Learn how cannabidiol works

Part one of our guide to CBD oil taught you what CBD oil is, where it comes from, how it’s made and that CBD oil will not get you high. In this article, you’ll learn about how CBD (and CBD oil) works with your body.

CBD oil is not legally available without a prescription in Australia. In many other countries, CBD has become a nutritional supplement and can be purchased over the counter. While it’s a great supplement, it’s not just another multivitamin; it has therapeutic benefits that can help with numerous health conditions. 

By the end of this article, you’ll understand how CBD oil interacts with your body and how it can support good health. In order to do so, you’ll learn:

Defining ‘healthy’

health is defined as homeostasis

When you think of a healthy body, you may think of someone fit or athletic. You may think of a friend who never gets sick, or a colleague who rarely misses a day of work. When we talk about health or the definition of healthy, we’re referring to your body being in a state of ideal balance (homeostasis).

Your body is in constant flux, regulating different processes and biological changes which are influenced by external factors such as germs and viruses. When there’s an imbalance; an excess or deficit of something internally, you begin to feel unwell or show signs of poor health. For example, fever occurs when your body isn’t regulating, or keeping your body temperature in homeostasis.

From a scientific perspective, you’re healthy when your body is dynamically maintaining homeostasis. Homeostasis is when your body is keeping a delicate internal balance, an equilibrium, which allows your body to function smoothly. A single change in your physiology often impacts multiple functions, not just the one you notice most. One of the primary systems in our bodies that is responsible for regulation is the endocannabinoid system.

Overview of the endocannabinoid system

the endocannabinoid system help keep homeostasis

The endocannabinoid system is the messaging system that helps send signals through our body and plays a role in helping us stay in homeostasis. There are three parts to the endocannabinoid system:

  1. Endocannabinoids
  2. Receptors
  3. Enzymes

Our body creates two endocannabinoids: Anandamide and 2AG. Anandamide is also known as the bliss molecule. It can create the sensation of runners high, or the feeling you experience when meditating. When Anandamide is broken down the ‘bliss’ you feel dissipates. There are two cannabinoid receptors CB1, in the central nervous system and CB2, in the peripheral nervous system. There are thought to be more endocannabinoid receptors than any other receptors in the human body.

When something goes awry in your system, the endocannabinoids travel to the endocannabinoid receptors to help you regulate and maintain homeostasis. THC acts mainly on the cannabinoid system in our bodies. CBD, however, interacts with multiple receptor systems in our bodies and therefore has a broader impact on our system.

How CBD (and CBD oil) works

CBD slows the breakdown of endocannabinoids

While cannabidiol is a cannabinoid, it doesn’t bond directly with either of the cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2). Scientists believe that CBD actually works in your body by slowing down the breakdown of endocannabinoids that already exist within your body. By slowing the breakdown, your body is able to use them more readily and more efficiently. With greater efficiency in your systems, your body has the ability to reduce inflammation in our immune system and nervous system.

On top of helping to modulate cannabinoid receptors, CBD also impacts the:

  • Dopamine receptors – regulating mood and potentially addiction
  • Opioid receptors – regulating pain
  • Serotonin receptors – regulating mood, anxiety and possibly addiction

We know that these receptors help to regulate different bodily functions and responses. There is some debate around how many bodily functions the endocannabinoid system manages. However, there’s research that shows that the endocannabinoid system helps regulate about 15 major bodily functions:

ECS helps regulate about 15 bodily functions

We also know that CBD impacts these receptors. The challenge is that we are still very early in the scientific research phase of knowing exactly how CBD impacts each of these systems in humans. 

There are multiple types of CBD oil. Some CBD oil contains only cannabidiol, and other CBD oil may contain THC, terpenes and/or flavonoids. Each compound has particular properties and benefits for the body. Having different compounds in a CBD oil gives the oil a range of health benefits and properties that CBD only oils (CBD isolate) don’t provide.

How long does it take for CBD oil to work?

In answering this question, we need to look at all of the factors that may impact how long it will take CBD oil to work for you. You must remember that your body and the way it functions is different from everyone else’s so there isn’t really a standard answer to this question. Here are the things you need to think about:

  • How strong (mg/ml) and what is the quality of the CBD oil you’re taking?
  • How are you taking the oil – sublingual, ingestion, inhalation, topical?
  • How large a dose are you taking and how often / what’s your body weight?

Often your healthcare professional will give you a recommended dose and frequency. Based on the variables above, your healthcare provider may also be able to give you an estimate of how long it will take for you to feel the effects.

How does CBD (and CBD oil) work?

Cannabidiol (CBD) interacts with numerous receptors in the body including the cannabinoid, dopamine, opioid and serotonin receptors.

Scientists believe that CBD slows down the breakdown of cannabinoids and proteins that already exist in your body. By modifying receptors and optimising our systems to have greater access to critical compounds, our bodies are able to use them more readily.


The endocannabinoid system helps keep the body in homeostasis. When ingested, Cannabidiol can help optimise our body’s ability to function more smoothly. CBD interacts with the cannabinoid, dopamine, opioid and serotonin receptors in our bodies. 

Because of the wide range of interactions, CBD can help optimise many of our body’s functions. There is limited scientific research on the specific results CBD has on humans. However, we know it helps with certain illnesses and disorders. CBD has the potential to help with numerous ailments and is currently being tested to learn more.

When people say CBD, they usually mean CBD oil. There are multiple types of CBD oil available. You can think of cannabidiol as the conductor of an orchestra. The different compounds in each of the types of CBD oil, which you’ll read about in the next part of this series, can be thought of as different levels of education for that conductor. With higher education, the conductor has a bigger impact on the orchestra. Our understanding of CBD is in its infancy but we’re confident that over time, scientists will prove that CBD has benefits we can’t even currently imagine.

In the next part of our guide to CBD oil series, you’ll learn about the different types of CBD oil that exist. We’ll also explain different CBD terminology used so that when speaking with your doctor or shopping around, you know what you’re hearing and reading.