Cannabinoid receptors are an essential part of our bodies’ endocannabinoid system or ECS. It’s one of the largest neurotransmitters in the body and an integrated balancing system found in all mammals. The ECS balances a diverse range of physiological functions, including:

  • Immune system response
  • Movement and coordination
  • Sleep 
  • Mood
  • Hunger, appetite and metabolism
  • Memory and cognition
  • Sensory processing
  • Temperature 

Primary Objective of ECS: Maintain a constant internal environment, regardless of the changes in the external environment, with the cannabinoid receptors playing an essential role in how well the ECS regulates and maintains homeostasis or balance.

What Are Cannabinoid Receptors?

Cannabinoid receptors are a group of cell membrane receptors in the superfamily of the G-protein coupled receptor found throughout the body. Both humans and pets have cannabinoid receptors, which work together with chemical messengers called cannabinoids. Together, they start a sequence of reactions to return balance to the body. 

The Importance of Cannabinoid Receptors

When a function of the body stops performing as it should, your ECS synthesizes cannabinoids, resulting in cannabinoids binding with the ECS receptors to start several different cellular responses designed to return balance to the once imbalanced function.

The Location of Cannabinoid Receptors

Cannabinoid receptors are located on the surface of cells in various physiological areas, including:

    • Brain and central nervous system
    • Connective tissue
    • Immune system


  • Organs and glands


Cannabinoid Receptors Function with 3 Types of Cannabinoids

Following are three types of cannabinoids:

  1. Endocannabinoids are synthesized by your body.
  2. Phytocannabinoids are derived from plants.
  3. Synesthetic Cannabinoids are man-made compounds. 

Your body produces two important endocannabinoids — Anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). Your brain forms these endocannabinoids “on demand” and as needed in the brain, glands, connective tissues, organs, and immune cells. 

Additionally, cannabinoid receptors interact with the phytocannabinoids found in cannabis plants like hemp and marijuana. When you consume cannabis or a cannabinoid product, phytocannabinoids enter your bloodstream where they emulate the actions of endocannabinoids and interact with the body’s cannabinoid receptors. 

CB1 and CB2:  The 2 Types of Cannabinoid Receptors

The endocannabinoid system is made up of cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2).

CB1 receptors, found in the nervous system, is one of the most common types of receptors. The receptor ensures you have a healthy functioning brain. These receptors can influence your motor function, mood, memory, and your perception of pain, depending on their location in the brain. 

These brain receptors also give cannabis its psychoactive properties when THC binds to them. Even though it’s mainly found in the central nervous system, you’ll find them located throughout your body at lower densities. In other locations of your body, the receptors play a role in pregnancy, cardiovascular health, hormone production, and digestion.

CB2 receptors, located on the cells of your immune system, influences inflammation and how you respond to pathogens. Using cannabis products to treat an overactive immune system, such as allergies, arthritis, asthma, digestive issues, and autoimmune disorders, affect your CB2 receptors providing you with relief.

How Do CB1 and CB2 Receptors Function with the Endocannabinoids?

CB1 and CB2 receptors work differently with the endocannabinoids. The endocannabinoid 2-AG is a full agonist— a chemical that attaches to a receptor, activating it to produce a physiological response — of CB1 and CB2 receptors. 

However, Anandamide is a partial agonist of CB1 and CB2 receptors. It attaches with both receptors to activate them to trigger a physiological response. Even though Anandamide attaches with the receptors and activates them, it doesn’t stimulate a strong physiological response.

Interesting Fact:  Each person has a number, balance, and concentration of cannabinoid receptors that’s unique to them.

The Function of Cannabinoid Receptors

Cannabinoids bind with cannabinoid receptors. When your body synthesizes endocannibinoids or plant rich with phytocannabinoids, cannabinoids enter your bloodstream, looking for ECS receptors in the brain and other places in the body that they can attach themselves to. 

Once cannabinoids bind themselves with a cannabinoid receptor, the receiving neuron delivers a message to carry out different cellular responses required for proper functioning and balance. The endocannabinoid system turns off the sequence of reactions by sending out metabolic enzymes that degrade and break down the endocannabinoids when it realizes that the once irregular function has become regular again. 

Cannabinoids and endocannabinoid receptors convey their messages by releasing chemicals from a neuron, which travels across the synapse and binds itself to certain receptors found on a close by neuron known as postsynaptic cell.

The ECS activates the postsynaptic neuron by releasing endocannabinoids that go backward through the synapse and to the presynaptic neuron to bind to the cannabinoid receptors. Your natural cannabinoids can control the sequence of event after a neuron is activated. Cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors control how messages are delivered, received, and processed. 

How Cannabis Plants Affect Cannabinoid Receptors

Cannabis plants include hemp and marijuana. They contain over 100 naturally producing cannabinoids. When these cannabinoids interact with the receptors of your endocannabinoid system, they produce effects. 

When you consume a cannabis product, these phytocannabinoids replicate the function of endocannabinoids in your body, such as Anandamide and 2-AG to influence your body’s systems. The blood carries and delivers these compounds to your brain and other organs in your body and introduces them to the cannabinoid receptors. Some evidence suggests that people with an underperforming endocannabinoid system can take cannabinoids derived from cannabis to support it. If your body doesn’t produce enough cannabinoids for your ECS to function properly, consuming cannabis with cannabinoids can fix it. 

THC and CBD are the two main cannabinoids in cannabis that interact with the cannabinoid receptors differently and produce different effects. THC is marijuana and a direct agonist of the CB1 receptors and once absorbed, it produces intoxicating effects. CBD doesn’t cause any intoxicating effects because it doesn’t attach itself directly with the CB1 receptors in the brain.

We hope that knowing more about CB1 and CB2 receptors has added to your knowledge of CBD product usage and will help you to understand the effects of CBD products on your health.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ShowGrow or any other agency.

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