Guides  |  Hemp 101

How Does CBD Work? Everything You Need to Know

How Does CBD Work? Everything You Need to Know

CBD may seem trendy. You see it just about every time you leave the house. Even traditional consumer brands are beginning to offer CBD. Every few years, we see wellness trends like this pop up, only to fizzle out and be remembered as the wellness trend that was

CBD won’t disappear like that though. It’s here to stay, and here’s why: CBD works with our bodies, and always has, because the plant is compatible with our naturally-existing endocannabinoid system. Let's look at all of the reasons why CBD is believed to work with our bodies. 

The endocannabinoid system

The endocannabinoid system is a bodily system every human being has, and it’s designed to receive cannabinoids. Every mammal actually has it, and it goes as far back as the ancient sea squirt

This research is well-documented by notable organizations like Harvard and UCLA. Even so, endocannabinoid research conducted by major universities is still lacking, and we are hoping to see more in the coming years. 

What are cannabinoids? 

Cannabinoids are plant compounds found in the cannabis plant, such as THC and CBD. Those are the two most popular cannabinoids you’ll hear about, but the cannabis plant actually contains over 100! Other cannabinoids include: 

  • CBG - Thought to help with digestive conditions.
  • CBC - Has been studied and thought to cause neurogenesis, the development of brain cells.
  • CBN - Promoted as a possible sleep aid, though research is limited. This study shows potential for pain treatment.

What is the endocannabinoid system?

Experts believe that the endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays a crucial role in our body’s regulatory processes. The ECS has many points of access, called endocannabinoid receptors, and is therefore being examined to treat various ailments such as depression, anxiety, digestive disorders, chronic pain, side effects from chemotherapy, and more. However, this research is ongoing and not yet proven.

We can almost guarantee you’ve never heard of the endocannabinoid system, and that’s because modern medicine doesn’t talk about it much. Research is available, albeit limited, because of cannabis’ federally illegal status. Until 2018, industrial hemp was also illegal for commercial use, and only grown under federally-approved pilot programs. Despite the obstacles, the endocannabinoid system was officially discovered in the 90s. 

The endocannabinoid system is made up of receptors that are located in various parts of our body. So far, researchers have confirmed the existence of two cannabinoid receptors: CB1 receptors and CB2 receptors.

The CB1 receptors are primarily located in places like the brain stem, the spinal cord, and the nervous system. You can find CB2 receptors in vital organs, the immune system, and digestive system. CB2 receptors are located other places, as are CB1 receptors, just not as many. 

The CB1 receptors fit perfectly with THC, which is a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. You probably know THC as the thing that gets people high, and you’d be right. It makes sense that THC affects things like memory processing, motor function, and other brain functions - because there’s a lot of CB1 receptors in our brain! 

How does CBD work?

CBD works by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system, just like other cannabinoids. However, it doesn’t work the same way as THC. Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t have a binding affinity to either cannabinoid receptor. Instead, CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system in a more roundabout way, and it modulates non-cannabinoid receptors and ion channels instead. Here are some receptors thought to be directly engaged with CBD:

  • PPARS receptors - Found in the brain; Being studied as a potential anti-cancer effect when interacting with this receptor.

  • Vanilloid receptors - Primarily found in the nervous system; CBD’s interaction with these receptors is thought to temporarily relieve pain, inflammation, and regulate body temperature. 

  • GPR55 - Widely expressed in the brain, especially the cerebellum; Involved in blood pressure and bone density, as well as being found in some types of cancers. Some studies indicate CBD acts as an antagonist to this receptor, and blocks and deactivates it from causing harm. 

  • Serotonin receptors  - The serotonin receptors influence a wide number of bodily functions, like appetite, pain, nausea, sleep, and anxiety - and CBD’s interaction with these receptors might help.

Does CBD get you high? 

Not exactly. Like we mentioned, activating the CB1 receptors triggers a psychoactive response. But since CBD doesn’t interact directly with either receptor, there is no euphoric feeling created. Be aware: Some people do feel sleepy when they take CBD, especially if they take too much. Use caution until you know your dose, and only take it at home or in a safe environment. Some dosing tips:

  • Start low and go slow. Give your body a minimum of three consistent weeks to adjust before upping your dose.
  • Hold CBD oils under the tongue for at least 30 seconds before swallowing.
  • Wait at least 30 minutes before taking more CBD, but know some methods don’t peak for at least an hour.

Another thing to keep in mind is that full spectrum CBD products do contain THC. Per the federal government, THC limits cannot exceed 0.3% on a dry weight basis. This is such a small number that psychoactive effects rarely take place. As a point of comparison, Cannabis strains lower in THC are considered to be 10% THC, so a product with less than 1% is unlikely to create a psychoactive effect. 

How does CBD make you feel? 

We mentioned that CBD products might make some people feel sleepy. However, this isn’t always the case. Because the endocannabinoid system works to restore homeostasis to the body, CBD is going to work in the areas you need it the most. Many users report feeling a calm and relaxed state after using CBD, and it has even been used in beauty products to improve skin and topically for temporary pain relief. 

How long does CBD stay in your system?

The amount of time CBD stays in your system primarily depends on how much you use it. If you’re a regular CBD user, it might take weeks before your body clears itself. For others who use it sporadically, expect it to stay in your system two to five days. Most drug screenings don’t test for CBD, but most will test for THC. Sometimes, using full spectrum CBD oil can be a concern because of the trace amounts of THC.

How long does CBD last? 

Depending on the method of consumption, CBD can last anywhere from two to eight hours. There are many different ways to consume CBD, like oils, ingestibles, vaping, smoking, and topicals. 

  • Oil - Known to last between four and six hours
  • Topicals - CBD topicals typically stay in your system for up to six hours
  • Vaping - The effects of vaping CBD should last between 2-3 hours
  • Ingestibles - Should last between four and six hours 
  • Capsules - Roughly 6-8 hours

CBD works differently for everyone, and finding the best method of consumption is a very personal experience. Now, you can rest assured that there is a scientific reason that people experience the benefits of CBD, and that it’s not just a flash in the pan trend. As always, we encourage you to team up with a cannabis-educated physician that knows your medical history before introducing CBD into your routine.