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How Does CBD Work

6 min.

It may seem impossible that there exists one herb which can help in treating conditions from anxiety, depression, and insomnia to epilepsy, chronic pain, and even cancer. What is more, the mentioned is not an exhaustive list of possible effects. The name of this miracle herb is cannabis or mostly its part CBD.

How can cannabis treat so many different conditions and how does it work? The answer is – its interaction with the endocannabinoid system in our bodies.


What is the Endocannabinoid System?

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is named so because it was discovered as a result of its interaction with cannabinoids extracted from cannabis plants. The existence of ECS, although previously assumed, was confirmed by researchers only in the 1990s.

The ECS is a universal signaling system providing control over many physiological functions of the body, including the regulation of the nervous, immune systems, energy metabolism, reproduction, cell growth, differentiation, the modulation of cognitive and emotional processes.

Simply put, the main function of the endocannabinoid system is to maintain homeostasis - the biological harmony in response to environmental changes.

The main components of the endocannabinoid system are cannabinoid receptors CB1 & CB2 located throughout the body, so the ECS can correct imbalances in various body systems. CB1 receptors are found in the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and nerves), while CB2 receptors are located in the peripheral nervous system.

Human Endocannabinoid System


However, recent scientific evidence suggests the existence of other cannabinoid receptors associated with G-proteins, which are located in the central nervous system, intestines, liver, bones, and skeletal muscles.


How does THC interact with the ECS? 

THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the primary psychoactive component in cannabis that gets you “high”.

THC binds to CB1 receptors within the brain. That’s why it causes euphoria feeling, affects mood, thinking, appetite, and other functions.


How does CBD interact with the ECS?

Unlike THC, cannabidiol (CBD) is not psychoactive. CBD does not directly affect the CB1 receptors, it prevents these receptors from being activated by other substances, thus protecting them. At the same time, CBD has a greater effect on CB2 receptors, which explains its effect on the human immune system.

In addition to the receptors, CBD interacts with several non-cannabinoid receptors by altering the activity of transport proteins and enzymes that alter the concentration of anandamide.


How Does CBD Help to Treat Conditions?

In most cases, diseases of different complexity are treated with pharmaceuticals, but the trick is that many of them cause either addiction or side effects. Quite often CBD acts as an excellent, non-toxic substitute with a more effective result.

In our article What Conditions Can You Treat With CBD? there is detailed information on health problems for which CBD may be helpful. In short, these are:

  • Chronic pain – CBD alleviates pain by affecting the inflammatory processes in the body.
  • Anxiety - CBD can help to reduce anxiety and treat such mental issues as depression, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Neurological diseases - CBD has also been investigated for potential effectiveness in treating a number of neurological diseases, such as Parkinson's disease and epilepsy.
  • Insomnia – CBD helps to relax & therefore improves the quality of sleep.
  • Cancer - Researchers note that CBD tends to inhibit cancer cell growth and promote their destruction.
  • Acne - CBD can be an effective way to treat acne because of its anti-inflammatory properties.

Certainly, this list will be extended over time since there is not enough research on the potential health benefits of CBD.


How long does CBD take to work?

There is no definite answer to this question because many factors impact the process – method of consumption, dosage, frequency of use, product quality, and individual physiological characteristics of a particular consumer.

CBD is available in different forms – oils, capsules, vape pens, cremes, edibles, etc., so choose the one which suits you the most. When using CBD orally, it takes the longest time to start working (up to 1-2 hours) but at the same time, the effect is long-lasting. When CBD is smoked by vape pens, it directly reaches the lungs and takes effect within 15 minutes. Topical products are applied localized that makes them suitable in case of chronic pain in particular body areas.

Illustration of how long does CBD take to work.


Speaking of the dosage, it should be calculated individually. Of course, the higher the dosage is, the faster the effect starts. But the point is in getting the necessary result, not in the speed of action.

Anyway, it’s important to consult the doctor to choose the right way of using CBD.


How long does CBD stay in your body?

Again, it depends on a range of factors which were mentioned above. According to the review of existing studies, the half-life period of CBD in the system is reported 2-5 days if taken orally and 31 hours after smoking. It means that after usage CBD can be detectable for a week or two.

Will it show up on a drug test?

Typically, CBD doesn’t show up on a drug test. But if you use the product which contains THC (legally in the amount of less than 0,3%), the test may be positive.

What are the side effects?

There haven’t been detected any significant side effects on the vital signs, even after taking high doses. CBD is considered to be safe and well-tolerated. However, some side effects may be possible - dry mouth, fatigue, diarrhea, and changes in appetite. CBD can also interact with other medications you are taking.


Why Might CBD Not Work?

Notwithstanding that CBD is a lifesaver for lots of people, it doesn't always work. However, this fact has nothing to do with its effectiveness in general. Each case is individual so let’s highlight some reasons why CBD might not work:

  • Product quality. More and more CBD products are now appearing on the market, including those of low quality or misleading cannabinoid content. Buy CBD from reputable shops which offer third-party lab results for their products.
  • Dosage. Some people find small doses of CBD helpful, while others may feel no effect from large doses. The basic rule is always to start with a lower dose and gradually increase it until you see the proper effect.
  • Method of consumption. The chosen type of CBD product may not always be the best for your treatment. Thoroughly read the descriptions of products and select those with the necessary effect.
  • Tolerance. The longer you use CBD, the more tolerance you have. Obviously, if you take CBD each day for several years, it won't have the same effect as at the first use. In this case, the solution is to exclude CBD for a while.
  • Short-term use. Sometimes the effect may not be evident from the first few uses.

Anyway, follow your doctor’s recommendations and be aware of how you feel while taking that or another CBD product so that you achieve the best result in your treatment.