What Does CBD Do?

As cannabinoid studies go mainstream and experts learn more about CBD’s applications, we’re starting to get a more complete picture about how CBD interacts with your body. And, by extension, we’re almost able to answer the question: “What does CBD do? 

Disclaimer: The following piece should not be considered advice, medical or otherwise. This piece is purely informational and the statements within are not confirmed by any FDA-approved research.

What Is CBD?

CBD (short for cannabidiol) is one of the more than 113 known cannabinoids produced by the Cannabis Sativa plant. While there are small traces of CBD present in recreational “marijuana” plants, it is more commonly found in hemp plants.

Cannabidiol Chemical Structure
Cannabidiol (CBD) Chemical Structure

CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, meaning that consuming it won’t get you “high.” The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential…” 

CBD won’t get you “high,” so what does CBD do?

What Does CBD Do?

While experts aren’t entirely sure yet how CBD interacts with your body, we do know that unlike its psychoactive counterpart THC, CBD does not bind well to your endocannabinoid system’s CB1 or CB2 receptors.  

Wait. Rewind. What’s the endocannabinoid system? A good question that deserves its own paper. In short, your endocannabinoid system is an intricate cell-signaling system made up of three main components: endocannabinoids (cannabinoids within your body,) receptors for those endocannabinoids, and enzymes. 

The entire system plays a role in managing a number of bodily functions, including:

  • Sleep 
  • Mood 
  • Appetite
  • Memory 
  • Fertility 
  • Central nervous system (CNS) development 
  • Synaptic plasticity 
  • And many more…

Mentioned above, CBD doesn’t bind well with your CB1 receptors (found mainly in the central nervous system) nor your CB2 receptors (found in your peripheral nervous system.) Instead, researchers believe that CBD influences the two receptors in other ways like increasing the uptake of beneficial molecules and inhibiting the uptake of other, less desirable molecules. Essentially, it’s believed that CBD acts like a facilitator and helps your entire endocannabinoid system run more efficiently.

What Does CBD Do To…

While CBD research is still in its infancy, there have been a handful of bodily interactions observed and documented which we will review in the sections below.

What Does CBD Do To 5-ht1A Receptors?

5-ht1A is a type of serotonin receptor. These receptors help in moderating sleep, anxiety, pain, perception, appetite, nausea, vomiting, and sociability. 

When taken in higher doses, CBD has been known to interact with this receptor, though the effects expressed from said interaction have yet to be understood fully.

What Does CBD Do To Adenosine?

Adenosine is a naturally occurring compound that acts as a central nervous system depressant. Put simply, adenosine makes you sleepy. 

It’s believed that CBD somewhat prevents adenosine reuptake (the same is true of caffeine and Vitamin B12) and activates our A2A receptors— a receptor that helps mitigate the body’s inflammation response. 

This may explain why many CBD users report that its use, both internal and external (topical) helps reduce their inflammation.

What Does CBD Do For GPR55 Antagonization?

Known sometimes as the CB3 receptor, GPR55 receptors are cannabinoid receptors that are located in the cerebellum near the brainstem and help manage an individual’s blood pressure and bone density. GPR55 receptors, unfortunately, have been linked to the proliferation of cancer cells when activated. 

CBD helps to ‘antagonize’ GRP55 receptors, meaning that CBD helps counteract the receptors’ normal functions. These early findings may suggest CBD’s potential in treating conditions like high blood pressure and osteoporosis. Further research is required.

What Does CBD Do To Other Cannabinoids?

Thus far, we’ve talked about what CBD does to your endocannabinoid system, but what does CBD do to its fellow phytocannabinoids? 

Currently the only interaction currently being studied in depth is the interaction between CBD and it’s psychoactive counterpart THC. As other cannabinoids have their time in the spotlight, their effects and interactions are sure to be the subject of much academic scrutiny.

What Does CBD Do To THC?

Similar to the interactions with the receptors listed above, CBD can actually affect the uptake of THC and can diminish some of the unwanted effects— namely, paranoia and ‘the munchies.’ 

While studies into what we call the “entourage effect,” the effects brought on by use of whole-plant cannabis, are still in their infancy, the horizon of cannabinoid research is broad and exciting for sure.

What Does CBD Do Once You’re Done With It?

What does CBD do after it’s interacted with your endocannabinoid system? Good question. 

Like THC, CBD is an external cannabinoid and must also make its exit the same way. CBD makes its way to your liver where it is metabolised and broken down into CBD metabolites that are then expelled via excrement, urine, and even in your hair. 

Read more about CBD, THC and Drug Tests here.


Disclaimer: The preceding piece should not be considered advice, medical or otherwise. This piece is purely informational and the statements within are not confirmed by any FDA-approved research.

Updated 8/23/2021


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