CB1 and CB2 Receptors - Comparison Guide

The brain uses neuroreceptors to process cannabinoids. These neuroreceptors handle both body-generated cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) and plant-derived cannabinoids (phytocannabinoids), and they compose the delicately balanced chemical-signaling web known as the endocannabinoid system.

In this guide, we’ll define the brain’s CB1 and CB2 receptors, and we’ll explain how these natural neuroreceptors every human being is born with are responsible for many of the effects offered by cannabinoids. Then, we’ll discuss some of the steps you can take to repair your cannabinoid receptors if you’re concerned they’ve been damaged.

What is the endocannabinoid system?

The endocannabinoid system is a massively important regulatory system that automatically manages the flow of body-generated cannabinoids every day of our lives. When we add cannabinoids to our bodies by using cannabis and hemp products, this same endocannabinoid system processes these phytocannabinoids as well.

It’s well-understood that the endocannabinoid system is responsible for managing dozens of bodily processes as wide-ranging as metabolism and mood. In fact, there appear to be few facets of the human experience upon which the endocannabinoid system doesn’t have at least some degree of impact.

Does the body have cannabinoid receptors?

The primary components of the endocannabinoid system in the human body are the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors. It’s these two receptors that process the THC you ingest, and without the CB1 receptor in particular, you wouldn’t get high when you smoked weed. Other cannabinoids, however, don’t interact with the CB1 and CB2 receptors at all.

What does CB1 stand for?

The acronym “CB1” stands for “cannabinoid receptor 1,” a moniker scientists thought up early in the history of cannabis research. Along with the CB2 receptor, the CB1 receptor is one of the primary targets of THC in the human body.

What does CB2 stand for?

In the same vein as CB1, the acronym “CB2” is short for “cannabinoid receptor 2.” While both components of the endocannabinoid system, CB1 and CB2 receptors are responsible for widely different bodily and mental functions.

What is the difference between CB1 and CB2 receptors?

The CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors perform different functions and are found in different locations. The body’s CB1 receptors are almost entirely clustered in the brain, where they directly impact levels of endorphins like dopamine. CB2 receptors, on the other hand, are more commonly found in the peripheral nervous system, where they modulate levels of pain and inflammation.

CB1 and CB2 receptors location

In the brain, CB1 receptors are most commonly found in “core” areas like the basal ganglia, hippocampus, and cerebellum. Connected to the ancestral “lizard brain,” these areas of the human nervous system are most closely tied with feelings of euphoria and intoxication. While CB2 receptors are also reasonably abundant in the brain, they’re much more evenly spread throughout the entirety of the nervous system than CB1 receptors. 

CB1 and CB2 receptors function

Put in simple terms, CB1 receptors get you high, and CB2 receptors reduce pain. There’s a lot more to these receptors than that straightforward explanation, but it gets the point across. If intoxication is what you want out of your cannabis experience, use cannabinoids that target the CB1 receptors.

On the other hand, you’ll want to choose cannabinoids that target CB2 receptors if you’re trying to treat pain or inflammation. Plus, keep in mind that some cannabinoids don’t appear to target traditional cannabis receptor sites whatsoever.

What are CB1 receptors responsible for?

The CB1 receptors are most active in the central areas of the brain, where they regulate the expression of “endorphin” neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and glutamate. These critical neuroreceptors tirelessly perform this task whether you’ve recently ingested plant-derived cannabinoids or not.

What are CB2 receptors responsible for?

The CB2 receptors don’t have much impact on your neurochemistry. Instead, they regulate a variety of critical processes in your peripheral nervous system.

THC and a variety of other cannabinoids stimulate the CB2 receptors, and these neuroreceptors are even activated by the terpene caryophyllene. Whichever substance activates your CB2 receptors, these neuronal signaling sites exert significant control over pain and inflammation.

How do you activate CB1 receptors?

The most reliable way to activate your brain’s CB1 receptors is to use THC or a variant of this cannabinoid. Non-intoxicating cannabinoids like CBD are defined by their inability to activate your CB1 receptors, which inevitably cause feelings of intoxication when activated. To activate your CB1 receptors the strongest, consider inhaling your THC in the form of smoke or vapor.

How do you activate CB2 receptors?

Both non-intoxicating and intoxicating cannabinoids commonly activate the CB2 receptors. For instance, THC, CBD, and CBN all show activity at these peripheral nervous system receptor sites. You can also activate your body’s CB2 receptors using the terpene beta-caryophyllene.

How does CBD interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors?

CBD interacts strongly with certain unrelated neuroreceptors in your brain and peripheral nervous system, but it does not activate your cannabinoid receptors at all. On the contrary, evidence suggests that CBD may act as antagonist at these neuroreceptors, meaning it might decrease their activity.

How does CBG interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors?

Preliminary research into the non-intoxicating cannabinoid CBG suggests that it may interact with both CB1 and CB2 receptors. However, the interaction between CBG and CB1 does not appear to be intoxicating in nature.

How does THC interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors?

THC and its variants show roughly equal affinity for CB1 and CB2 receptors. When you use THC, the CB1 receptors in your brain will activate alongside the CB2 receptors located throughout your entire nervous system.

How does D8 interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors?

Delta 8 THC appears to interact with your CB1 and CB2 receptors in much the same way as the delta 9 version of this popular cannabinoid. Expect to feel intoxicated but also experience peripheral pain relief after using delta 8.

Does CBN bind to CB1 or CB2?

Research into the THC metabolite CBN seems to indicate that it has affinity for both CB1 and CB2 receptors in the human nervous system. While the experienced effects of CBN are nowhere near as intoxicating as those offered by THC or delta 8, they’re certainly mind-altering enough to give credence to the idea that this cannabinoid stimulates your CB1 neuroreceptors to some degree.

Can you damage cannabinoid receptors?

It’s unclear if this process actually “damages” your cannabinoid receptors, but when you use THC, your CB1 receptors “downregulate,” which means they become less sensitive. This CB1 downregulation can persist for up to 24 hours after consuming a single THC joint, and it persists much longer in the case of chronic THC ingestion.

The good news is that downregulated CB1 receptors fully upregulate within 4 weeks of cessation of THC use. In the meantime, though, this neuroreceptor downregulation is the biochemical process responsible for the phenomenon known as “weed tolerance.”

What is CB1 receptor desensitization?

CB1 receptor desensitization is the natural balancing process that occurs when you ingest THC. In the absence of THC, your CB1 receptors primarily process anandamide, one of the most important endocannabinoids. Using THC desensitizes your CB1 receptors to both THC and anandamide, making both substances less effective.

This loss of effectiveness of CB1 activation is generally offset by continuing to use THC. If you stop using THC, however, it can take your CB1 receptors up to a month to start processing anandamide properly again.

How do you repair cannabinoid receptors?

The best way to repair your cannabinoid receptors is to stop using cannabinoids for a short time. It is impossible to return your CB1 receptors to their normal state while using THC since disrupting the normal status of your CB1 receptors is the central function of THC use.

As soon as you stop using THC, however, your cannabinoid receptors will start to repair themselves without any need for you to take action. Within four weeks, your brain’s CB1 receptors should have returned to their original state.

How do I reset my endocannabinoid system?

You can quickly and easily reset your endocannabinoid system to its natural state by ceasing cannabis use for around four weeks. That’s the amount of time it takes for all traces of THC to be processed out of your system, and it’s also the duration your CB1 receptors need to resensitize themselves after exposure to THC, which entirely overpowers your endocannabinoid system.

For habitual THC users, taking a break might be annoying. Just remember, though, that your first high after taking a “T break” will be absolutely mind-blowing.

How fast do CB1 receptors regenerate?

THC use does not generally damage your CB1 receptors, so they do not need to regenerate except in the case of severe neurological imbalance. Your CB1 receptors will fully resensitize, however, within four weeks of your last puff of THC.

Desensitization is not the same thing as damage—THC overloads your endocannabinoid system to the point that it can’t take any more cannabinoids in, but it doesn’t permanently harm or damage these critical neuroreceptors in any way. If you’re concerned about the status of your THC receptors, rest assured that abstaining from cannabis will result in total resensitization within just a few weeks.

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