The Basics of Neurotransmitters


From CBD School: in order to understand how cannabinoids work in our body and interact with our endocannabinoid system, you need to have a basic understanding of how your nervous system and neurotransmitters work. Below are the basics written by CBD School’s own Neuroscience teacher.

Why Do We Have a Nervous System? 

Illustration Of Nervous System

The body is comprised of many different systems that work together to accomplish the body’s functions. 

You’ve got the cardiovascular system, which pumps blood throughout the body; the respiratory system, which acquires oxygen from the air we breathe; and the digestive system, which breaks down food to nourish the body. 

But none of these systems could function properly without a way of communicating. 

This is where the nervous system comes in.

For example, if the blood pressure in the body drops, the heart needs to know about it so it can pump faster to try to compensate. 

Our body uses the nervous system to send fast, real-time messages to respond to current situations. 

This is the basic reason the nervous system evolved. It is fundamentally a communication system, designed in such a way that it can quickly and directly send and receive messages throughout the body. 

The nervous system transmits sensory (sight, smell, taste, balance, and hearing information) and motor (movement) information. 

The brain, in all its complicated glory, functions as an integration center that processes and organizes these activities in the body. 

How the Nervous System Works

Let’s zoom in to the level of the neuron. 

A neuron is a specialized cell in the nervous system with finger-like projections that function as message senders and receivers. 

The axons (message senders) release chemical messengers into a tiny space between the neurons known as the synapse, and these are received by dendrites (message receivers) of the neuron on the other side of the gap. 

At a given synapse, many neurons may be sending messages to a single neuron at one time. 

Each message can be categorized as an excitatory or inhibitory signal. 

You can think of the receiving neuron as asking the question: should I fire? 

Excitatory signals can be thought of as a yes, while inhibitory signals are a no to this question. 

The neuron receiving these messages will fire an action potential (signal) if the balance of excitatory to inhibitory (yes to no) messages exceeds a certain threshold. 


Illustration Of Neurotransmitters

Messages come in the form of chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters

Some common neurotransmitters include dopamine, serotonin, glutamate, GABA and norepinephrine. Endocannabinoids, including 2-AG and anandamide, are other important neurotransmitters. 

Read Related Article:  Cannabis Online Marketing Dos and Don'ts

Neurons have specialized message receiver proteins known as receptors on their dendrites. 

They work like a lock and key: neurotransmitters bind to their receptors because their chemical structure fits into the receptor in a complimentary manner. 

When the neurotransmitter binds to the receptor, it can cause many different effects. 

The most basic effect is whether it excites or inhibits the neuron, as discussed earlier. 

So, let’s say two neurons are communicating. 

The first neuron releases excitatory neurotransmitters into the synapse. These will bind to the second neuron’s receptors. 

If enough of these bind at one time, the neuron will receive a strong enough yes signal to fire. 

Once the neuron fires, it may deliver its signal to other neurons it’s connected to. 

The body communicates through this simple passage of messages from neuron to neuron. 

Some signals eventually make it to the organs of the body, where they have their effects. 

Agonists and Antagonists 

Certain drugs, both prescription and otherwise, act on the nervous system by increasing or decreasing the activity of a certain kind of receptor. 

When ingested, these drugs travel through the bloodstream and into the nervous system, and compete with the body’s natural neurotransmitters to activate or block receptors. 

This can have a drastic effect on the signaling activity of the affected neurons. 

An agonist is a compound that activates a receptor. Just like a neurotransmitter might activate its receptor naturally, the agonist activates the receptor so it acts as if the neurotransmitter is there. 

Likewise, an antagonist is a compound that blocks a receptor. 

When an antagonist is present, it’s more difficult for the neurotransmitter to activate the receptor, meaning you need more of it to cause the same effect. 

In some cases, the antagonist blocks the neurotransmitter’s effect completely. 

How Does this Relate to Cannabinoids? 

The endocannabinoid system is part of the nervous system, and is composed of neurotransmitters (cannabinoids) and receptors that respond to these cannabinoids. 

Its functions include regulatory effects on the immune system, the appetite, and pain; and a minor role in the regulation of sleep, mood, metabolism, and cardiovascular function. 

The endocannabinoid system includes two cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2. 

They are normally activated by endocannabinoid neurotransmitters anandamide and 2-AG, but cannabinoids found in cannabis can also act on these receptors. 

When a person consumes cannabis, many different cannabinoids enter the body and have effects on cannabinoid receptors. 

[thrive_leads id='1856'] 

THC is a partial agonist of CB1 and CB2 receptors, meaning THC activates CB1 and CB2 receptors. 

When THC is consumed in sufficient amounts, it activates the receptors more than they would naturally be activated, leading to the psychoactive and regulatory effects of marijuana. 

Read Related Article:  How to Use CBD to Make Your Own Awesome Topicals

CBD, on the other hand, has a very mild antagonist action on CB1 and CB2 receptors, meaning it blocks them from being activated. 

This is why some believe it has a tempering or softening effect on THC. CBD’s main effect, however, is to inhibit FAAH. 

FAAH is an enzyme that normally breaks down anandamide, a naturally occurring cannabinoid in the brain. 

In the presence of CBD, the enzyme can’t break down anandamide, so there is more anandamide in the synapse to activate receptors. 

CBD’s main effect preserves the concentration of our body’s own cannabinoid, anandamide. 


Illustration Of CNS

The nervous system evolved as a way for the body to instantaneously send and receive messages. 

Neurons have axons (message senders), and dendrites (message receivers); and messages are transmitted across small gaps between neurons known as synapses. 

The messages sent from various neurons add up to have various effects, including telling the receiving neuron whether to fire and pass along the message. 

In terms of cannabis, CB1 and CB2 receptors are normally activated by the endocannabinoid neurotransmitters anandamide and 2-AG. 

These receptors also respond to cannabinoids in marijuana, including THC and CBD

A basic understanding of the nervous system will help anyone interested in the effects of cannabis to better understand its fascinating effects on the body and mind. 

Related posts

cannabis explanation

Brief Cannabis Explanation – What, Why, Can + Should

At CBD School, we focus primarily on educating our audience about cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive compound within cannabis that is assisting …

read more →
CBD User Guide

A Quick One Minute CBD Guide to understand the basics

CBD has remained in the shadow of THC for quite some time, but things can change quickly.  The Farm Bill …

read more →
cannabis leaf with chocolate

Top 7 Ways To Use CBD

Cannabidiol or CBD is becoming more common today. This natural compound is extracted from hemp plants and is known to …

read more →
man working with notebook and laptop

Cannabis Online Marketing Dos and Don’ts

The growing cannabis industry is hard to ignore. With 2020 projections of approximately $20 billion, there’s no wonder businesses in …

read more →
girl reading at window

Get Familiar With CBD (Advantages and Benefits of Cannabidiol)

Sponsored by our friends at A88CBD In this day and age the market is covered with CBD items to buy. …

read more →

Eco-Friendly Cannabis User: 9 Ways To Love Earth As Much As You Love Cannabis

Since more states and countries allow cannabis, the industry is subjected to thorough observation and critique. Consequently, it’s become clear …

read more →

Like it? Share it.


FREE Beginner's Guide to CBD

Interested in CBD but don’t know where to start? Get the FREE eBook and join our community of 30,000 learners.

Sign up below for our free 20-page eBook that will bring clarity and insight into the world of CBD. You’ll also be added to our newsletter featuring the latest CBD news and offers.