A woman in a blue sweater sitting on a chair and taking a dropper of CBD under her tongue

How Does CBD Work in the Body?

Cannabis has been used medicinally for over 8,000 years by many civilizations. Today, countless studies conducted by scientists show that cannabis may be able help with a host of other wellness issues. In fact, with the discovery of the endocannabinoid system, or ECS, in the 1990s, scientists realized that a specialized system existed within the body that helped balance its functions and organ systems. Moreover, they also learned that cannabinoids from the cannabis plant could give the ECS a much needed boost if and when it became depleted. Initially, scientists found two of the body’s major endocannabinoids, and that ultimately led to the discovery of the endocannabinoid system as a whole. This discovery paved the way to understanding how the ECS balances and affects every major organ system and function in the body.

What is CBD?

FAB CBD Full-Spectrum CBD Oils lying on colorful stripes that match the bottle's different flavorsCBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) are the two main cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that comes from the hemp and marijuana plant. Its counterpart, THC, is also found in both of these cannabis species, however, when taken in large quantities, THC can evoke a euphoric “high” sensation. The main difference between hemp and marijuana is that luckily, the hemp species of cannabis has been bred to contain low levels of THC. The marijuana plant, however, can contain well over that amount. Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, only hemp-derived CBD products are legal across the United States, providing they contain 0.3% THC. Marijuana-based CBD products are only legal in states where medical cannabis and/or recreational cannabis is legal. 

CBD is typically extracted using the industry preferred CO2 extraction method, which yields extremely clean, potent, and pure extracts. Reputable brands obtain their CBD from clean, non-GMO hemp that’s grown in the United States. Then, after the hemp is harvested, most reputable brands, like FAB CBD, obtain their extracts by using the CO2 method to draw cannabinoids, terpenes, and phytonutrients from the stem, stalk, leaves, and flowers of the hemp plant. These extracts are then turned into top-quality products like FAB CBD’s Full-Spectrum Body Salve, Topical CBD Cream, “Anytime” CBD Chews, “Nighttime” PM CBD Chews, Full-Spectrum CBD Oils, Calm & Cool Crunchy CBD Dog Treats, and CBD+CBG Oil.

Different Kinds of CBD

CBD oil dripping from a dropper into a glass bottle, with a golden light shining on the drop

In order for the endocannabinoid system to most effectively take in cannabinoids, it’s ideal to use CBD products like CBD oils or tinctures, gummies, and vape pens where you're consuming the CBD. While topical products are also an excellent means of getting in CBD, the body absorbs the cannabinoids in them in a different way. In this way, the cannabinoids, phytonutrients, and terpenes can enter into the bloodstream where it can then begin to work with the body’s endocannabinoid system. While all varieties of CBD — full-spectrum, broad spectrum, and CBD isolate products — work with the body’s endocannabinoid system, you’ll be able to get more out of the hemp plant by taking full-spectrum or broad spectrum products. Since CBD isolate products contain only pure CBD, there are no other cannabinoids to work with the receptors in the ECS. Therefore, you’ll get more bang for your buck with full-spectrum or broad spectrum products. 

Both full-spectrum and broad spectrum products contain the hemp plant’s cannabinoids, terpenes, and phytonutrients. The only difference is that all of the THC has been completely filtered out of broad spectrum CBD products. If you have concerns about THC, even at low levels, then you can opt to choose broad spectrum or CBD isolate products. The most important thing, however, is to do your research to make sure that any CBD product — no matter which variety — is clean, effective, pure, and of top-quality, as well as made by a highly reputable brand.

How CBD Works in the Body

A woman outside in the sunshine taking a dose of full spectrum CBD under her tongue

Our bodies have an endocannabinoid system, which is an extremely complex network of receptors that help the body return to and maintain a state of homeostasis. The ECS gets a boost when it works with the cannabinoids in CBD products. Even though many different cannabinoids, like THC, bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors, CBD works with the ECS by preventing its enzymes from prematurely breaking down the body’s endocannabinoids before they’ve completed the task at hand. Along with working with the ECS, scientists and researchers also believe that CBD works in other areas of the body with other receptors and neurotransmitters. 

Despite the need for more information regarding the workings of CBD, research, along with the overall popularity of CBD products among consumers, continues to grow. So, while there are a host of things to consider before taking CBD, and even more research to be done before you settle on a product and a brand, you can rest easier knowing more about your body’s endocannabinoid system and how it interacts with cannabinoids like CBD.

What is the Endocannabinoid System?

The endocannabinoid system is a biochemical communication system that plays an important role in balancing bodily physiology, mood, and even our everyday experiences. The ECS is made up of cannabinoid receptors that react to the cannabinoids in the hemp and marijuana plants, which are both species of the cannabis plant. Researchers discovered that some of the systems that the ECS helps to regulate are: 

  • Digestive System
  • Vascular System
  • Reproductive System
  • Musculoskeletal System
  • Nervous System
  • Immune System

The ECS can only work to regulate these systems if it’s properly functioning. Therefore, when the body fails to produce enough of its own endocannabinoids, people can supplement their ECS by taking CBD products that contain cannabinoids from the hemp or marijuana plant.  

What Makes Up the Endocannabinoid System?

The Human Endocannabinoid System

It’s easiest to think about the ECS like a series of keys and locks. The body’s endocannabinoid receptors are locks, while cannabinoids like CBD and THC from the hemp or marijuana plant are the keys. The main endocannabinoid receptors in the body are the CB1 and CB2 receptors. They both are located in and affect different areas of the body. CB1 receptors are found in the central nervous system. CB2 receptors are found in the peripheral nervous system. 

More specifically, CB1 receptors are located on the nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain. But, scientists have also found them on the spleen, white blood cells, reproductive tract, digestive tract, and endocrine glands. Conversely, CB2 receptors are located on white blood cells, inside of immune cells, on the tonsils, and on the spleen. Since everyone is different, each person will have a different amount of endocannabinoid receptors in their body. While scientists believe that THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, works with the CB1 and CB2 receptors, they also think that CBD, or cannabinol, works by stopping the endocannabinoids from being broken down too soon. 

The two main endocannabinoids in the ECS are anandamide, or AEA, and 2-arachidonoylglycerol, or 2-AG. These two endocannabinoids work to keep the body’s internal functions working as smoothly as possible. They are also similar to phytocannabinoids, but are manufactured by the body. Lastly, the enzymes of the ECS break down the endocannabinoids once they’ve completed their tasks. These enzymes are fatty acid amide hydrolase, which is responsible for breaking down AEA, and monoacylglycerol acid lipase, which works to break down 2-AG. 

How Long Does it Take for CBD Oil to Work?

CBD oil works more rapidly than almost any other delivery method. From dropping it under the tongue to feeling its effects usually takes somewhere between 15-45 minutes. It's different for each individual, but generally speaking most people feel it kick in within the first half hour. Other types of CBD products that are ingested, like gummies, will usually take longer.

What is the Entourage Effect and Why is it Important?

The entourage effect is a phenomenon in which the various cannabinoids and terpenes from the hemp plant all work together in a synergistic way. This means they not only work fine together, they actually work better together than separate. This is why the entourage effect is so important-- because it provides an opportunity to boost the effects of your CBD!

A Final Word on How CBD Works

Now that you know more about CBD and how it works in the body, you can make an informed decision about what kind of CBD product or approach would work best for you. Searching for a supplement isn't enough- understanding how it works with your endocannabinoid system can alleviate worries or confusion, and unlocking the mystery of the process can lead you to finding the product and the regimen that answers your needs.