What do CB1 and CB2 receptors do?

In this blog, I have commented many times about CB1 and CB2 receptors. You may have wondered, that’s all well and good but what are they, and what do they do? Excellent question. Let’s dive a little deeper today to go beyond the surface and understand their place in our physical ecosystem.

Our endocannabinoid system

Raphael Machoulem, PhD, professor of medicinal chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, discovered the existence of CB receptors in the body in the early 1960s. By the late 1980s, scientists put the pieces together that led to the discovery of a finely tuned neurotransmitter system in the human body called the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and how its CB receptors interact with cannabinoids.

This system monitors the balance in our bodies to keep us healthy by communicating with messengers and receptors. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabinoid or chemical messenger that falls into two categories: endogenous, originating in the body, or exogenous, originating outside the body.

The endocannabinoids occur in the body naturally and regulate basic functions including mood, memory, appetite, pain and sleep.

The exogenous cannabinoids, such as CBD, are consumed or applied to the body.

Both interact with receptors to produce physical and psychological effects in the body.

 CB1 and CB2 receptors
CB1 and CB2 receptors

CB receptors

Currently, we know the ECS has two receptors: CB1 and CB2. Scientists are currently aware of two endocannabinoids: 2-AG (2-arachidonoyl glycerol) and anandamide, AKA the bliss molecule. When called upon to help restore balance, these two endocannabinoids head out to find the CB1 and CB2 receptors that interact with them to regain normalcy.

CB1 receptors are found mostly in the brain, nervous system, lungs, liver and kidneys. When they interact with endocannabinoids or CBD, they can help relieve pain, nausea and depression. 

CB2 receptors patrol the immune system with an emphasis on the spleen and gastrointestinal system. This group binds effectively with 2-AG and CBD to help regulate appetite, immune functions, inflammation and pain.

Keeping the balance

The ECS quietly goes about keeping our bodies healthy and balanced. When illness or imbalance occurs, it swings into gear and produces more endocannabinoids to reestablish balance. At times, an exogenous cannabinoid may be necessary to help our internal system maintain homeostasis or balance. CBD goes in search of receptors and activates them to tell your body how to feel and do certain things.

These receptors work with the cannabinoids to help combat an inequity. Think of the receptors as locks and cannabinoids as keys. When you become ill or there is a condition that needs a bit of help, if you introduce CBD (the key) into your system, it goes looking for a lock that it fits into. Then it clicks into gear to provide a little help.

When disregulation, or an impairment, occurs in the ECS, it’s usually because of overproduction of an enzyme or protein, or an overexpression of receptors. So when the ECS doesn’t function properly, your body can’t efficiently regulate its emotions, appetite, memory and all the other things the ECS monitors. Introducing CBD helps increase the amount of endocannabinoids in your system by altering the way the fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) enzyme works.

FAAH removes excess andanamide by breaking it down. Remember andanamide, the bliss molecule? CBD stops FAAH from breaking down the andanamide, leaving more endocannabinoids in your body. More endocannbinoids means your body is able to deal with pain, depression and other conditions.

Receptor balance

Because each individual is unique, so is the ECS. The number and concentration of CB receptors varies among individuals. As a result, learning how much CBD works best for you can be a process because the way each receptor works is different. Learning about cannabinoids and the ECS can help you figure out how to dose for which condition. As you can see, it’s not an exact science, but with more research and studies, more information will become available. In the meantime, start with lower doses and introduce more slowly, paying attention to your body’s response.

Always, and I can’t emphasize this enough, know your CBD. Not all products purporting to be CBD are equal, so do yourself a favor and learn what’s real and what’s not.


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