How Does CBD Work?

While CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system indirectly, there are numerous other pathways through which CBD exerts its therapeutic effects.

For starters, here are some basic facts about the endocannabinoid system, cannabinoids, and their receptors.

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Endocannabinoid System

From sea urchins to nematodes and leopards to lizards, nearly all living creatures have an endocannabinoid system (ECS).[1] First discovered in humans in 1992 by Ralph Mechoulam, the ECS is an omnipresent master regulatory network that permeates both brain and body, and consists of three main components.

  1. Cannabinoid Receptors (CB1 and CB2)
  2. Endogenous cannabinoids ('endocannabinoids') such as anandamide and 2-AG
  3. Enzymes that metabolize endocannabinoids (FAAH and MAGL)

Cannabinoid Receptors

CB1 and CB2 receptors are the primary receptors of the ECS.


CB1 receptors are abundant in the brain and central nervous system (CNS). [2]


CB2 receptors are sparse in the CNS but common throughout the periphery (such as on immune cells). [3]

These receptors are present in almost every organ and organ system throughout the body. They influence activities in the heart, brain, GI tract, stomach, liver, lungs, stomach, and cardiovascular system. [4]

CBD does not directly bind with CB1/CB2 receptors (like endocannabinoids or THC) but instead affects them indirectly.


Common Questions About CBD