CBD is on off more than 100 compounds in cannabis that create drug-like effects in the body, including the nervous and immune systems. Called cannabinoids, these compounds mimic naturally produced compounds in our bodies called endocannabinoids that help maintain overall balance.

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) forms a major signaling network that regulates memory, mood, pain, and hunger. CBD and other cannabinoids act as keys, locking and unlocking receptors – much like how dopamine and serotonin act as messengers in the nervous system. Though most cannabinoids bind to nerve receptors, CBD does not directly trigger receptors. Instead, it binds in a different spot, freeing the normal spot. By doing this, it makes it harder for receptors to activate. While this may seem undesirable, too much nerve activity can be bad. If you are experiencing loss of sleep or heightened stress, it may be from overstimulation of cannabinoid receptors.

Unlike THC, CBD will not get you high, or arrested. It is easy to take and compares very favorably to pharmaceuticals, especially opioids: you cannot overdose or get addicted, and its side effects are rare and mild.

The “disease of malignant sadness” can seem overwhelming. For some, it is a constant foe, brought on by genetics or trauma. For others, it is triggered by medication or momentous events – losing a job, getting divorced, or watching a loved one battle a terminal disease. According to the World Health Organization, depression affects more than 300 million people. In the U.S., it is the leading cause of disability among people ages 15 – 44.

The two primary endocannabinoids (eCBs) your ECS produces are anandamide (the “bliss molecule”) and 2-AG. Receptors sit on cell surfaces, waiting for these eCBs to bind to them, which in turn affects mood, sensation, immunity, and consciousness. Different cell types have different receptors that are sensitive to different eCBs, which cannabinoids mimic. The two primary receptors for the ECS are CB1 and CB2.

CB1 receptors are some of the most common in the nervous system and are critical to mood, memory, motor function, and pain perception. CB2 receptors are mostly found in the immune system, helping your body battle inflammation and fight off illness.

Once anandamide and 2-AG have delivered their messages, the body wants to stop stimulating the ECS and release enzymes to break down these endocannabinoids. This is where CBD steps in and inhibits the enzymes. The result is more anandamide, which promotes relaxation and “fee-good” sensations, and increased 2-AG, which reduces your pain perception.

This ability to elevate levels of key neurotransmitters is called “reuptake inhibition,” which is the same function performed by depression and anxiety drugs. CBD does not necessarily increase levels of serotonin, but it may affect how your brain’s receptors respond to serotonin that is already in your system, causing it to linger.

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