Are you familiar with the endocannabinoid system? This system within our bodies has become essential to our understanding of hemp and cannabis. But how does it work? What exactly does our ECS do, and where does it play into our reaction to different cannabinoids? I’ve already covered the CB1 receptors; keep reading for a dive into the CB2 receptors.
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What are cannabinoids?
In order to understand how the CB2 receptors work, we have to start at the beginning. There are two different types of cannabinoids: phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids. These are molecular compounds; phytocannabinoids are found in plants, and endocannabinoids are found within the body. The cannabinoids found in cannabis were actually discovered before those in our bodies.
The endocannabinoid system
Our two main endocannabinoids were discovered in the 90s; anandamide in 1992, and 2-AG in 1995. These cannabinoids within our bodies interact with our endocannabinoid system to regulate various bodily functions, including sleep, mood, pain, appetite, and memory. Since the cannabinoids found in cannabis bear such a structural similarity to our endocannabinoids, they too interact with our ECS. This interaction is responsible for how we are affected by each cannabinoid.
The CB2 receptors
The endocannabinoid system is made up of two different types of receptors: CB1 and CB2. The CB1 receptors are found in the central nervous system (primarily the brain). When a phytocannabinoid from hemp or cannabis attaches to these receptors, it produces a high.
In contrast, our CB2 receptors are predominantly located in our immune tissues. These receptors contribute to the regulation of our immune functioning, and help to control inflammation. Unlike the CB1 receptors, a cannabinoid’s interaction with the CB2 receptors does not produce a high. While some cannabinoids interact with both receptors, others only react with the CB2 receptors. The latter cannabinoids are promising for medical patients looking for relief without the high.
What we know so far
More research is needed to fully explore the relationship of various cannabinoids and these receptors. What is known so far though, is intriguing. For example, CBD doesn’t attach to either set of receptors, but interacts with our ECS in a more peripheral way. CBD still produces therapeutic effects, without the high. THC attaches to both sets of receptors, which is why it’s a prominent choice both medicinally and recreationally.
Delta 8 attaches to the CB1 receptors less securely than delta 9 THC, which is why it is less potent. However, it has the same affinity for the CB2 receptors as delta 9. That being said, there’s still a long way to go before we fully understand delta 8’s relationship with our ECS and its potential benefits. The same can be said for other cannabinoids as well.
The bottom line
There’s still a lot we don’t know about how various cannabinoids interact with our endocannabinoid system. What we do know, is that an attachment with our CB1 receptors will get us high. Attachment, or interaction with, our CB2 receptors can lead to therapeutic effects. The most researched cannabinoids are THC and CBD. Lately, with the emergence of more cannabinoids, like THCA, HHC, and delta 8, there are even more questions when it comes to our ECS, and a growing demand for answers. What we know so far is very intriguing, and it will be fascinating to see what we learn within the next few years.