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CBD Education

What Are CB1 and CB2 Receptors? – The Endocannabinoid System

When we talk about the endocannabinoid system (ECS), CBD, and how it’s processed in the body, we always mention CB1 and CB2 receptors. These famous cannabinoid receptors are responsible for interacting with all the cannabinoids in the hemp plant. But, what exactly is it that these cannabinoid receptors do and how can we understand their function better? This blog will focus a bit more on CB1 and CB2 receptors and how they work. 

The Endocannabinoid System – again! 

CB1 and CB2 receptors are two cannabinoid receptors that’re part of the endocannabinoid system, a bodily system we’ve mentioned before. In essence, the endocannabinoid system is omnipresent in our bodies; it contains neurotransmitters and cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) and is responsible for the regulation of many metabolic processes in our bodies, preserving the homeostasis of our bodies, as well as processing cannabinoids such as CBD, THC, CBG, and many others. The endocannabinoid system seems to maintain homeostasis by releasing endocannabinoids in parts of our body where balance has been disrupted. This is where cannabinoid receptors come in. 

In case you want to learn more about the ECS and its striking complexity, please refer to our article at Austin Chronicle, as well as our About Us section

Although we won’t cover the ECS fully right now, we feel the components are important when it comes to understanding how CBD works and how it affects us. Let’s talk cannabinoid receptors. They’re a group of tiny, fascinating neurotransmitters worthy of attention! 

The Pharmacology of CB1 and CB2 Receptors

CB1 and CB2 receptors are important receptors of the endocannabinoid system because they interact with the endocannabinoids released by the ECS. They are both G protein-coupled receptors (GPRCs). G protein-coupled receptors are a group of receptors responsible for detecting molecules outside of the cell. Then, they transmit these signals from the outside to the inside. This activity leads to the release of adenylyl cyclase, an enzyme that, in general, is responsible for regulating metabolism. From here, we can see how the ECS and its components help with regulating homeostasis in the body. 

Cannabinoid receptors are also the point where endo and phytocannabinoids meet and interact. Endocannabinoids are ones created in the body, while phytocannabinoids are ones from without (often from cannabis). They are found all throughout our bodies, but they are concentrated in different parts. Here’s where we can find them:

  • CB1 receptors are mostly in the brain and spinal cord, making these receptors a crucial part of the central nervous system. Although not as dense as in the central nervous system, CB1 receptors can also be found in the spleen, the gastrointestinal, and the reproductive tracts. The function of CB1 receptors seems to be related to memory and motor skills, but could also be responsible for emotional and cerebral reactions. 
  • CB2 receptors are always related to our immune and inflammatory responses. CB2 receptors are concentrated mainly in the nervous system and in hematopoietic cells, which are cells found in bone marrow. These receptors are not very present in the brain like their counterpart. But, they are just as important as them because they also serve to regulate many bodily functions and processes. 

Where Does CBD Come In?

Since CB1 and CB2 receptors interact with cannabinoids, it’s only natural that they would interact with CBD as well, right? Well, it turns out that CBD doesn’t have a strong affinity to either of these cannabinoid receptors – unlike  THC, the psychoactive component of the hemp plant. THC really likes to interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors. 

The (surprising) revelation that CBD doesn’t interact as much with cannabinoid receptors is a bit confusing, but this actually answers a lot of our questions regarding the effects of CBD on our body. Because it shows a small affinity for CB2 receptors but not CB1, CBD cannot get you high like THC can. It’s all because of it’s (lack of) interaction with that very receptor. 

what are cb1 and cb2 receptors and how do they work with CBD

So, what does CBD do? 

Although it’s not directly binding with cannabinoid receptors, CBD still interacts with them – but it does this mildly. This promotes the good feelings we get from taking CBD and explains why it’s non-psychoactive. Also, not everything is about CB1 and CB2 receptors. CBD can also interact with other, non-cannabinoid receptors and enzymes in the body that promote our sense of well-being/happines. CBD’s interaction with serotonin is one example of this occurrence.

Final Thoughts

We hope this article helped clear up any dilemmas or misconceptions you might’ve had about CB1 and CB2 receptors, the key elements of the endocannabinoid system. The role of these receptors and how they interact with CBD is very complex and even a bit underresearched, but luckily, the increase in the number of studies done on CBD might help us understand this subject fully some day! Until then, we at Grassroots Harvest will keep on sharing articles about the things you care about! 

This is not intended as medical advice. We are not medical professionals. If you have any questions about taking CBD, ask a physician.


– PubMed: Functionally selective cannabinoid receptor signalling: Therapeutic implications and opportunities


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