How CBD works: Receptors make you feel things

To survive, every living organism needs a way to communicate within itself in order to regulate and respond to internal and external changes.


Receptors are what makes this possible. Receptors are microscopic units that are on the outside and inside of every cell in the body. They are tiny receivers that are waiting for a specific signal to come along so they can do their job. We see, touch, feel, hear, and smell things due to different kinds of receptors throughout our body responding to changes. One of the earliest receptors discovered was a light-detecting receptor called rhodopsin which enabled organisms to see in low light conditions.  

Often, the ‘lock and key’ analogy is used to describe receptor activation because it is an incredibly specific interaction, like how your house key won’t unlock your neighbor’s house. In this analogy, the lock is the receptor and the key is the molecule that activates it. If the molecule (key) is not present, the receptor (lock) will not be activated.   

For Cannabis, the well-known example is the cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptor as the lock and CBD as the key. When you use cannabis, CBD (& other compounds) enter your body. You feel different because the CBD has interacted with the CB1 receptor and caused changes in your body. It’s important to note that our body also makes keys that activate our CB1 receptors. Nearly all animals produce these molecules called endocannabinoids. 


There are many more nuances to this subject, such as how not all keys will unlock the door. Some will keep it locked or make it harder to unlock. Some receptors can come together to form a completely new structure that acts in unique ways. It’s a really fun subject to get lost down the google rabbit hole researching! 

Receptors can sound pretty daunting but learning how different substances interact with receptors can help lead you towards finding your optimal healing routine. This gives us a greater appreciation for the complexities within our bodies and of natural medicine.

You can learn more by listening to episode 3.1 Receptors make you feel things, on the Smoke N’ Science podcast.

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