Understanding Cannabinoids and CBD: How do they work for me?

If you’ve ever been curious about the cannabis plant and its therapeutic potential, this article will help you to better understand its potential and qualities, so read on!

Farmer holds a young cannabis plant.

In essence, cannabis produces a special resin containing cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids that make up a unique blend of natural therapeutic elements.


While Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) often takes the spotlight, as the main psychoactive cannabinoid responsible for the ‘high,’ cannabidiol (CBD) is the new trendy compound! It is included in many products, such us CBD oils, creams, gummies, for its supposed benefits for general wellbeing – are they true? Welcome to the world of medical cannabis!


A historical perspective:
The medicinal use of the cannabis plant dates back thousands of years. Ancient China was among the first to utilise cannabis extracts to relieve pain and spasms. In recent times, researchers have dived into the pharmacological studies of the endocannabinoid system and phytocannabinoids like Δ9-THC or CBD. This helped to uncover their potential therapeutic properties in various medical conditions. Let’s explore the fascinating world of cannabinoids and its potential uses for you!


How cannabinoids work? – The Endocannabinoid System
First, to understand how cannabinoids work, let’s introduce the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). This system is the latest communication network discovered in our body. The ECS was so named because it was discovered through studies related to the plant Cannabis sativa L. and its effects. This intricate system regulates and balances various physiological processes such as pain, mood, sleep, appetite, inflammation, and immune response.

Processes in which the endocannabinoid system participates and regulates.

The ECS has three main players:


1. Endocannabinoids: These natural cannabinoids are produced by our body and act as neuromodulators. Phytocannabinoids, found in plants, mimic endocannabinoids and also interact with specific receptors.


2. Receptors: CB1 and CB2 receptors are the key players here. CB1 receptors are mainly found in the central nervous system, while CB2 receptors reside in the peripheral nervous system and immune cells.


3. Enzymes: Responsible for synthesising and breaking down endocannabinoids, keeping the system in balance.

Receptors of the CB1 and CB2 endocannabinoid system and where they are located.

The Therapeutic Potential of Cannabinoids:

Studies in recent decades have yielded interesting conclusions about the health benefits of cannabinoids. Here we summarise some of the most proven therapeutic applications:


Pain Relief: Cannabinoids bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors, thereby influencing how pain is perceived. On one hand, the CB1 receptors are linked to acute and temporary pain, while on the other hand, CB2 receptors are involved in chronic neuropathic pain and the immune and inflammatory response . (Zhang et al., 2023)


Anxiety and Depression: CB1 receptors play a significant role in responding to stress and anxiety. CBD has shown anxiolytic effects in preclinical and clinical studies, offering hope for mood disorder sufferers. (Skelley et al., 2020)


Neuroprotective Properties: CBD exhibits neuroprotective properties, suggesting potential use in conditions like Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy. Scientists agree that more research is needed to fully confirm these neuroprotective properties, but the results are promising. (Scuderi et al., 2009, Elsaid et al., 2019)


Cancer-Related Symptoms: Certain cannabinoids, such as dronabinol and nabilone, are approved drugs for easing cancer-related side effects like nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy.


So what CBD can do for me?

Among the plethora of cannabinoids, one that shines in a different way is cannabidiol (CBD). Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t alter consciousness but offers promising therapeutic effects. However, THC and CBD are just the tip of the iceberg. Surprisingly, there are over 100 other cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, each with its own potential benefits.

Main phytocannabinoids that can be found in the Cannabis sativa L. plant.

CBD’s interaction with the endocannabinoid system makes it a promising candidate for pain and inflammation management (Carrier et al., 2006). Moreover, its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties suggest a potential for neuroprotection (Scuderi et al., 2008). Many clinical studies have shown that cannabinoids can influence skin inflammation. What’s more, they can improve conditions such as acne, psoriasis, dermatitis, dryness, and itching … but their efficacy depends on the concentration used.


Also, keep in mind that their effectiveness depends on the formulation and the type of cannabinoid used. For example, the skin absorbs better cannabinoids like CBD or cannabinol. (Scheau et al., 2020).


While the exact mechanism of action is not fully understood, the evidence points to CBD being a versatile ally to help with anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and related mental health conditions.


Different studies point to the fact that CBD has a role in managing and relieving behaviours linked to anxiety, depression, cognition, and stress. However, more extensive studies involving both animals and humans are necessary to truly understand how useful, safe, and effective CBD can be for these mental health conditions. (García-Gutiérrez et al., 2020)


This being the case, the multifaceted nature of CBD opens up exciting possibilities to improve the lives of those facing different challenges and conditions. As research progresses, we look forward to discovering more of CBD’s therapeutic secrets and its potential to positively influence health.


Harnessing the power of cannabinoids:

The strongest evidence that cannabinoids can be allies in the fight against certain diseases or their associated symptoms is that there are already drugs taking advantage of the phytocannabinoids and its effect on the ECS’s regulatory functions. For example, CBD-based Epidiolex offers hope to children with refractory seizure disorders. Or nabiximols (like Sativex), approved in Canada, relieves pain in advanced cancer and multiple sclerosis patients, boasting a balanced THC:CBD ratio.

If you’ve read this far, you may be considering including CBD as part of your wellness routine because of the potential benefits it can bring you, so you’ll probably want to read on…

Different CBD products: serum, oil, tablets.

How do I get started with CBD?
The most common option is to get started with a safe and reliable CBD product . But if you are a plant lover, growing your own medicinal strain is sure to give you much more satisfaction.


But whatever you choose, here are some tips:


Buying a CBD Product: Choose a reputable supplier that provides clear information about their products, cultivation practices, and third-party testing. Opt for organically grown hemp, free from harmful chemicals.


Growing Your Own CBD Plant: Look for high-CBD, low-THC strains, specifically bred for this purpose. Again, choose reputable suppliers with third-party testing certificates. And of course, research local laws and regulations for hemp and CBD cultivation, as there are so many countries where growing cannabis , even for one’s own medicinal use, is not allowed.

A woman holds a pot with her cannabis plant on a balcony.

And of course, while medical cannabis and CBD offer a world of potential health benefits, safety is paramount. Ask your doctor for advice before trying any new treatment.


Now, with all this information you are well on your way to a safe and enjoyable cannabinoid experience. Embrace the promising world of medical cannabis, and remember, knowledge is your best companion on this journey of healing and exploration!

A cannabis leaf with a beautiful sunset.


Burstein, S. (2015). Cannabidiol (CBD) and its Analogs: A review of their effects on inflammation. Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry, 23(7), 1377-1385. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bmc.2015.01.059


Carrier, E. J., Auchampach, J. A., and Hillard, C. J. (2006). Inhibition of an Equilibrative Nucleoside Transporter by Cannabidiol: a Mechanism of Cannabinoid Immunosuppression. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 103, 7895–7900. doi:10.1073/pnas.0511232103


Elsaid, S., Kloiber, S., & Foll, B. L. (2019). Effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in neuropsychiatric disorders: A review of pre-clinical and clinical findings. En Progress in Molecular Biology and Translational Science (pp. 25-75). Academic Press. https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.pmbts.2019.06.005


García-Gutiérrez, M. S., Navarrete, F., Gasparyan, A., Austrich-Olivares, A., Sala, F., & Manzanares, J. (2020). Cannabidiol: A Potential New Alternative for the Treatment of Anxiety, Depression, and Psychotic Disorders. Biomolecules, 10(11), 1575. https://doi.org/10.3390/biom10111575


Haney, M. (2022). Cannabis use and the endocannabinoid system: a clinical perspective. American Journal of Psychiatry, 179(1), 21-25. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2021.21111138


Scheau, C., Badarau, I. A., Mihai, L., Scheau, A., Costache, D. O., Constantin, C., Calina, D., Caruntu, C., Costache, R., & Caruntu, A. (2020). Cannabinoids in the pathophysiology of skin inflammation. Molecules, 25(3), 652. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules25030652


Skelley, J. W., Deas, C. M., Curren, Z., & Ennis, J. (2020). Use of cannabidiol in anxiety and anxiety-related disorders. Journal of the American Pharmacists Association, 60(1), 253-261. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.japh.2019.11.008


Williams, C., & Nutbrown, D. L. (2021). A Review of Research into the Health Benefits of Cannabidiol (CBD). The Neighborhood Academy: Pittsburgh, PA, USA.


Zhang, S., Zhang, N., Guo, T., Sheen, L., Ho, C., & Bai, N. (2023). The impact of phyto- and endo-cannabinoids on central nervous system diseases:A review. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, 13(1), 30-38. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jtcme.2022.10.004


Zou, S., & Kumar, U. (2018). Cannabinoid receptors and the endocannabinoid system: signaling and function in the central nervous system. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 19(3), 833. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms19030833

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