You’ve probably heard the claims about the many ways CBD can make you feel better: It relieves pain. Boosts your mood. Improves sleep. Reduces anxiety.
If you’ve seen the hype, you may be wondering: How can one thing do so much?
The answer lies in your own body, in a system you probably didn’t learn about in high school biology (because we barely knew anything about it until the last 20 years): the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The ECS is a network of receptors and transmitters in your body that controls immune function, memory, and more. When a cannabinoid such as CBD enters your body, the endocannabinoid system processes it. It’s that interaction, between the system and the CBD, that produces the mood-brightening and body-soothing effects CBD has come to be known for.
The endocannabinoid system is age-old. But it wasn’t until recently that researchers began to understand what it does.
And as it turns out, the ECS does a lot.
Read on to learn how it keeps you happy, calm, regulated, and steady – and how CBD can help you get there.
5 facts that may surprise you about how your endocannabinoid system (ECS) responds to hemp oil
1. The endocannabinoid system brings you back to center
The ECS is central to maintaining homeostasis – that dreamy state where your body is in balance. Homeostasis is the baseline state your body and mind wants to return to after an injury or stress trigger.
Every system in your body functions best when it returns to homeostasis. Sleep homeostasis, for example, keeps you balanced between sleepiness and alertness. When your sleep homeostasis is well-regulated, your nighttime sleep is restorative and your daytime thinking is clear and alert.
When all of your body’s organs and systems achieve homeostasis, you’re at that “just right” place where everything is functioning as it should.
By bringing your body closer to ideal balance, the endocannabinoid system plays a role in a stunning range of functions and processes. Reducing inflammation. Boosting immunity. Soothing pain. Improving memory. Making stress so much easier to deal with. And so much more that we’re only beginning to discover.
And by working with your endocannabinoid system, CBD can help to optimize those functions – bringing you back to the mellow, stable center that feels like home.
2. Your body is literally made to process cannabinoids
Your body produces its own cannabinoids – native chemicals similar to the ones found in cannabis and hemp. They’re known as endocannabinoids, and they bind to the same receptors. Even if you don’t use CBD, your endocannabinoid system is active. It helps to regulate functions such as immunity, appetite, and memory formation.
CBD may increase these native endocannabinoids or keep them from breaking down. This little boost can bring the whole system into harmony.
The lesson? The human body is primed to respond to cannabinoids, whether they’re created within the body or introduced via plant sources. When you use CBD, you’re tapping into a long, co-evolved healing relationship between humans and cannabis.
3. “Runner’s high” may be caused by the ECS
Even casual joggers know the blissed-out feeling that comes after a run. Recent research on runner’s high has led to a surprising conclusion: Exercise increases endocannabinoids in the body. One of these is called “anandamide,” named after the Sanskrit word for “bliss.”
Anandamide functions as a neurotransmitter, carrying chemical messages through the nervous system. Its colorful name is no coincidence: anandamide creates a mellow mood lift.
The takeaway: the same receptors that process CBD may be responsible for that post-workout buzz. Now imagine what happens when you combine the two!
4. The endocannabinoid system hits the brakes on anxiety
Your anxiety response starts in the brain.
Specifically in the amygdala, which activates in response to external stimuli. The amygdala triggers stress responses – preparing the body to fight, flee, or freeze.
If you’ve experienced anxiety, you know what this feels like: a hyper-vigilant mind, an accelerated heart rate, faster breathing, and tunnel vision.
Fortunately, the endocannabinoid system can help to rein in an overactive amygdala. The amygdala contains a type of cannabinoid receptor known as CB1. Cannabinoids activate those receptors, hitting the brakes on anxiety and bringing you back to equilibrium.
Studies on social anxiety have confirmed that CBD blunts the fight-or-flight response, slows the heart rate, reduces blood pressure, and calms an overactive mind.
Thanks to the endocannabinoid system, CBD can be a powerful ally if you suffer from anxiety.
5. The ECS is primed to respond to natural – not synthetic – cannabinoids
Pharmaceutical companies only wish they could manipulate the endocannabinoid system the way CBD does. But so far, drug-based ECS interventions don’t seem to work.
In 2006, a European company released a weight-loss drug designed to suppress appetite by blocking CB1 receptors. It caused serious psychiatric side effects, and regulators pulled it off the market two years later.
The endocannabinoid system is so complex, it’s difficult to manipulate or mimic. Isolating just one function can cause a cascade of negative effects. Natural cannabinoids such as CBD work synergistically with the body’s complex systems.
In 2018, the FDA approved a prescription CBD to treat certain seizures. Derived from the cannabis plant, it contains only CBD. No synthetic ingredients. No attempts to improve on nature.
In other words: there's nothing like the real thing.
Modern science meets ancient wisdom
New discoveries are happening every day in cannabinoid science – creating insights into how CBD can improve sleep disorders, ease anxiety, and soothe chronic pain. But humans have been using cannabis for 5,000 years to hack the endocannabinoid system.