Understanding Cannabinoid Receptors: What Are They?
The hemp plant is a complex being, containing hundreds of different compounds that all have different effects on the body. Of all the compounds found within hemp, it is cannabinoids that are causing the largest stir in the scientific and health community. Many now believe that when used as a supplement, cannabinoids like CBD can help people deal with all sorts of issues. However, how they interact with the body can be a bit of a mystery, so we thought we would take a look at the receptors responsible for all the effects – cannabinoid receptors.
WHAT ARE CANNABINOID RECEPTORS?
Cannabinoid receptors are the “action points” of the endocannabinoid system – the mechanism within the body that interacts with cannabinoids. We have these receptors because the body produces its own natural version of cannabinoids, and they are used to trigger certain effects. Cannabis and hemp are the only known external natural sources of cannabinoids, and trigger this system within us. Cannabinoids bind to these receptors, which in turn activate the endocannabinoid system. These receptors can be found throughout the entire body – pretty much anywhere the central nervous system goes, including the brain.
THE TYPES OF CANNABINOID RECEPTORS
There are two main types of cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors were first discovered in 1990, while CB2 receptors were close behind, discovered in 1993.
CB1 receptors are mainly present in the brain, but also the central nervous system and related organs. This is where the THC found in cannabis binds, causing psychoactive effects. CBD on the other hand, does not, which is why it is non-psychoactive. These receptors are thought to influence memory, mood, sleep, appetite, and pain perception. As such, they have implication in the treatment of such things as chronic pain and depression.
CB2 receptors are found throughout the rest of the body, including in immune system, the gastrointestinal system, and related organs. They also appear in the brain, but nor as densely as their CB1 counterpart. The main function CB2 receptors are thought to have is helping control inflammation. When the endocannabinoids natural response is supplemented with external cannabinoids, it can greatly reduce the severity of inflammation, which is known to be at the root of many conditions.
OTHER CANNABINOID RECEPTORS?
Research into the endocannabinoid system is still relatively new, and there is much more to discover. There could even be other types of receptors we still don’t know about. Research from 2012 found that cannabinoids appeared to interact with some areas of the body where CB1 and CB2 receptors were not present, suggesting another receptor at work. There is still so much to learn. One thing is for sure, the endocannabinoid system and the cannabinoid receptors it contains play an important role in our lives. Gaining a better understanding will help us improve our understanding of how the body functions as a whole, and in turn offer new potential avenues for scientific exploration. The future is bright!