What is Cannabidiol (CBD)?

CBD. Three letters that are taking over the health and wellness world, but not without backlash and misunderstanding.

What is CBD?

CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is a natural compound found in cannabis. Cannabis contains 113 different active cannabinoids; we know the most about THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD. THC and CBD are nearly identical molecules; however, the one critical difference is what gives each cannabinoid unique medical properties. It’s also important to know that CBD is non-intoxicating, meaning you cannot get high from using CBD – this is very different from THC.

How Does CBD Work?

There is a likely chance that at some point in your life, you studied the different systems that make up the human anatomy. Did you know that there is one system we do not learn about that plays a crucial role in how CBD interacts with the body? This system is called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS comprises of endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes. To fully understand the benefits of CBD, you must understand the ECS – as it regulates essential functions like mood, appetite, pain, and sleep.


Endocannabinoids are molecules made by your body – similar to cannabinoids, but your body produces them. Experts have identified two endocannabinoids so far: anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG). Your body produces them as needed.

Endocannabinoid Receptors

Endocannabinoids bind to receptors found throughout the body, signaling that the ECS needs to take action. The two primary endocannabinoid receptors are CB1 receptors (found mostly in the central nervous system) and CB2 receptors (found mainly in the peripheral nervous system, especially abundant in the immune cells).


Enzymes are responsible for breaking down endocannabinoids once they have completed their job. There are two primary enzymes responsible for this: fatty acid amide hydrolase (breaks down AEA) and monoacylglycerol acid lipase (breaks down 2-AG).

CBD and the ECS

Now that you understand what CBD and the ECS are, let’s talk about how they work together to give the potential therapeutic benefits we hear about.

Most cannabinoids bind to both the CB1 and CB2 receptors; this is true for anandamide, 2-AG, and THC. CBD doesn’t directly trigger either receptor. Instead, it modifies the receptors’ ability to bind to cannabinoids.

Whenever something wrong happens with your health, the endocannabinoid system will release endocannabinoids to restore the balance. CBD stimulates the ECS to produce cannabinoids. Also, CBD slows the breakdown of endocannabinoids by inhibiting the FAAH enzyme so that the endocannabinoids can stay in your body for longer.

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