Where Are the Cannabinoid Receptors Located? And What Do They Do?

Interest in cannabinoid receptors is growing largely because interest in medical and recreational marijuana is growing. Many new and potential users of cannabis want to understand:

  • What are cannabinoid receptors?
  • Where are the cannabinoid receptors located?
  • How do cannabinoids work?
  • What is the function of these receptors?
  • How do these relate to both medical and recreational use of the product?

Along with the growing public interest in all things cannabis, research communities worldwide have taken up the task of better understanding cannabinoid receptors. More importantly, those studying marijuana want to understand how it functions as a transmitter to make these receptors provide better health and wellness.

What are Cannabinoid Receptors? 

Cannabinoid definition

So, what are cannabinoid receptors, exactly? Simply put, they are neuro-chemical receptors which help in the transmission of bodily signals.

Also known as endocannabinoid receptors, they transmit signals which aid in the regulation of various physiological processes. These processes include pain and mood management, appetite control, memory functions, and more.

Researchers have identified two receptors: CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors readily accept THC, while the CB2 receive CBN.

Cannabidiol (CBD), another active component in marijuana, does not readily fit with either receptor. Given the known therapeutic uses, researchers are confident they will identify the reason. It is hoped this will lead to more treatment possibilities.

Cannabinoid Definition 

When looking for a cannabinoid definition online, one of the first search results suggests the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. This reference states the definition as: “any of various chemical constituents (such as THC or cannabinol) of cannabis or marijuana.”

To properly understand cannabinoid receptors, a more expansive definition of cannabinoid is needed. The above-referenced definition is technically correct. BUT, it omits one very important fact: cannabinoids are also produced naturally in the human body.

Cannabinoid receptors accept the transmission of bodily signals via cannabinoids, naturally-occurring or plant-based. Natural cannabinoids are endogenous. That is, they occur and are produced naturally within the human body to aid in regulation. Plant-based cannabinoids are derived from marijuana.

The dictionary definition omits this important medical fact which could needlessly bias some contemplating cannabis. This information is provided to help others make an informed choice.

What is a Receptor? 

Where are the cannabinoid receptors located? As with other receptors, it depends on the function.

Receptors of all kinds occur throughout the body because nerves, tissue, and organs exist throughout. Not all are cannabinoid receptors, but all are vital to normal human function.

In general, receptors allow the transmission of neurochemicals which carry signals to the brain. These signals allow the brain to communicate with the rest of the body with the brain acting as a central command.

Chemical reactions of all kinds occur in the body naturally. Yet, chemicals are also introduced from external sources, such as a pill, a drink, or something smoked.

Regardless of the source, if the chemical fits with any of the receptors, it will be accepted and the body will put it to work where needed.

So, Where are the Cannabinoid Receptors Located?

Exactly where are the cannabinoid receptors located?

Cannabinoid receptors are located throughout the human body. An excellent infographic titled The Human Endocannabinoid System shows the general locations of CB1 and CB2 receptors.

Most noteworthy is that CB1 receptors are focused on the spinal cord and central nervous system. Alternatively, CB2 receptors are more dominant among the organs and within the immune system. THC fits with the CB1 and provides pain relief.

So, the short answer to the question “where are the cannabinoid receptors located?” is everywhere in the human body.

They are located everywhere because they are necessary. That is, they serve important bodily functions.

What is the Function of Cannabinoid Receptors? 

How do cannabinoids work?

As most know today, marijuana provides not only pleasure but medical treatments for a vast array of ailments. This is largely the result of the function of cannabinoid receptors.

For instance, there are several known functions of endocannabinoids. Once the cannabinoid receptors allow THC, CBD, and CBN cannabinoids to enter the system, the brain is able to make needed results occur.

Some functions of endocannabinoid receptors include:

  • Analgesics: Pain relief is one known function of THC. Furthermore, some studies show using CBD for migraines can give you instant relief.
  • Anxiety Relief: Many find relief from general and social anxiety thanks to the active components in marijuana. If you struggle with anxiety, check out this list of some of the best marijuana for anxiety.
  • Appetite Control: Known to help cancer patients both have an appetite during chemo treatments and ease nausea.
  • Immune System Regulation: Researchers continue to explore the application of endocannabinoids in the immune system.
  • Memory Cleanup: One surprising function is that endocannabinoids help clear painful memories.
  • Mood: Endocannabinoids can help control moods. However, experts agree that users should exercise caution. They advise only using marijuana under the supervision of a doctor if taking anti-psychotic medications.
  • Metabolism: Endocannabinoids increase metabolic rate.
  • Physical Exercise: Many have experienced that the increased metabolism aids in exercise programs.
  • Thermoregulation: Endocannabinoids aid in the regulation of body temperature, making marijuana a favorite of anyone suffering from hot flashes.
  • Reproduction: Contrary to popular belief, marijuana does not make people sterile. Quite the opposite, actually. Evidence suggests it aids in both male impotency. It can also either increase or decrease anandamide levels in women, improving uterine implantation of eggs.
  • Hippocampal Neurogenesis: The introduction of cannabinoids aid in the growth of axons. These never fibers are vital to the transmission of neurochemicals in the brain.
  • Rest: Yes, marijuana can help you sleep too! If you have trouble sleeping, check out our article “what is the best marijuana for insomnia?

How do cannabinoids work?Cannabinoid Receptors, Marijuana, Pleasure, and Pain 

Perhaps the most interesting part of this process is learning how cannabinoids work. The best answer relates to endocannabinoids which have been introduced from outside the body. That is, plant-based.

Cannabinoid receptors allow the psychoactive components in marijuana to flow into the receptors which accept them. The receptors accept these components/chemicals and produce certain effects.

Someone wanting to ease nausea will want the effects of CBD and CBN. But they may not want the effects of THC. Smoking dried marijuana is going to provide both. So, this person may choose instead to use extracts/essential oils.

Another person may want pain relief, so THC will be desirable. In any case, the necessary receptors open to allow the active components entrance into the body.

These chemicals then act on the body in natural ways. This depends on the precise receptors and the quantities introduced.

The bottom line is that marijuana can deliver pleasure, pain-relief, or both. This is all thanks to the cannabinoid receptors located throughout this amazing machine we call