Why We're Wired for CBD (and THC)
July 27, 2023

Why We're Wired for CBD (and THC)

Let's first meet the cannabis plant

Written by: Timothy Culbert, MD, IFMCP

Before diving into how we're wired for cannabidiol (CBD), it's important to understand more about the cannabis plant. The term cannabis is used to identify a genus of flowering plants in the Cannabaceae family which consists of three primary species: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. The cannabis plant contains hundreds of compounds called “phytocannabinoids.” These include CBD and THC. CBD oil contains primarily cannabidiol, whereas cannabis products that can get you "high" (e.g., marijuana, more appropriately called THC cannabis) contain the compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Many mammals have cannabinoid sensitive receptors on nervous system cells and on cells in other organ systems such as the liver, heart, skin, reproductive tract, immune system, and distributed through peripheral tissues in the body. 

Why are these receptors important? It turns out that disrupted endocannabinoid signaling in our body is associated with medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, infertility, and many others. Keeping this system in balance is important for overall health. Research on CBD and THC is looking to clarify when these products might be used and the dosage that can support the endocannabinoid system and overall wellness optimally.

Cannabinoid receptors and the endocannabinoid system

Cannabinoid receptors, located throughout the body, are part of the endocannabinoid system, which is involved in a variety of physiological processes including appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory. This built-in endocannabinoid system (ECS for short) in the bodies of humans and other mammals, works to keep the body in a balanced state of function.

These endocannabinoid receptors, (abbreviated CB receptors and of which there are two types; CB1 and CB2) play a role in satiety, immune system modulation, pain control, and sleep.

CB1 receptors are primarily found in several brain regions and the central nervous system. They are also found in the cerebellum and in both male and female reproductive systems. These receptors mediate many of the psychoactive effects of cannabinoids. CB2 receptors are predominantly distributed in the immune system.

Cannabinoid receptors are activated by a neurotransmitter called anandamide. Like THC, anandamide is a cannabinoid, but one that your body makes. THC mimics the actions of anandamide, meaning that THC binds with cannabinoid receptors and activates neurons that impact the mind and body (and also causes the "high").

Unlike THC, CBD does not bind to CB1 or CB2 receptors, but instead interacts indirectly with the receptors. Specifically, CBD activates TRPV1 receptors (vanilloid receptor 1 or capsaicin receptors).

Additionally, while CBD doesn't bind to the CB1 receptor directly as THC does, CBD interacts allosterically with CB1 and changes the shape of the receptor in a way that weakens CB1's ability to bind with THC. In effect, CBD products can actually block the CB1 and CB2 receptors and achieve its therapeutic effects by instead interacting more directly with serotonin, opioid, and immune system receptors, thereby avoiding the “high” feeling associated with THC.

Healing possibilities

Considering our wiring for this plant, it's no surprise that it's been used as medicine and for other purposes throughout the world for centuries. Folk remedies and ancient medicines refer to the healing power of the leaves, seeds and roots for all sorts of ailments. The seed and flowers were recommended for difficult childbirth, convulsions, arthritic joints, rheumatism, dysentery, and insomnia.

Scientific research to evaluate the therapeutic applications for CBD and THC are just in its infancy. The marketing hype is definitely overselling at this point, but the science will catch up and CBD (and THC) will likely have some clear and more general applications for use with public health issues like anxiety, sleep, and pain. 


CBD Supplements at Natural Mental Health

  • Sleep CBD is a blend of broad-spectrum CBD (30 mg per serving) combined with 5 mg of CBN (cannabinol) and 3 mg of melatonin. CBN is a form of phytocannabinoid shown to be more specifically helpful for sleep, and melatonin is nature’s internal timekeeper, helping set a more consistent bedtime. CBD Sleep may improve a variety of challenging sleep issues, and is especially helpful for those who have trouble falling asleep. 

  • Calm CBD combines 30 mg of broad-spectrum CBD with 200 mg of l-theanine, an amino acid that can also help reduce anxiety and stabilize mood. Together, they may improve stress resilience and calm anxiety without sedation. Taken at bedtime, CBD Calm may also be helpful for those who tend to wake in the middle of the night.


  • Restore CBD gummies are infused with the highest quality, all-natural, US-grown hemp. Each gummy offers a precise dose of broad-spectrum CBD to support your endocannabinoid system with naturally occurring, plant-based ingredients. This synergy of multiple cannabinoids work together for the greatest impact to restore your natural resilience. 


  1. Abrams, D. (2018). The therapeutic effects of Cannabis and cannabinoids: An update from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report. European journal of internal medicine49, 7-11.
  2. Atakan, Z. (2012). Cannabis, a complex plant: different compounds and different effects on individuals. Therapeutic advances in psychopharmacology, 2(6), 241-54. doi:10.1177/2045125312457586
  3. Ballard, C. R., & Junior, M. R. M. (2019). Health benefits of flavonoids. In Bioactive compounds (pp. 185-201). Woodhead Publishing.
  4. Bridgeman, M. B., & Daniel T. A. (2017). Medicinal cannabis: History, pharmacology, And implications for the acute care setting. P&T: A peer-reviewed journal for formulary management, 42(3), 180-188.
  5. Cox-Georgian, D., Ramadoss, N., Dona, C., & Basu, C. (2019). Therapeutic and medicinal uses of terpenes. In Medicinal Plants (pp. 333-359). Springer, Cham.
  6. Morales, P. et al. (2017). Molecular targets of the phytocannabinoids: A complex picture. Progress in the chemistry of organic natural products, 103, 103-131. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-45541-9_4
  7. Noreen N., Muhammad, F., Akhtar, B., Azam, F., & Anwar, M. I. (2018). Is cannabidiol a promising substance for new drug development? A review of its potential therapeutic applications. Crit Rev Eukaryot Gene Expr, 28(1), 73-86. doi: 10.1615/CritRevEukaryotGeneExpr.2018021528. 
  8. Sarris, J. et al. (2020). Medicinal cannabis for psychiatric disorders: A clinically-focused systematic review. BMC Psychiatry, 20(1). doi:10.1186/s12888-019-2409-8
  9. Wong, S. S., & Wilens, T. E. (2017). Medical cannabinoids in children and adolescents: a systematic review. Pediatrics140(5).