The endocannabinoid system remains a mystery for a lot of people, mainly because it’s still under preliminary research. However, that doesn’t exclude its importance as a vital part of our biological system – it plays a crucial role in regulating cognitive processes, the activity of the immune system, pregnancy and fertility, memory, mood, etc.
One of the most known functions of this system is its ability to manifest the effect of cannabis on the human brain and body. To be able to do it, the endocannabinoid system has two receptors: CB1 and CB2.
In this article, we’re going to explore more about the characteristics, functionality, and effects of cannabis on the CB1 receptor.
What Does CB1 Stand For?
Let’s get back a bit and elaborate more on the basics of the endocannabinoid system.
The ESC (endocannabinoid system) contains three main compounds: the ‘messenger’ molecules called cannabinoids, the two types of receptors these molecules can form a connection with and enzymes, responsible for dividing the molecules.
Now, each one of these compounds plays a key role in our overall health, but the cannabinoid receptors are crucial for the entire process to function flawlessly. They help our bodies to maintain balance so that every organ can work at its highest capacity.
CB1 stands for cannabinoid receptor type 1, the humanly encoded, protein-coupled cannabinoid receptor. It’s expressed in the central and the peripheral nervous system, the liver, and the kidneys. The CB1 receptors are usually referred to as the THC receptors, as they are the ones responsible for experiencing the ‘high’ effect of THC.
How Do CB1 Receptors Work?
The CB1 receptors are important for creating the therapeutic and calming effects of THC and CBD.
As the receptor detects a cannabinoid on its membrane, almost instantly, it releases factors on the inside. Basically, CB1 receptors remain untouched, unless they get in touch with specific cannabinoids. This relation can be explained as one key and one door – that particular key opens one door, therefore the cannabinoids activate the CB1 receptors only. These CB1 receptors are located in the brain – specifically, the limbic system, the cerebellum, and the retina.
One of the key things to remember about the CB1 receptors is this one: they are not present in the medulla, the part of the brain responsible for respiratory and cardiovascular functions. What this means essentially is that the absence of CB1 receptors in this part of the brain is the explanation behind the non-existent risk of mortality linked with cannabis use.
Once the CB1 receptors are connected with the cannabinoids, they release a number of neurotransmitters that have positive effects on the brain such as dopamine, serotonin, and glutamate. As we mentioned previously, the cannabis plant has CBD and THC compounds that act as excellent cannabinoids, but let’s explore more on their influence.
CB1 Receptors With CBD/ THC
THC acts as an agonist with CB1 receptors, which means that it inhibits the CB1 receptors and shows its true effect, which we’re going to elaborate further. THC acts as an agonist with CB1 receptors by mimicking the true function of the cannabinoids.
Things are not as simple with CBD though. Our endocannabinoid system doesn’t have specific CBD receptors. The cannabinoids interact with CB1 receptors, but they act as agonists – limiting the activity of the CB1 receptors. That’s due to the non-psychotic compounds of CBD and that’s why CBD is a better option if you want to avoid experiencing the ‘high’ effect of the cannabis plant.
The Effects of Cannabinoids On The CB1 Receptor
The results of the bind between the CB1 receptor and the consumption of THC/CBD are multiple, such as:
The ‘High’ Feeling
Once the CB1 receptor it’s activated, it releases dopamine into the brain, giving you that happy/excited feeling.
CB1 receptors are spread throughout the entire brain, including the part for pain control. The cannabinoids reduce the pain through the CB1 receptors. THC is a more effective remedy for pain because it binds more strongly with the CB1 receptor than CBD, but CBD has anti-inflammatory properties, so for many people, it’s effective for pain reduction.
CB1 receptors in the hypothalamus are critical for our metabolism and appetite. These receptors are responsible for controlling our drive to eat. That’s why when consuming THC, you may experience ‘munchies’ or an increased desire to eat, which is the opposite of what you can experience when consuming CBD. CBD usually has a calming effect on the digestive system and allows incorrigible functioning.
The CB1 receptors in the basal ganglia, the part of the brain that coordinates movements, are highly affected after consuming THC/CBD products. That’s why you may feel a bit ‘impaired’ and slightly slower than usual.
It’s important to acknowledge that repeated use of cannabis products increases your tolerance, as the CB1 expression throughout the brain decreases. However, only 48 hours of abstinence are enough to rejuvenate the system and put the CB1 receptors on the same level as the non-cannabis users.