The Endocannabinoid System, Receptors, Bioavailability and the Entourage Effect
Fun fact: Cannabinoids closely resemble natural compounds produced by our own bodies that are called endocannabinoids, which bind to the body’s cannabinoid receptors. This network of endocannabinoids and the receptors that regulate bodily function is called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) – a powerful communicator between mind and body. CBD binds synergistically with endocannabinoid receptors–much like a lock and key!–found in our brain (CB1) and bodily organs (CB2) that help control our body’s most essential biological systems. Pretty cool, right?
CB1 Receptors are concentrated in the brain and central nervous system, they settle many of the psychoactive effects associated with cannabis.
CB2 Receptors are found in peripheral organs (like the gut!) and cells associated with the immune system throughout the body.
Cannabinoids and naturally-occurring endocannabinoids affect us by binding with the CB1 and CB2 receptors found throughout our bodies.
The effects of cannabinoids vary depending on the location of the cannabinoid receptors they stimulate.
These receptors are common in our limbic system – the part of the brain that affects memory, cognition, and psychomotor performance – and our mesolimbic pathway – associated with feelings of reward. They are also widely distributed in areas governing pain perception. Therefore, different ailments and conditions respond to different cannabinoids.
Bioavailability is the absorption of cannabinoids in the body. Depending on body type and delivery method (i.e. topical, sublingual, ingestion, or inhalation), absorption varies for everyone.
When taking a tincture sublingually (under the tongue), precise dosing is needed, as all the cannabinoids are absorbed by the body.
With topicals, such as balms and body oils, natural lipids like coconut oil absorbs rapidly through the skin, making them ideal substrates.
Here’s a little insider info: the entourage effect is the idea that molecules that occur together in nature interact in useful ways. This concept also applies to cannabinoids and terpenes, too! Terpenes are molecular compounds found naturally in plants and insects, manifesting most often in the forms of natural oils, and are accompanied by a distinct aroma and viscosity. Terpenes and cannabinoids (such as CBD and THC) work together to maximize benefits in the body. Lab and patient-testing studies reveal that while CBD or THC can work alone for some symptoms, they often create better outcomes in combination. The entourage effect is one of the leading theories influencing cannabis research worldwide.