Delta 9 THC, CBD and Your Endocannabinoid System: How it Works

Significant science is showing that chemical compounds in Cannabis have beneficial properties. Delta 9 THC, Hemp CBD, called cannabinoids, impact human and Pet health.

What’s more, scientists have discovered that we have an extensive network of endocannabinoid receptors in our bodies. This has been termed the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system makes our bodies very receptive to the potential health benefits of cannabinoids.

What is Cannabis?

The complexity of the cannabis or Cannabis plant is due to its distinct compounds. There are more than 500 of them! These include terpenoids, flavonoids, omega fatty acids, and over 100 different cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are found only in the cannabis plant.

The most well-known cannabinoid is THC or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. This is responsible for the psychoactive effects of being “high.” It alters mental capacity and motor function.

Before we go any farther, let me explain the two types of cannabis plants: hemp and marijuana. Hemp has been used for more than 10,000 years as a source of fiber, protein, and oils. Industrial hemp has been used to make items including paper, clothing, rope, and building materials. It has far less THC (below 0.3%) than marijuana and simply cannot get anyone “high.”

The purpose of THC in the cannabis plant is for survival. Cannabis grows in many different environments. From tropical regions to cold mountainous regions, cannabis has successfully adapted due to the protective cannabinoid, THC, in the plants. It prevents herbivores from eating the plant, protects the plant in cold weather, minimizes water loss, and attracts pollinators.

However, the story doesn’t end here. There is also a cannabinoid called CBD or cannabidiol. This does not cause a high, and possesses medically useful properties.

What is CBD?

Right now, CBD is the most promising cannabinoid. Because the hemp plant is legal throughout the United States and doesn’t have enough THC to cause a “high,” it is a good source of CBD.

According to the World Health Association, “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential….To date, there is no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”

Furthermore, CBD has been effective in treating some of the cruelest childhood epilepsy syndromes, such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. These typically don’t respond to antiseizure medications. CBD was able to reduce the number of seizures, and in some cases, stop them altogether. After controlled clinical trials, the FDA recently approved the first cannabis-derived medicine for these conditions, Epidiolex, which contains CBD.

What is the Endocannabinoid System?

An astonishing fact is that our bodies actually produce chemicals similar to ones in the cannabis plant, called endocannabinoids. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a unique communications system that is very extensive and elaborate.

It consists of three main components: endocannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors, and the enzymes that break the cannabinoids down. The ECS exists throughout our bodies. For example, it’s on immune cells in our bloodstream, all over our nervous system, on the entire axis of the spinal cord, and in virtually every cell in the brain. There are even cannabinoid receptors in our skin.

The role of the endocannabinoid system is to keep our bodies in a state of complete balance called homeostasis. When we achieve internal homeostasis, we experience peak health. The ECS system regulates pain, stress, appetite, energy, cardiovascular function, reward perception, reproduction, and sleep, to name a few.

A lack of homeostasis can be caused by an endocannabinoid deficiency. More research is needed to determine standards and establish a clinical endocannabinoid deficiency or CECD. However, a deficiency has been linked to IBS, migraines, and fibromyalgia. In the meantime, let’s take a closer look at the main components of the endocannabinoid system.

Endocannabinoids are naturally produced within our bodies. The two main types of these endogenous cannabinoids include anandamide (AEA) and 2-AG (or 2-arachadonoyl-glycerol).3 Anandamide was just uncovered in the 1990s! It is involved in regulating mood, memory, pain, cognition, and emotions. 2-AG is associated with pain relief, suppressing vomiting, appetite stimulation, and inhibiting tumor growth.

Cannabinoid Receptors
The second part of the ECS are the cannabinoid receptors. These are cell membrane receptors that bind cannabinoids to trigger cell responses. There are cannabinoid receptors in the brain as well as nearly everywhere else in the body.4 There are two main types.

CB1 receptors are mainly in the central nervous system. These affect motor and cognitive function. The CB1 receptor is what responds to THC yet it also responds to the body’s naturally occurring endocannabinoids — anandamide and 2-AG.

CB2 receptors are in the immune system and play a pivotal role in neuroprotection and neuroinflammation. CBD can bind to at least 12 sites of action in the brain. These activate multiple pathways to elicit feelings of relaxation and improved mood. These action sites are also a part of the ECS.

Typically, brain cells (neurons) communicate with each other and with the rest of the body by sending chemical messages. These neurotransmitters coordinate and regulate everything we feel, think, and do.

They are released by a presynaptic cell. They then travel across a small gap (the synapse), and attach to specific receptors located on a postsynaptic cell. This spurs the receiving neuron into action, triggering a set of events that allows the message to be passed along.

However, endocannabinoid signaling works “backward.” When a postsynaptic neuron is activated, cannabinoids are made on demand from fat cells in the neuron. Then they travel backward to the presynaptic neuron, where they attach to cannabinoid receptors. Since cannabinoids act on presynaptic cells, they can control what happens when these cells are activated.

The third part of the system is the enzymes that break down the endocannabinoids. The enzyme FAAH works quickly on the chemicals our bodies produce, like anandamide, but not on external cannabinoids. This is why THC produces a high and anandamide doesn’t.

What Are the Benefits of CBD?
Now we know that your body makes its own cannabinoids called endocannabinoids. We also have an understanding of the endocannabinoid system. Next let’s look at the main benefits of CBD, which activates your ECS.

Some key benefits of CBD are its ability to make improvements in:

Anxiety and insomnia – CBD changes the way your brain responds to serotonin, which is the “feel good hormone” and promotes sleep.

Is Delta 9 THC and CBD Legal?
Both the hemp-derived and marijuana-sourced CBD have legal constraints that depend upon where in the US you live. Effective January 2019, the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the production of hemp plants with THC content below 0.3%, placing hemp-derived CBD products under the guidance of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Thus, hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. Check your state’s laws and those of anywhere you travel.