04 Apr What is the Endocannabinoid System?
Let’s start with the basics, what exactly is the endocannabinoid system?
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a very vital communications system in your body that regulates your day to day life. It’s named that way because studying how cannabis affects the body led to the discovery of this once unknown system. It is made up of 3 different parts: endocannabinoids naturally produced by the body, cannabinoid receptors around the body, and metabolic enzymes that break down the endocannabinoids. These receptors are located in your brain and all throughout your peripheral and central nervous systems. This was first discovered in the 1990s by Dr. Ralph Mechoulam who also established THC to be the main (active) ingredient in cannabis in the 1960’s.
Now you may be wondering what does the ECS do?
The ECS is responsible for a variety of different bodily processes which include pain/sensation, mood changes, appetite, memory, immune response, and much more. It is essential to maintaining homeostasis, the natural state of equilibrium your body must be in to stay optimized. The ECS responds to and regulates changes in your body making sure that you stay in this state of equilibrium.
Fun fact! The ECS has been linked with something called a runner’s high, which is known to be a trigger for an amazing euphoric release after a time spent running, but this has not been thoroughly researched.
HOW DOES THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM WORK?
This system works in conjunction with your nervous system and can be found physically located within it. The ECS works by producing these endocannabinoids when your body signals that something is wrong. They then bind to the cannabinoid receptors which promotes normal bodily functions, and later the enzymes break down the endocannabinoids before they overwork. All of these work together to maintain your body’s natural state of balance with regard to everything ranging from temperature, emotions, blood sugar, motor functions and more.
The CB1 and CB2 receptors play an essential part in the function of the body’s endocannabinoid system.
Naturally produced endocannabinoids bind to these receptors in order to promote a response in that part of the body. CB1 is mainly in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and CB2 is mainly in the peripheral nervous system (nerves around body), immune, and gastrointestinal system. For a deeper explanation on the molecules that make up the ECS, check out our section on the endocannabinoid system.
Ever since the ECS has been discovered, various researchers have devoted their time through studies to further understand its role in basic human health. What’s been found time after time is that the ECS promotes not only general health, but also allows therapeutic pain relief. It even has been found to help fight cancer and prevent neurodegenerative diseases. In the most basic sense, its’ main role is ensuring that your body stays functioning as efficient as possible.
By analyzing these results with more in-depth research, we now see that modulating the ECS can help close the doors on challenging conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, various forms of seizures and even cancer. Of course, it also serves its purpose in mediating the effects of cannabis throughout the body.
HOW DOES THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM RELATE TO CANNABIS?
Basically, the ECS is exactly what allows your bodies to interact with and benefit from medical cannabis.
This system is dedicated to receiving and processing cannabinoids that are typically naturally produced, but the rise of THC and CBD medication has begun to change this. Research studies show that small scale amounts of cannabinoids from hemp/cannabis can help stimulate your endocannabinoid system by mimicking the effects of naturally made endocannabinoids.
The ECS in humans, as well as any vertebrate animal, is wired to accept cannabinoids. These include tetrahydrocannabinol, otherwise known as THC, and of course its counterpart CBD known as cannabidiol. There are other hemp/cannabis compounds that are processed as well, such as CBG and CBN, but concise research is yet to be done.
Your ECS will be affected differently depending on if you’re giving your body CBD from hemp or THC from cannabis. The THC, when entering your body will flood your CB1 receptors in the brain and some CB2 receptors activating them and giving a feeling of euphoria that creates a psychotropic effect. On the other hand, when CBD enters your body it does not directly bind with either CB1 or CB2 receptor, but rather indirectly stimulates your ECS making it more receptive and increases natural endocannabinoid production. This affects pain signals and your immune system, making it very helpful to alleviate a multitude of symptoms. CBD is a very promising low risk treatment for neurological disorders, and research studies are currently going on using the compound to treat conditions such as schizophrenia and dementia.
It is known that the cannabis plant extracts have widely been used in medical practices during the 19th century, however, cannabis was practically prohibited from use around the 1930s by the federal government. Unfortunately, the prohibition meant most people labeled cannabis as illicit and research on its potentially huge health benefits was halted for nearly 50 years. However, due to new liberations made with marijuana, research on THC and CBD has been continuing and we are getting closer to learning to full potential of these compounds.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?
Research may not be complete in this field, but the results that we’ve seen so far has been very promising. Studies with mice and rats have even shown a dramatic reduction in brain inflammation, a key step to curing neurodegenerative diseases. The benefits of stimulating your ECS have unlimited potential. Be encouraged to look into how using CBD can help with specific conditions you or a loved one are dealing with. Many different symptoms can be relieved with the help of natural cannabis and hemp extracts. Even if you are perfectly healthy, these extracts can still provide you with amazing benefits by maintaining and stimulating your ECS. What’s not to love?