The Endocannabinoid System

Cannabis has far-reaching effects in the human body – and now we know why; we are born with a biological system designed to respond to about 60 different chemical compounds in cannabis: The Endocannabinoid System (ECS). Like other mammals, cannabinoids are part of our innate physiology and ECS is perhaps the most important physiological system involved in maintaining human health.

Dr. Rafael Mechoulam at the Hebrew University in Israel discovered The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) in 1992. He identified the body´s own cannabinoids called endocannabinoids (Anandamide and 2-Arachidonoyl Glycerol) and together with a large network of cell receptors unique for cannabinoids, called CB1 and CB2, they make up The Endocannabinoid System.

CB1 and CB2 are more common than any other type of receptor in the body, and have a vital role in our body’s physiology. They are present on cell membranes in the brain, digestive system, immune system and other major organs in the body. All the biological effects, both therapeutic and psychoactive, result from cannabinoids’ activation of these receptors around the body, which also explains why its effects are so diverse from person to person. 

These are some of the bodily functions The Endocannabinoid System (ESC) modulates:

  • Inflammation
  • Sleep 
  • Motor Control (movement)
  • Hormone production
  • Cardiovascular System 
  • Digestive System
  • Immune System
  • Reproductive System 
  • Pain 
  • Emotions
  • Memory

Many interactions occur in the limbic system, which is the area of the brain involved with emotion, behavior, and long-term memory, the mesolimbic pathway (the reward center), and the brain structures responsible for pain perception.

The overall objective is to maintain homeostasis (balance) in our internal environment. When the body and mind encounter stress such as unseen circumstances, Corona virus, infections, toxins or something else, the bodys Endocannabinoid System is activated in order to keep everything running smoothly.

The problem is that many of us don’t produce enough cannabinoids due to genetic factors, malnutrition, diseases or old age. This can lead to a dysfunctional ESC, and many health problems as a consequence. 

The good news is that exogenous cannabinoids (from plant), like CBD and THC, also interact with the cannabinoid receptors present in the body.

They are found in many different foods, like black truffle, black pepper, cocoa and the plant Cannabis Sativa

Close up male cannabis plant with pollen sacks

In addition to CBD and THC there are about 113 different cannabinoids in the Cannabis Sativa plant. Unlike THC, these are not psychoactive and do not produce any intoxicating effects, but has been shown to have a number of medical properties.

Very few physicians have been educated about the endocannabinoid system or the therapeutic potential of CBD, and most are completely unfamiliar with the tens of thousands of clinical studies already available. 

Reference:

–  Mackie K. “Cannabinoid receptors as therapeutic targets,” Annu Rev Pharmacol Toxicol. 2006;46:101-22 PMID: 16402900 DOI: 10.1146/annurev.pharmtox.46.120604.141254

– Sulak D. “Introduction to the Endocannabinoid System,” NORML 

– https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1574255/


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