receptors are found throughout the body, including the brain, immune system, connective tissues, and skin. You have two main types of receptors:
- CB1 receptors, which are found mainly in the brain, nervous system, and various internal organs
- CB2, which are found in the immune system and other systems associated with it
Both CB1 and CB2 receptors are found in the skin.
How Do They Work?
Your cannabinoid receptors function with three types of cannabinoids – endocannabinoids, phytocannabinoids, and synthetic cannabinoids. Endocannabinoids are those made by your own body. Phytocannabinoids are from plants and synthetic cannabinoids are man-made.
The body creates two main types of endocannabinoids – anandamide and 2-AG. They’re created in the brain, immune cells, organs, and connective tissues on an “as needed” basis.
Phytocannabinoids are plant-based cannabinoids most commonly found in cannabis. They can also be found in other plants, such as echinacea and cacao. Additionally, these plant cannabinoids can work with your cannabinoid receptors.
How exactly do the receptors work, though? Cannabinoids and your cannabinoid receptors fit together like a key to a lock. The cannabinoids travel through your system in search of receptors that they can bind to. When they find the right fit, they click together to unlock and send specific messages throughout your body.
What’s the Relationship Between Cannabis & Cannabinoid Receptors?
Cannabis contains over 500 compounds, more than 100 of which are cannabinoids. The two most known are THC and CBD. When you smoke, vape, take an edible or use a tincture, the phytocannabinoids are absorbed into the bloodstream. They travel throughout the body where they bind to your cannabinoid receptors. In the case of topical cannabis products, the cannabinoids are absorbed into the skin. Then they bond with cannabinoid receptors at the site of application.
Studies have found that cannabinoids can be effective for a variety of different issues:
- Pain and inflammation
- Gastrointestinal issues such as Crohn’s disease and IBS
- Anxiety and general mental health
THC, CBD, and other cannabinoid levels vary depending upon the cannabis strain. Each strain also contains different levels and types of terpenes and flavonoids. The issues you want to treat should play a role in what strain you select.
Keep in mind that your endocannabinoid system is unique to you. What works well for someone may not be as effective, or might produce different results for you. Furthermore, starting with a small amount and work your way up to find the best dose is a good plan.
When the cannabinoids in cannabis connect with your cannabinoid receptors, they trigger certain messages that are sent throughout the body. The messages vary and may include such things as reducing inflammation, alleviating pain, relaxation, or boosting energy. By bonding with cannabinoids, your receptors help to restore balance to your body and can help to improve how you feel.