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How Does CBD Work?

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Hearing that CBD helps with anxiety, pain, and sleep is one thing, but knowing how it works is another conversation entirely. Within the last three years, this breakthrough cannabis compound has taken the health and wellness industry by storm. The regrettable truth, however, is that misinformation about CBD often leads buyers on a dizzying tailspin to try and decode geekspeak and ill-formed industry findings. 

In less than four minutes, we’ll explain how CBD works in simple terms so you walk away feeling more informed and empowered. This short lesson in CBD science has all the information you need to start talking about CBD like a professional.  


CBD: understanding how CBD works with our bodies

By now, you’ve probably heard that CBD helps with processes such as sleep, pain, and anxiety, to name a few. Cannabidiol oil (CBD) is one of more than 100 cannabinoids found in the Cannabis sativa/hemp plant. The compound itself is non-psychoactive, meaning you won’t feel “high” after consuming CBD as you would with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). 

In the body, CBD has a therapeutic influence on various neurotransmitters, but more on that later. For now, know that CBD either activates or inhibits these chemical messengers to produce a relaxing effect. 

How CBD affects the Endocannabinoid System

One of the most important concepts to understand about CBD is that it works with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a sprawling network of receptors, enzymes, and endocannabinoids found in the nervous system. In simpler terms, the ECS is responsible for regulating everything from sleep, appetite, mood, pain, stress, memory, reproduction, and more. Its function is to restore internal balance, otherwise known as homeostasis. 

To explain how CBD affects the ECS, let’s consider an example using CBD gummies from NYOS. When you eat CBD, it must first be metabolized in the liver before interacting with the ECS. From there, CBD travels back through the bloodstream to the brain, where it influences neurotransmitters and sparks a sedative, relaxing response. 

Scientists understand that the ECS consists of two types of receptors: CB1 and CB2. The current understanding follows that THC binds to CB1 receptors while CBD blocks both CB1 and CB2 receptors. 

If any of that went over your head, just know that CBD works indirectly with the ECS to create an overall sense of calm and happiness. So, when you eat CBD gummies, you boost the production of neurotransmitters in the brain, ones that are responsible for the feel-good effects of CBD. 


CBD and other neurotransmitters

Here’s a general overview of the primary neurotransmitters that interact with CBD in the brain and immune system

  • Adenosine:  While it’s still not exactly clear how CBD inhibits adenosine uptake, initial research in animal subjects suggests that this neurotransmitter is tied to the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD.  
  • Dopamine: Dopamine plays a role in our emotional responses, which could explain why CBD triggers increased feelings of relaxation. Preliminary findings also point to the agonist effect of CBD on dopamine expression, similar to the way antipsychotic medications for schizophrenia interfere with the neurotransmitter. 
  • TRPV1: CBD activates TRPV1 receptors to mediate body temperature, pain, and inflammation.  
  • Serotonin: Serotonin is involved with pain response, depression, anxiety, and sleep. There’s evidence to suggest that CBD’s low binding affinity to serotonin is the reason why CBD can enhance our mood.   

Potential benefits of CBD 

The information outlined above gives you a better idea about the way CBD works with neurotransmitters. Although there’s much to be discovered and explained about why CBD blocks chemical signaling in the nervous system, researchers know that CBD elicits several therapeutic effects:

  • Promotes restful sleep: People may enjoy using CBD before bedtime as a sleep aid.
  • Reduces seizures: CBD could be a more effective therapy compared to conventional antiepileptic medications. In the UK, Epidiolex is a CBD-formulated medication used to treat patients with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and Dravet Syndrome.  
  • Calms and restores balance: Of the benefits associated with CBD, anxiety seems to be the most commonly cited reason why people use it. Especially for people managing general anxiety disorders (GAD), CBD could help lower excessive worrying. 
  • Relieves inflammation: Anecdotal evidence from people managing arthritis pain supports the use of CBD for inflammation. The throbbing, shooting, and pulsing symptoms of arthritis might be subdued with a CBD roll-on. 


 Potential side effects of CBD

Those who are taking blood thinners and prescribed medications that cause drowsiness should err on the side of caution when using CBD. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding may decide to not use CBD. That said, the side effect profile of CBD is much lower than other medications and is generally safe, apart from these potential side effects:

  • Changes in appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhea


To sum it up

Based on the current status of CBD research, it’s safe to assume that scientists will continue to press further into the magnificent and fascinating effects of CBD on the human mind and body. Only time will tell, but hopefully, by now, you have a newfound respect for how CBD works. 

Educating yourself and others about the healing powers of CBD is the first step to seeing more mainstream conversations about plant medicine unfold. Go forth, heal, and get empowered by your CBD!