We hear a lot about the role that CBD plays in the endocannabinoid system which regulates many important functions for our body mainly due to the fact that the receptors of this system are exclusively sensitive to cannabinoids. However, still very few people talk about the impact of cannabinoids on the rest of the systems in our body. The endocannabinoid system is not the only one that regulates our nervous system and our immune system. The serotonin system is also involved in this process and does not play a less important role than the endocannabinoid system.
As you can guess, if you are told about the serotonin system, it is because CBD directly impacts this system. Just as much as it impacts the endocannabinoid system.
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CBD and its interaction with the body
CBD belongs to a certain family of molecules called cannabinoids. There are hundreds of cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. The best known are CBD, THC, CBG, CBC and CBN.
Our bodies also produce cannabinoids. They are called endocannabinoids since “endo” means internal. The most well-known endocannabinoid is anandamide and it is very similar to CBD. They are therefore molecules naturally produced by our body and are part of a complex system of molecules: the endocannabinoid system. This system notably includes receptors, neurotransmitters, hormones and proteins which interact with each other. It’s actually a system made up of thousands of different chemical reactions.
Via the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2, the endocannabinoid system plays a big role in many important functions for our body. CB1 and CB2 are sensitive to all types of cannabinoids and are responsible for regulating our nervous system and our immune system. The consumption of CBD impacts these receptors, which explains the many benefits of the molecule.
It is important to understand that CB1 and CB2 are cannabinoid receptors but are not the only molecules that interact with the cannabinoid system. It is a complex system of receptors, neurotransmitters, hormones and other molecules. A known neurotransmitter that is very important for our general well-being is serotonin. This molecule actually plays a role as crucial as CB1 and CB2 since it impacts many functions regulated through these receptors. However, it does this through other receptors that are also sensitive to CBD and anandamide, so cannabinoids also have a huge impact on the serotonin system which regulates many of the same functions as the endocannabinoid system.
Serotonin and its impact on the body
Serotonin is considered to be a neurotransmitter by the vast majority of scientists although opinions are divided on this and some say it is a hormone. It is in any case a molecule produced by our body within the brain and in the intestines. One of its peculiarities is that it does not cross the border between blood and brain. Implying that the serotonin produced by our brain stays in our brain. An even more interesting and surprising fact about serotonin is that there is no way yet to measure its presence in our brains. Only in our blood where we find serotonin which was produced in the intestines.
So in concrete terms, apart from the fact that it is a neurotransmitter, what is its role? The role of a neurotransmitter is to regulate the intensity of messages transmitted between neurons in our brain and between nerve cells in the rest of the body.
Impact on the nervous system
Many people refer to serotonin as “happiness molecule”. This is because it has a great impact on our mood and the pleasure we may experience which has implications for stress, anxiety and depression. This molecule also directly impacts our sleep by generating a hormone called melatonin which is responsible for regulating our sleep cycle.
Impact on the immune system
Aside from its important role in the functioning and regulation of our nervous system, serotonin is even more important for our digestive system. In fact, the majority of the serotonin found in our body is not produced in the brain but in the intestines. The blood platelets in our body also release serotonin to speed up the process of wound healing.
Like the CB1 and CB2 receptors, serotonin impacts our nervous system and our immune system. It does so through 6 receivers. In this article, we'll cover those that can be impacted by consuming CBD.
Impact of CBD on the Serotonin System
It is only recently that the impact of CBD on serotonin has been recognized as this molecule is gaining more and more interest. As a result, much research has successfully shown that consuming CBD does indeed have a positive impact on the serotonin system, but the mechanism of this impact has not yet been fully understood.
What we know so far is that CBD interacts with 3 different serotonin receptors: 5-HT1A, 5-HT2A and 5-HT3A.
The potential that CBD has for reducing stress and anxiety is well known. What is interesting is that it is not only through CB1 that CBD has a positive effect on these conditions, but also through 5-HT1A. This receptor is associated with conditions such as anxiety, addiction, appetite, sleep, pain and nausea. By attaching to this receptor, CBD has a positive impact on all of these functions. However, it is not yet clear for some of them how great the impact is and what exactly the associated mechanisms are. The state of knowledge varies greatly depending on the function. So there are already a large number of studies on the impact of this interaction on sleep, anxiety and appetite but only two studies on its impact on addiction. CBD also increases the presence of a crucial endocannabinoid: anandamide. Anandamide is very similar to CBD in its impact on CB1 and 5-HT1A which enhances the benefits of CBD.
The 5-HT2A receptor is associated with stress, anxiety, headaches, and psychedelic experiences. CBD has very little to do with this molecule, but its presence changes its shape slightly. This change in shape has an indirect impact and prevents certain molecules that could have a negative impact on this receptor from attaching to it. This is partly why CBD is considered an anti-psychotic.
5-HT3A is associated with changes in mood, feelings of pain and nausea. Molecules that interact with this receptor in the same way as CBD are often used to limit nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy. Again, anandamide has the same effect on 5-HT3A as CBD and since CBD stimulates its production, the positive impact is all the greater.
In later articles we will analyze the impact that the serotonin system and the endocannabinoid system have on specific functions or conditions like sleep, depression, digestion and many more.