How Does CBD Interact with CB1 and CB2 Receptors?

That’s a big question. It’s the kind of question that probably needs to be broken down into parts. So let’s take a look at what these receptors are and then look at how CBD interacts with them.

CB1 and CB2 receptors are important parts of the body’s endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system helps your body maintain its balance when presented with external factors, a process called homeostasis. Researchers discovered this remarkable system in the 1990s, but it has been with us for millions of years.

What those early researchers discovered is that cannabis acts similarly to the body’s own internal systems and compounds, affecting mood, sleep, inflammation, the immune system, and more. That internal system monitors the level of endocannabinoids to encourage homeostasis.

CB1 and CB2 are the primary receptors of endocannabinoids in the body.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay



CB1 receptors reside mainly in the central nervous system—the spinal cord and the brain. A very common receptor, they are plentiful in the parts of the brain that control memory and emotion. Pain and motor control are affected by the CB1 receptors in spinal regions.


CB2 receptors are found in the brain but are more abundant in the immune system. They are thought to impact inflammation and pain management, as well as regulating the dopamine system, and playing a role in immune function.

These receptors are activated by endocannabinoids to achieve the beneficial effects of homeostasis. Researchers have now turned the spotlight on cannabinoids produced outside the body to see how they interact within this incredible system.


CBD + CB1 + CB2

CBD is one of the cannabinoids being studied. What researchers have discovered is that CBD interacts with CB1 receptors as something called an allosteric modulator. This intimidating term refers to a process that isn’t nearly as nebulous as it sounds.

An allosteric modulator does not activate a receptor, in this case the CB1 receptor. Rather, it changes the function. In practical terms, CBD blunts the psychoactive effects of THC on the CB1 receptor, decreasing effects like memory loss and smoothing out the psychoactive “high” of THC.

This is an example of the entourage effect, in which two elements of a cannabinoid combine to produce a superior receptor interaction.

When interacting with CB2, CBD plays a different role, that of inverse agonist. It produces effects opposite of those produced by agonist compounds. In the case of CB2, those effects are also impacted by the concentration of CBD.

The beneficial results of this process include decreased inflammation, pain management, and may even aid in the process of decreasing addiction.

Final Thoughts

There is still a lot to be learned about the endocannabinoid system, its receptors, and the effect of CBD and other external cannabinoids on the homeostasis function of the system as a whole.

Research at this point indicates that CBD interacts favorably with the ECS and studies continue as interest grows in this natural way to achieve a healthy balance and encourage homeostasis.

We look forward to continuing studies on the benefits of CBD and how best to keep the endocannabinoid system functioning efficiently and effectively.


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