How Does CBD Actually Work?

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From lattes to pimple patches to sparkling water — CBD is making a fast entrance into the health and beauty world. Does the promise that one molecule can fight anxiety, relieve PMS symptoms, soothe skin woes, and induce sweet slumber sounds like venture-backed wellness hype? 

How can CBD actually work across so many aspects of human health?

It’s not just observations from Well + Good. So far, research has conclusively identified four main pathways through which CBD exerts its therapeutic effects. Knowing how things work before putting them in/on our body? We’re into that. So here’s the short-as-we-can-make-it summary of the science: 

Balancing Your Endocannabinoid System

Embedded throughout your body, skin, and brain is a network of receptors known as your Endocannabinoid System (ECS). Think of your ECS as an internal circuit board; when working optimally, your endocannabinoid receptors sense shifts in your environment (these can be mental or physical changes) and trigger biochemical reactions to keep your body in harmony. So far, we know the ECS influences pain, memory, mood, appetite, stress, sleep, metabolism, immune, and reproductive processes.

While your body naturally produces its own neurotransmitters called endocannabinoids to support your ECS, chronic stress, poor diet, drug use, and genetic predisposition can elevate or interrupt this self-sufficient production. This imbalance can cause your endocannabinoid receptors to be over or under-stimulated, triggering conditions from general brain fog and low energy to migraines, fibromyalgia, and IBS.

CBD is a plant-produced cannabinoid (AKA, a phytocannabinoid) that modulates your endocannabinoid receptors - helping to restore and maintain ECS balance. While CBD does not imitate your endocannabinoids exactly (it can’t actually bind to receptors), it works by either:

  1. Increasing your body’s natural levels of endocannabinoids by blocking the re-uptake of your existing endocannabinoids, allowing your body to use more of what it’s already naturally producing.

  2. Modifying the shape of your endocannabinoid receptors so that they are harder to overstimulate by excess endocannabinoids.

You’ll notice these seem like two opposing abilities. Similar to an adaptogen, CBD can sense what your body needs, and will trigger either biochemical upticks or downticks accordingly. CBD is not formally categorized as an adaptogen, but we like to think of it as one. 

Mimicking Serotonin

Heard CBD might help with anxiety and mood support? That’s because CBD can mimic serotonin (your body’s “happiness neurotransmitter”) by directly activating a receptor called 5HT. This can not only support your mood, but improve other bodily functions that also require serotonin, like digestion, bone synthesis, and cardiovascular health.

Reducing Pain Perception 

TRPV1 is a special kind of receptor throughout the body responsible for relaying sensations of pain. Scientists suggest CBD’s potent pain-relief properties derives, in part, from its ability to desensitize TRPV1 receptors

Regulating Inflammation

The medical community is placing more and more attention on how inflammation underpins many of today’s ailments - from physical pain to digestive, skin, and memory issues. Research shows CBD activates PPARγ – a receptor that, when stimulated, can reduce your body’s production of inflammatory molecules and increase its production of reparative antioxidants. 

Getting Started with CBD:

The human body is an interconnected orchestra of systems and chemical reactions, which is why simplifying how CBD works can be challenging. But it’s this same interconnectedness that allows CBD to have such widespread benefits.

With it’s science-backed ability to balance internal processes, fight inflammation, and reduce pain - you can see why we consider CBD to be the ultimate superfood. If you’re looking to get started with CBD to restore balance to your life, we suggest beginning with a small daily dose of a full-spectrum tincture like our BALANCE drops - which imparts a clear, calm, and focused mood. 

If you’re looking for more targeted solutions for sleep or physical pain, checkout our Nightcap drops and our Ease functional body serum.

And if you’re CBD curious and still have questions, shoot us an email here

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