How Does Marijuana Work in the Body? | Arbors Wellness
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How Does Marijuana Work in the Body?

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There are a variety of ways beyond smoking to utilize medical marijuana such as vaping flower or concentrates, using edibles, tinctures, and topicals like balms or lotions. These various medicines are used to tackle a wide array of health issues including cancers, crohn’s disease, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and chronic pain to name a few. With such a wide range of symptoms, how does cannabis interact with the body to help treat or alleviate such issues? The answer is a system found in humans and a majority of animal species: the endocannabinoid system.

What is the Endocannabinoid System?

The endocannabinoid system is the link between our brain and body; it connects the immune system, nervous system, and organs through a series of receptors found throughout the body to the brain. These receptors have differing tasks depending on where they are located but the overall objective is homeostasis: equilibrium between these interdependent systems of the body. In a way, the endocannabinoid system is like a stereo equalizer; it regulates the incoming signals and adjusts the levels to distribute the sound in such a way to maintain a cohesive, balanced mix.

The body naturally produces cannabinoids called endocannabinoids to bind to these receptors which maintain balance throughout the various physiological networks. The endocannabinoid system is essentially a mind-body bridge named after the plant that led to its discovery: cannabis. Marijuana produces phytocannabinoids, cannabinoids like THC or CBD that bind to the same receptors that endocannabinoids do. In fact, the terpenes that give marijuana its smell and flavor also bind to these receptors for further benefits and palliative effects. Different parts of the body react to cannabinoids in a variety of ways. The numerous cannabinoids also bind to a multitude of receptors all over the body, the most prevalent being CB1 and CB2 receptors.

What are CB1 and CB2 Receptors?

The endocannabinoid system is composed of two types of receptors that tend to occur in particular parts of the body. The CB1 receptor is primarily found in the nervous system, connective tissues, glands, and organs. The majority of these receptors are in the hippocampus, cerebellum, and basal ganglia, areas of the brain responsible for voluntary motor function, memory, and emotion. The cannabinoid THC has a high affinity for binding with this receptor which contributes to the psychoactive effects of cannabis. The other class of receptors are CB2 that are found in the immune and gastrointestinal systems. These receptors help balance intestinal inflammatory response, immune system regulation, and the mediation of analgesic effects in the peripheral nervous system.

Why Does Marijuana Affect People Differently?

While everyone has an endocannabinoid system, we each have a unique version. Think of it like fingerprints. Everyone has fingerprints, but they are unique to each individual. In a similar way, everyone has CB1 and CB2 receptors, but everyone also has their particular expression of them. The exact number of receptors and their locations are highly subjective, which can result in a variety of responses to a single strain or medicated product. Even when a particular strain has a well known lineage with test results from a reliable laboratory, the results will still vary from person to person depending on how their particular cannabinoid system is composed. This is why it is important to know how certain cannabinoids and methods of medicating will affect you specifically. It’s a good idea to keep a journal for reference to determine what to expect from strains or various methods of medicating. For a better understanding of how to keep a marijuana journal consult our guide Starting a Medical Marijuana Journal and Treatment Plan.

Interested in learning more about medical cannabis treatments? Schedule a consultation with an expert. If you’re in the Ann Arbor area, contact the team at Arbors Wellness for a free consultation.