Within the endocannabinoid system are cannabinoid receptors identified as CB1 and CB2. These receptors are activated by endocannabinoids AEA and 2-AG which are activating agents produced within the body when the body thinks it is under attack, either by injury or illness. There are more cannabinoid receptors in our body than any other receptor systems.
CB1 receptors, which were discovered in 1988, are more prevalent in the autonomic nervous system and the brain. CB2 receptors, which were discovered in 1993, are more abundant in the immune system and immune regulating organs.
When the CB1 receptors located in the brain are activated, we experience relief from pain and anxiety. Activated CB1 receptors are also responsible for mood stabilization, pleasure responses and an overall feeling of well-being.
CB1 receptors located in the autonomic nervous system are responsible for regulating our breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, metabolism, and digestion.
CB2 receptors are primarily associated with our immune system and support with the body’s inflammatory response. When triggered by AEA and 2-AG endocannabinoids, the body has detected disease or injury and is trying to support these systems.
Cancer cells, for example, are not detected by the body’s immune system because they have a built-in cloaking mechanism. However, when CB2 receptors are activated, that cloak is lifted, and the body can detect and destroy cancer cells.
Although chronic inflammation doesn’t always cause disease, numerous studies are showing that it can be a contributing factor for many afflictions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, PTSD, multiple sclerosis, depression, and autoimmune disorders. Studies are also correlating chronic inflammation as a contributing factor in cancer cell growth.
As discussed in the Endocannabinoid System overview, CB1 and CB2 receptors are activated by endocannabinoids AEA and 2-AG but are quickly absorbed by metabolic enzymes FAAH and MAGL, respectively. This process happens rather quickly, and the relief provided by AEA and 2-AG from whatever illness or injury is not long-lasting.
When phytocannabinoids are introduced into the body, not only are the metabolic enzymes not able to break them down, but the overabundance of cannabinoids can impact the length and intensity of the body’s fight response. The prolonged activation of CB1 and CB2 receptors creates a longer lasting therapeutic effect which supports the body’s ability to heal on a cellular level.
- Hunter, Philip. “The inflammation theory of disease. The growing realization that chronic inflammation is crucial in many diseases opens new avenues for treatment” EMBO reports 13,11 (2012): 968-70.
- Konieczny, Eileen and Lauren Wilson. Healing with CBD. Ulysses Press, 2018.
- Leinow, Leonard and Juliana Birnbaum. CBD A Patient’s Guide to Medicinal Cannabis. North Atlantic Books, 2017.
- Turcotte, Caroline et al. “The CB2 receptor and its role as a regulator of inflammation” Cellular and molecular life sciences: CMLS 73,23 (2016): 4449-4470.