How CBD works and the science behind cannabidiol

Artigo actualizado em March, 2024

Recently, cannabidiol (CBD) has taken the wellness world by storm. From oils and tinctures to gummies and topicals, CBD products can now be found on shelves all over the world. Although many people have already experienced the benefits of CBD first-hand, it is crucial to understand the science behind this increasingly popular compound. Understanding how CBD works in the body is essential for making informed decisions about its use and exploring its potential therapeutic applications.

The Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

At the heart of CBD’s effects is the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The SEC is a complex cell signaling system present in all mammals, and its main function is to maintain homeostasis, i.e. balance in the body. It is made up of three main components: endocannabinoids, receptors and enzymes.

Endocannabinoids are natural cannabinoids produced by the body. The two best-known endocannabinoids are anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). These endocannabinoids bind to cannabinoid receptors known as CB1 and CB2, which are present throughout the body, but are most abundant in the brain and immune system, respectively.

CBD definition

CBD is a phytocannabinoid, a cannabinoid compound derived from plants. It is one of over a hundred cannabinoids found in cannabis plants, including hemp and marijuana. Unlike its notorious relative, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD is not psychoactive, i.e. it does not cause a “high” feeling.

CBD is mainly obtained from hemp plants, which contain high levels of CBD and low levels of THC. Marijuana, on the other hand, has higher concentrations of THC and is known for its psychoactive properties. This crucial distinction makes hemp-derived CBD legal in many countries, as long as it contains less than a specific percentage of THC (0.2%, in the case of Portugal).

Interaction with the endocannabinoid system

Once consumed, CBD interacts in a unique way with SEC. Unlike endocannabinoids, CBD does not bind directly to CB1 or CB2 receptors. Instead, it influences the ESA indirectly by modulating receptor activity and increasing the production of endocannabinoids.

CBD is believed to inhibit the enzyme fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), which is responsible for degrading anandamide. As a result, anandamide levels increase, leading to prolonged activation of CB1 receptors, which play a role in pain perception, mood and memory.

In addition, CBD can indirectly influence CB2 receptors in the immune system, helping to reduce inflammation and promote immune system balance. Although CBD’s interaction with the ESA is not yet fully understood, research suggests that it plays a significant role in maintaining general well-being.

The effect of CBD on neurotransmitters and pain perception

In addition to its interaction with SEC, CBD also affects various neurotransmitters in the brain. CBD has been shown to modulate the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in mood regulation and mental well-being. By influencing serotonin receptors, CBD has shown potential as an anxiolytic, helping to reduce anxiety and stress levels in some people.

In addition, the impact of CBD on pain perception has been widely studied. By interacting with vanilloid receptors, CBD can help relieve pain and inflammation. This makes it a promising option for people looking for natural alternatives to traditional pain management methods.

Anti-inflammatory and anxiolytic properties of CBD

CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties are well documented, and this aspect of the compound has immense therapeutic potential. Inflammation is a natural immune response to injury or infection, but chronic inflammation can lead to various health problems. CBD’s ability to reduce inflammation can be beneficial in conditions such as arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and more.

Anxiety disorders, which affect millions of people around the world, and traditional treatments are often accompanied by unwanted side effects. CBD’s interaction with serotonin receptors in the brain offers some hope for people struggling with anxiety. Although more research is needed, initial studies suggest that CBD can help manage generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder (SAD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

CBD and neuroprotection

The potential neuroprotective properties of CBD have attracted significant attention from researchers. Studies have shown that CBD can protect brain cells and help treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

One of the ways CBD can provide neuroprotection is through its antioxidant properties. Oxidative stress, caused by an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body, can lead to cell damage and contribute to the development of neurodegenerative conditions. The antioxidant effects of CBD can counteract this damage, promoting overall brain health.

In addition, CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties may play a role in protecting the brain. Inflammation is associated with several neurological disorders, and by reducing inflammation, CBD can help mitigate some of the damage caused by these conditions.

CBD and the immune system

The influence of CBD on the immune system has been a growing area of interest among researchers. Although more studies are needed to fully understand the impact of CBD on immune function, initial results suggest that CBD may have immunomodulatory properties.

CBD’s interaction with CB2 receptors on immune cells can help regulate the immune response, reducing inflammation and potentially helping to treat autoimmune conditions. In addition, CBD’s anti-inflammatory effects may contribute to its positive influence on the immune system, supporting the body’s ability to maintain balance and health.

CBD safety and side effects

CBD’s safety profile has come under scrutiny, especially as its popularity continues to grow. In general, CBD is considered safe for most people when used in appropriate doses. However, some people may experience mild side effects such as dry mouth, drowsiness or changes in appetite. It is essential to start with a low dose and gradually increase it as necessary to minimize the risk of adverse effects.

It’s worth mentioning that CBD can interact with certain medications. Before incorporating CBD into your wellness routine, it is crucial to consult a healthcare professional, especially if you are taking prescription drugs or have underlying health conditions.

Legal and regulatory aspects

The legal status of CBD varies from country to country, making it essential that consumers understand the laws in their respective countries or states. In some regions, CBD is fully legalized, while in others it may only be available for medical purposes or even be completely illegal.

Unfortunately, the lack of uniformity in CBD regulations has led to challenges in the industry. Consumers should give priority to buying CBD products from reputable and transparent companies (yes, like HempyRoots 😉 ) that provide third-party laboratory testing to ensure product quality and compliance with legal requirements.

And in Portugal?

In the context of Portuguese law, understanding the legality of CBD is crucial for people interested in its use. Portugal has adopted a progressive approach to cannabis, including CBD, for both medical and personal use.

THC limits: CBD products sold in Portugal must meet specific THC limits to be considered legal. Products with THC levels higher than 0.2% are not allowed for sale, as they fall into the category of cannabis containing higher concentrations of THC, which remains illegal for recreational use.

Quality and Safety: The Portuguese government attaches great importance to ensuring the quality and safety of CBD products available on the market. As a result, reputable companies adhere to strict manufacturing and quality standards to comply with regulations and guarantee consumer safety.

Travel Considerations: It is important to note that while possession of small amounts of CBD products may be decriminalized in Portugal, this may not be true in other countries. If you plan to travel internationally with CBD products, it is extremely important to research the specific laws and regulations of the destination country to avoid possible legal problems.


The rise in popularity of CBD has sparked a wave of curiosity about its potential benefits and mechanisms of action. Understanding the science behind cannabidiol is vital to making informed decisions about its use and identifying its possible applications in health and well-being.

CBD’s interaction with the endocannabinoid system, its impact on neurotransmitters and pain perception, as well as its anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic and neuroprotective properties, all contribute to its therapeutic potential. Although research into CBD is ongoing and will continue to be so for many years to come, the initial results are certainly promising and researchers are continuing to explore its multifaceted effects.

When considering integrating CBD into your wellness routine, remember to consult a healthcare professional, especially if you are taking medication or have underlying health concerns. Armed with a deeper understanding of the scientific basis of CBD, you can embark on your journey with this natural compound, exploring its potential to support your overall health and well-being.

And now that you’ve reached the end of this article, how about exploring some of the best CBD products available on the Portuguese market? Take a look at our online store and find the CBD product that’s right for you. Questions? Get in touch and we’ll be happy to help and advise you on the best product.

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