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How Does CBD Work in the Body?

CBD has been attracting widespread interest in the UK due to its natural therapeutic properties. In the space of just a few years, CBD products have been welcomed and embraced by as a natural solution for people looking to find a sense of calm or improve their mental and physical health, with that growth projected to continue and the wider sector predicted to be worth £6.9 billion in 2024.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of more than 100 chemical compounds, known as cannabinoids, that can be found in the cannabis plant. These cannabinoids each have their own unique therapeutic properties which differ in nature. CBD has been found to regulate the systems in our body to support homeostasis, promoting a sense of calm and overall wellness.  It can be taken in several different ways including through tinctures, capsules, edibles and vapes. 

CBD shouldn’t be confused with THC, which is the main psychoactive component of cannabis, as CBD cannot get you high and is legal to consume in the UK when it has a THC content below 0.2%

cbd diagram

Our body works like a well-balanced seesaw, with different systems relying on opposite forces to maintain stability, known as homeostasis. Take the immune system, for example—it thrives when there’s a balance between anti-inflammation and inflammation. After all, not all inflammation is bad; some is necessary to protect against injuries and infections.

As another example, our oxidation system needs a harmonious mix of antioxidation and oxidation. While oxidation is often seen as harmful, a certain level is vital for survival. It’s all about finding that sweet spot— and that sweet spot is homeostasis.

The better our body maintains this balance, the healthier we are. If one aspect is out of balance, it can disrupt the entire system. Changes trigger fluctuations until a new balance, or homeostasis point, is reached. Our bodies are clever enough to adapt and find a new equilibrium. Consider that when the outside temperature drops, the body does not just “equilibrate” with (become the same as) the environment. Instead, as is pointed out in this article, systems work together to help maintain the body’s temperature: we shiver, develop “goose bumps”, and blood flows to the skin, which causes the heat lost to the environment to decrease.

Homeostasis, via Bio Ninja.

When you start to present the symptoms of having an imbalance in your body, you may seek the assistance of pharmaceutical drugs to help you to regain a sense of natural balance. However, it is important to remember that these pharmaceutical drugs only work at the level of the symptoms, not the systems. In short, pharmaceutical drugs are effective at putting out fires, but they can knock other areas of your body out of balance in the process.

This is where an alternative like CBD comes in.

Rather than working at the level of the symptoms, CBD works at the epicentre of balance: our endocannabinoid system. The ECS is a complex network of receptors and neurotransmitters that play a crucial role in regulating a range of physiological processes and maintaining homeostasis, including mood, appetite, sleep, immune function, and pain sensation. It consists of three main components: endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes.

  1. Endocannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds in the body that bind to cannabinoid receptors.
  2. The two primary types of receptors are CB1 and CB2, , located throughout the central nervous system and peripheral tissues.
  3. Enzymes, such as fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL), break down endocannabinoids once their function is fulfilled.

When there is an imbalance or dysfunction, the ECS is activated to restore equilibrium.

In our central nervous system, there are cells that are covered with cannabinoid receptors. When CBD binds to these receptors, it communicates with the cell and sends a message through it, journeying down into the nucleus of the cell to ultimately reach our chromosomes.

Chromosomes carry genetic information about everything that our body does. Genes are the codes for every protein that we make in our body, which includes all of the signalling molecules that are in charge of our physiology – from the cytokines that run our immune system to the neurotransmitters that run our nervous system.

Throughout our physiology, we have receptors that are specifically designed to bind with CBD. These cannabinoid receptors enable CBD to have a profound effect on the nucleus of our cells. In fact, CBD can modulate the transcription of over 1,100 genes that produce signalling molecules to naturally reduce inflammation in our central nervous system and immune system. As a result, CBD has the potential to promote homeostasis across a range of different systems in our body. Indeed, in a recent study, it was found that CBD can have the ability to promote anti-inflammatory biochemicals and regulate inflammatory biochemicals, creating a carefully controlled balance.

It’s important to note that the way in which CBD interacts with cells in these systems to cause regulation is far more complex than we have described, but for ease of reading, we believe that this is the best way to describe the nature of what is occurring in these systems. Our immune system alone has up to 350 different signalling elements which could potentially offer an explanation as to why there can be so many unintentional pharmaceutical drug interactions. When CBD is introduced to the overwhelmingly complex human physiology, in the context of our immune system, the effects of homeostasis can trickle down all of 350 different signalling elements.

Image courtesy of Harvard Health Publishing (2021).

The multifaceted interactions of CBD with various systems in the body mean it has lots of potential therapeutic applications. This includes:

  1. Epilepsy and Seizure Treatment: CBD’s approval by the FDA for certain forms of epilepsy highlights its potential as an anticonvulsant. Ongoing research explores CBD’s effectiveness for different types of seizure disorders, including epilepsy, with promising results.
  2. Neuroprotective Effects: Preclinical studies suggest that CBD may have neuroprotective properties, making it a subject of interest for neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
  3. Antipsychotic Effects: CBD’s potential antipsychotic effects have been investigated in conditions like schizophrenia.  In 2023, Wellcome awarded Oxford University’s Department of Psychiatry £16.5 million for a programme involving three clinical trials and 1,000 participants, which will investigate the effectiveness of Cannabidiol (CBD) in treating people with psychosis or psychotic symptoms.
  4. Addiction and Substance Abuse: Some research indicates that CBD may be a therapeutic agent for addiction, such as smoking or alcohol abuse disorder, through mitigating withdrawal symptoms and preventing relapse.
  5. Pain Relief: CBD is thought to exert pain-relieving effects through its interactions and regulation of the endocannabinoid, inflammatory, and nociceptive (pain sensing) systems.
  6. Improved Mood: CBD can affect how your brain’s chemical receptors respond to the serotonin in your system (and other “happy chemicals”), which can reduce feelings of depression
  7. Insomnia: CBD can help to improve the quantity and quality of your sleep. However, this can depend on dose; research suggests that low doses of CBD can be stimulating, while high doses of CBD are sedating and therefore more likely to help you fall asleep.
  8. Bone Health and Osteoporosis: Preclinical studies have suggested that CBD may have a role in promoting bone health and aidingconditions like osteoporosis.

If you’re considering using CBD to help with alcohol cravings or alcohol use disorder, there are some key factors to keep in mind when choosing a product.

  • Medications: CBD has the potential to interact with certain medications, so it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before taking CBD.
  • Type of CBD: Broad-spectrum CBD is a great option for those who want to experience the effects of CBD without consuming THC, the psychoactive compound in the cannabis plant. Clinical reports suggest that broad or full-spectrum CBD may have a better effect due to the number of cannabinoids and other plant compounds they contain that work together, otherwise known as the entourage effect
  • Type of Product: CBD products come in various forms, such as oilstopicals, capsules, edibles, and vape pens. Choose a delivery method and dosage that suits your needs. 
  • Dosage: Finding the right dose and administration method can be a trial-and-error process as results can vary significantly from person to person. Start with a low dose and gradually increase it while monitoring its effects.
  • Source and Quality: Choose CBD derived from organically grown hemp, as this ensures minimal exposure to harmful chemicals. You should also look for third-party laboratory reports to verify how pure and potent your product is, and to ensure there are no contaminants.
  • Individual Variability: The effectiveness of CBD may vary from person to person; what works for one individual may not work for another.

CBD can result in a cascade of homeostasis and regulatory behaviour in the central nervous system and immune system because we have cannabinoid receptors located throughout our bodies to support these functions. We call this the endocannabinoid system. There is still much to learn about how CBD works in the body, but we already have plenty of science-based evidence to support the positive benefits of consuming this cannabis-derived chemical compound.

Date Uploaded: June 23, 2020
Last Updated: January 15, 2024

bioninja (2019). Homeostasis | BioNinja. [online] Bioninja.com.au. Available at: https://ib.bioninja.com.au/standard-level/topic-6-human-physiology/66-hormones-homeostasis-and/homeostasis.html.

Britannica (2023). Homeostasis . In: Encyclopædia Britannica. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/science/homeostasis.

Lumen Learning (2019). Homeostasis and Feedback Loops | Anatomy and Physiology I. [online] Lumenlearning.com. Available at: https://courses.lumenlearning.com/suny-ap1/chapter/homeostasis-and-feedback-loops/.

Martin, R. j. (2014). Homeostasis – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. [online] Sciencedirect.com. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/homeostasis.

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Morningstar, Inc. (2024). Hemp-CBD Market Demand Gaining Momentum While Projected to Reach $16 Billion By 2025. [online] Available at: https://www.morningstar.com/news/globe-newswire/9016187/hemp-cbd-market-demand-gaining-momentum-while-projected-to-reach-16-billion-by-2025.

Nagarkatti, P., Pandey, R., Rieder, S.A., Hegde, V.L. and Nagarkatti, M. (2009). Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs. Future Medicinal Chemistry, [online] 1(7), pp.1333–1349. doi:https://doi.org/10.4155/fmc.09.93.

Van Bakel, H. (n.d.). World’s First Cannabis Chromosome Map Reveals the Plant’s Evolutionary History | Mount Sinai – New York. [online] Mount Sinai Health System. Available at: https://www.mountsinai.org/about/newsroom/2018/worlds-first-cannabis-chromosome-map-reveals-the-plants-evolutionary-history.

www.psych.ox.ac.uk. (n.d.). Major trials to test effectiveness of cannabidiol on psychosis — Department of Psychiatry. [online] Available at: https://www.psych.ox.ac.uk/news/major-trials-to-test-effectiveness-of-cannabidiol-on-psychosis.

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Directions for Use:

  • Shake well before use
  • Add dose directly to your pet’s food, stirring it in if necessary
  • Use up to twice daily – (See dosage table for guidelines)
  • Store in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight

Weight of Pet Regular Dosage Strong Dosage
Up to 20lbs/9kg 1 to 4 drops 4 to 8 drops
20 to 40lbs/9-18kg 2 to 8 drops 8 to 16 drops
Over 40lbs/18kg 4 to 20 drops 16 to 40 drops

Contains Zero THC, chlorophyll free

*This product is sold for use by pets only, as it contains CBD Isolate.

We recommend discussing the use of CBD with a qualified vet, especially if your pet is pregnant or nursing a litter.

Keep out of sight or reach of children.