CB1 and CB2 Receptors: The Science Behind Cannabinoid Receptors


Whenever you consume a cannabinoid (CBD) or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) think about something for a minute. There’s an entire system in your body called the endocannabinoid system (ECS), that takes notice of them. This system is integral to your physiology. It handles processes like pain sensation, anxiety, sleep, memory, and metabolism. 

If you keep reading below your understanding of cannabis and how your body interacts with it will surprise you. Let’s hope that it’s for the better. 

Have you ever heard of cannabinoid receptors? Do CB1 and CB2 receptors ring a bell? While you’re still processing the term “endocannabinoid” let’s get down to the wonderful world of neurons and molecules.

The ECS is one of the body’s largest neurotransmitter networks and is responsible for keeping our body in balance. This means that your body is always going through a process of stabilization, or homeostasis. Cool right?

Dr. Feelgood

A key player for communication between your ECS and your body are messengers and receptors. In this case, your brain produces endocannabinoid molecules (homebody messengers). These are also located in other organs, glands, and immune cells. 

Think about it as a balancing system that needs to check that everything is working smoothly. Whenever the ECS finds an imbalance or a problem, it sends instructions to receptors that adjust how you think and feel to regulate the body again. 

Here’s an interesting fact: Endocannabinoids act like natural THC but have a shorter effect in the body. 

This is where the body meets nature. Plant cannabinoids can be found in cannabis too. THC and CBD are the most popular ones. This means that your body is designed to interact with cannabinoids whenever and however. But even if cannabis can interact with cannabinoid receptors, they weren’t created for cannabis. These receptors work as part of the ECS to receive endocannabinoids.

When your ECS communicates with your cannabinoids, this molecule activates two other receptors known as CB1 and CB2. When these two are combined they tell your body how to feel and react to certain things. Also, make sure you find out more about GPR55, another receptor that scientists compare to CB1 and CB2.

Imagine your body like a machine where each system works together to keep everything moving. Your brain is the motherboard and the endocannabinoids help maintain these systems. 

What Are CB1 and CB2 Receptors? 

CB1 and CB2 receptors can be found all over your body. These cannabinoids bind to different parts of your body like the brain and connective tissues. They promote a balanced physiological function of the immune, nervous, and muscular system. 

What Happens With these Receptors When You Consume Cannabis? 

If your immediate thought is that the cannabinoids THC and CBD begin to search for receptors all over your body you’re right. When they find one, the effects of the TCH or CBD, the function and location of the receptor all combine and send messages to the rest of your body. 

Here’s an example: If you take a dose of THC it can increase your appetite because it binds more easily with the CB1 receptor. This is why you get the urge to eat more when consuming one strain of cannabis, and not the other. On the other hand, if you take a dose of CBD oil it will bind with the CB2 receptor and restrain your appetite. 

Here’s the thing, oftentimes the expression of receptors can vary person-to-person. Everyone has a different balance and number of receptors. This is why the experimentation with cannabis medication is unique. 

Different expressions of cannabinoid receptors = different experiences of consuming the same type of cannabis

Now it’s time to understand the major differences between CB1 and CB2.

Cannabinoid Receptor 1

This receptor is found in the central nervous system, gonads, glands, and related organs. Since CB1 receptors couple with protein, they respond to external cannabinoids like THC and CBD. This coupling results in a potent effect for patients that can make them feel significant relief from nausea and pain.

Studies show the strong coupling is present in chemotherapy patients. It can also be found in people suffering conditions like arthritis and lupus. The activation of CB1 receptors has also been linked to neuroprotective responses. This means that cannabinoids with a high preference for CB1 receptors help in the prevention and treatment of conditions like Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. 

Cannabinoid Receptor 2 

CB2 receptors are mostly found on cells in the immune and gastrointestinal system. Although these buddies can be also be found in the brain, they are not expressed as heavily as CB1 receptors. When CB2 receptors are activated they stimulate a response that can fight inflammation, which can reduce pain and cut damage to tissues. In the case of CB2, CBD medication binds well with all the receptors in your gastrointestinal tract.         

Budding choices 

Since every patient and consumer has a different expression of CB1 and CB2, a  patient can overexpress a CB1 receptor and be sensitive to THC. Other patients can’t express a receptor enough, like CB2 and be less sensitive to the effects of CBD, for example. 

Understanding the binding, location and function of receptors can help patients with treatments. The information can also benefit physicians as they come up with stronger treatments for diseases. Research about cannabis is constantly changing, so keeping up with the facts can help you get a better grasp of how the chemical affects your body. 

In the end, what you want to remember the most about CB1 and CB2 receptors is that CB1 is a great fit for THC and CB2 is activated by CBD. 

Everybody’s ECS is different and it’s important to start low and slowly build up your cannabis consumption. Despite the lack of medical research about cannabinoids, scientists back its therapeutic role. 

You can learn more about cannabinoids by reading THC and CBD-related articles on our website. Check out this one for more advice on buying medicinal marijuana legally.