You may have heard a great deal already about the health benefits of hemp oil and its main component CBD, especially in regard to its effects on stress, inflammation, immunity, pain, mood, and more. But to answer the question of how and why CBD works in the body means diving into a vastly complex system that doctors and scientists are only just beginning to make sense of. And that’s the endocannabinoid system.
The Endocannabinoid System and Hemp Oil
The endocannabinoid system is a biological network located throughout the body that regulates various physiological functions, including sleep, appetite, mood, and inflammation. The prefix “endo-” is short for “endogenous,” meaning that the endocannabinoid system is comprised of endogenous, or naturally occurring, cannabinoid receptor cells throughout the body.
Hence, when you consume hemp, the plant’s chemical compounds — known as cannabinoids — activate the receptors throughout your endocannabinoid system. These receptors can engage with both phytocannabinoids — compounds that occur in the hemp plant — and endocannabinoids — compounds that occur naturally in the human body. Anandamide, for instance, is an endocannabinoid that the body produces. Also known as the “bliss molecule,” anandamide plays a vital role in functions such as pleasure, motivation, and appetite.
CBD is Found in Hemp
CBD, on the other hand, is a phytocannabinoid, found in hemp. One of the reasons hemp can be therapeutic is the way CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system:
The body only makes endocannabinoids, such as anandamide, when it needs to, or if it’s running low. To break down these endocannabinoids, the body releases enzymes such as FAAH (fatty acid amide hydrolase) and MAGL (monoacylglycerol lipase) to break them down. In some people who experience endocannabinoid system imbalance, their bodies create too much FAAH, and hence are deprived of the benefit of their endogenous bliss molecule, anandamide. CBD, however, inhibits FAAH, so when the enzyme is blocked and can no longer break down anandamide, it can accumulate in the body and lead to relief from anxiety, depression, and even inflammation.
This illustrates why hemp oil may be integral to a balanced, healthy endocannabinoid system — compensating for the body’s natural ebbs and flows. Moreover, beyond CBD, other phytocannabinoids bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors throughout the endocannabinoid system.