How Many Cannabinoid Receptors are There in a Human Body?

Nov 23, 2023

Mellow Fellow's Introvert Disposable with leaves behind it.

Every single mammal (that means humans, too) has an endocannabinoid system (ECS). The endocannabinoid system is a pretty new discovery, only going back a little over three decades. 

The significance of this regulatory network has become more and more evident as it’s researched, and its pivotal role in translating the effects of cannabinoids is what brings us here. 

Understanding the endocannabinoid system and the science behind its receptors helps us comprehend the intricacies of cannabinoids and their impact on our well-being and health. Think of the endocannabinoid system as a train and the receptors as the conductors responsible for orchestrating a bunch of bodily functions in symphony and harmony. 

Key Takeaways

  • Cannabinoid receptors are responsible for regulating and modulating many different physiological processes to maintain homeostasis. 
  • CB1 and CB2 receptors are the most well-known and responsible for regulating responses in mood, pain, immunity, and inflammation. 
  • The discovery of new Cannabinoid receptors is a gateway to new therapeutic avenues in the use of medical cannabis. 
  • Different cannabinoids cause different effects in the endocannabinoid system; for example, THC is psychoactive, while CBD is not. 

The Endocannabinoid System Explained

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) remained shrouded in mystery for thousands of years before its discovery in the late 1980s. Its discovery marked a watershed moment in the cannabis world by redefining our understanding of human biology, cannabis, and health, which continues to be a topic of constant research and interest. 

Raphael Mechoulam, the “father of cannabis research,” was the first to identify Cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system in 1988. His team found that CB1 receptors in rats would activate when given THC, and subsequent research unveiled the role CB1 receptors play in physiological processes, from stress response to pain perception. 

A couple of years later, a second cannabinoid receptor, CB2, was discovered to play an important role in physiological responses associated with the immune system and inflammation regulation. 

Scientists continued to research its functions, discovering three critical components: 

  • Endocannabinoids: these are molecular messengers that transmit signals throughout the endocannabinoid system, regulating processes like mood, appetite, and pain perception. 
  • Enzymes: the function of enzymes is to degrade endocannabinoids once they’ve finished their task (delivered the message). Enzymes like fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL) break down endocannabinoids and prevent excessive activation of receptors. 
  • Receptors: these are specialized proteins found throughout the body that act as gatekeepers, receiving and interpreting messages from endocannabinoids and activating physiological responses. The most well-known are the CB1 and CB2 receptors.

A Dive Into Cannabinoid Receptors

Woman sitting on the floor doing yoga.

Cannabinoid receptors like CB1 and CB2 are crucial to the endocannabinoid system. 

CB1 receptors are usually concentrated in the central nervous system, which plays a part in regulating mood, memory, pain, stress, and more. CB2 receptors are found in the peripheral nervous system and immune cells and play a role in modulating immune responses. 

Here’s an important fact: CB1 receptors are responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabinoids like THC, while CB2 receptors don’t produce psychoactive effects. 

Cannabinoids are produced in the body, but when we get them from cannabis, a lot can change. Cannabis is packed with cannabinoids that fit like a puzzle into our receptors, producing interactions and effects that your own body can’t produce. 

THC, the main psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana, binds and activates CB1 receptors, leading to getting “high.”

However, different cannabinoids can produce different effects and benefits. While THC and its non-psychoactive cousin CBD are the most well-known, there are over 100 minor and major cannabinoids in the cannabis plant that can produce an array of effects and potential benefits.

The Known Cannabinoid Receptors: CB1 and CB2

CB1 receptors are primarily located along the central nervous system, with the brain and regions associated with mood, memory, and pain containing the highest concentrations of these receptors. These receptors play a crucial role in regulating and activating physiological processes related to memory, mood, and emotions.

Additionally, CB1 receptors can trigger psychoactive effects when exposed to THC or similar cannabinoids. Their presence is pivotal in maintaining cognitive and emotional balance within the body.

On the other hand, CB2 receptors are predominantly found in the peripheral nervous system and immune cells, particularly in white blood cells, tonsils, and the spleen. These receptors function to regulate and control inflammation and immune processes.

Unlike CB1 receptors, CB2 receptors are non-psychoactive. They play a significant role in the potential therapeutic applications of cannabinoids that do not induce psychoactive effects, particularly in reducing inflammation.

The endocannabinoid system's intricate interplay with CB2 receptors underscores their importance in exploring cannabinoid-based therapies with therapeutic potential.

Are There More Cannabinoid Receptors?

With the endocannabinoid system being a fairly new research subject, it’s not strange that we ask ourselves whether there’s more to be discovered. 

Traditional medicine may raise skepticism regarding the effects of cannabis and the endocannabinoid system on health and well-being, but the regular research on this synergy makes it a constant point of interest. 

Ongoing research is expanding our overall knowledge, including the potential discovery of receptors that go beyond the CB1 and CB2 ones we already know. 

The discovery of receptors like GPR55 may play a potential role in regulating bone density and blood pressure, while GPR18 and GPR119 might be associated with immune and glucose responses. 

Additionally, research has uncovered potential receptors like TRPV1, which is responsible for the effects of spicy things like chili peppers, and PPARs, caught up in metabolic processes.

Discovering and understanding the function of different cannabinoid receptors marks a pivotal moment in advancing the therapeutic applications of cannabis. The more we know about how each one works and what they do, the more opportunities for targeted effects and benefits.

Final Thoughts

If there’s one thing we know about the endocannabinoid system, it’s that it plays a crucial role in maintaining and regulating many physiological processes to achieve homeostasis. 

Different cannabinoids can have a wide-reaching effect on overall well-being and specific body processes, anywhere from the nervous system and immune response to mood regulation and cellular functions. 

The importance of research and application of cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system reaches into the discovery of new avenues for therapeutic application, refining specific effects and benefits by understanding why they affect the body the way that they do. 

You may be curious about how different cannabinoids affect your body and mind, interacting with your endocannabinoid system. Mellow Fellow is your buddy when it comes to finding high-quality cannabinoid products that work. 

If you’re looking for the best of both worlds, you’ll enjoy Mellow Fellow’s Motivation and Recover Duo, packed with minor and major cannabinoids that will get you out of bed and back into it. 

Mellow Fellow Motivation and Recover vape cartridge duo.

If the calmer side of cannabis is your thing, the Introvert Blend is the perfect fit, while the Euphoria Blend is a great choice for those seeking adventure, and the Charged Blend is the perfect company for those seeking a boost of energy. 

As we continue to highlight the importance of ongoing research concerning the endocannabinoid system, we make the most of what’s already been discovered. 

The pivotal role of CB1 and CB2 receptors has already made way for targeted therapeutic application, and the continued exploration will surely give us more answers and more options when using cannabis for our own well-being and general health.

Cannabinoid Receptors in the Human Body: Frequently Asked Questions

What Exactly are Cannabinoid Receptors, and Why are They Crucial for Our Body?

Cannabinoid receptors are found in the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and are responsible for causing the effects of various cannabinoids and regulating bodily processes.

Are There Any Known Differences in Cannabinoid Receptor Distribution Among Individuals?

Every person may experience different responses to cannabinoids, which can be due to variations in cannabinoid receptor distribution.

How Do THC, CBD, and Other Cannabinoids Interact with These Receptors?

Cannabinoids like THC, CBD, Delta 8, Delta 10, HHC, and others bind to cannabinoid receptors and activate or modulate activity and bodily functions.

Can the Number or Functionality of Cannabinoid Receptors Change Over Time or Due to External Factors?

Since every person’s endocannabinoid system is different, the number and functionality of receptors can change over time, affecting sensitivity and overall effects.

What’s the Significance of Potential Future Discoveries of New Cannabinoid Receptors?

The discovery of new cannabinoid receptors may uncover new avenues of therapeutic and medical application by providing a deeper understanding of how cannabinoids impact biological processes and overall well-being.

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