The Endocannabinoid system
Explaining why the Endocannabinoid system and its properties are so vital to contemporary life
When people hear about the range of health conditions that cannabis can help with, and the variety of health benefits that the plant can provide, it’s almost too hard to believe that one herb can generate so many powerful medical properties without having any dangerous side effects.
This question led researchers to discover a system of physiology that we all have within us, that’s constantly maintaining balance at a cellular level – it was named the endocannabinoid system (ECS). It was given this name because we accidentally stumbled across it whilst researching about any possible drawbacks of cannabis.
Now, we know that the ECS is active in everyone, all the time – from the moment you were formed as a baby in your mothers tummy, right up until the end of your life. It helps to promote health and balance physiologically. This system is present all throughout the body and all the different tissues within it, which is why it can help with any damage that occurs in any part of the body. This ranges from disorders of the brain, to various organs like the liver or the intestines. It can help with musculoskeletal problems and inflammatory and immune issues.
Your body is constantly reproducing cannabinoids all the time. These molecules function a lot like THC and the other cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Your body naturally knows when and how to make these cells in order to keep you healthy. Some people may need a little help, or their endocannabinoid system may not be functioning at its optimal level. You can address this by adding in the right dosage of cannabis, from the plant, to your system. This means that the external cannabinoids you’re adding into your body can help aid the internal ones that are already present and possibly malfunctioning.
It’s been discovered that ultra-low dosages of cannabis can be health promoting and also relieves your bodily systems of various issues. At very low dosages, people will over time, become more sensitive to cannabis and begin to get better effects from the cannabis they’re using. This, in tandem, with developing a feeling of resilience, strength and balance.
According to animal research, it is also well documented that ultra-low dosages of cannabis can actually regulate, and increase, the efficiency of the EDS within your body. It allows it to function at a more optimal level, bringing health and balance internally. Without further a due, let’s investigate the actual makings of the system in a little more detail, to further help you understand why it’s such a crucial part of your body.
Understanding the ECS:
The ECS was discovered in the 1990s whilst, as previously explained, researchers were trying to unravel the mysteries of cannabis and its effects on the human body. Endocannabinoids, and receptors, bind to exist throughout the body in the following:
- The Nervous system
- Immune Cells
- The Brain
- Connective Tissues
The ECS permeates ALL 11 main physiological systems in the body, working to support the many functions necessary for survival. The ECS tunes our vital physiological functions by promoting homeostasis, affecting everything from sleep, appetite, pain, inflammation, memory, mood and reproduction.
The ECS helps to regulate homeostasis across all the major physiological systems, ensuring they’re all working in harmony with one another.
Components of the ECS:
The ECS comprises of three main elements: Endocannabinoids, Enzymes and Receptors.
Cannabinoids are groups of active compounds that interact with the ECS receptors and are produced naturally inside the body. Whilst other compounds found outside the body, like CBD and THC, are exogeneous cannabinoids.
Cannabinoids act as the keys within the entire EDS and are essentially the components which stitch the entire system together. Imagine a group of people holding hands to form an aerial image, such as a heart. The entire group would be the EDS and the individual people, who make up the group, would act as the cannabinoids.
The receptors act like the locks in the system: every time one key (cannabinoid) fits into one lock (receptor), the lock will cause an effect to occur in the body.
The two main types of endocannabinoids found within the body are anandamide and 2-AG. 2-AG is the most prevalent endocannabinoid, because it is responsible for managing the appetite, pain response and immune system functions of the human body.
Anandamide, commonly referred to as ‘’the bliss molecule’’, is responsible for certain positive moods you feel. Those range from the runners high, the blissful state of mind that comes from structured play, yoga and meditation.
Enzymes, meanwhile, are any substance within the body that causes chemical reactions to occur. Enzymes act within the ECS to recycle used endocannabinoids once the body has finished using them.
Receptors (the locks) receive messages that are transmitted by cannabinoids. There are two main types of receptors within the system: CB1 and CB2.
CB1 receptors exist in the brain and spinal cord, and work to regulate appetite, memory and help to reduce pain around the body.
CB2 receptors are within the immune system and many other areas of the body, working primarily to reduce inflammation throughout the body.
Inflammation is a process the body undergoes in order to heal infected or damaged areas in and around the body. Sometimes, the process of inflammation can be interrupted, which is why sometimes we fall sick due to inflammation. It is also a cause of a range of medical conditions.
How does THC and CBD affect the ECS and how it works?
The whole reason this article ceased to exist was to understand how different cannabinoids found in cannabis plants can have positive influences your body, right?
The first type of cannabinoid found in the plant is called Tetrahydrocannabinol, otherwise known as THC. This component of the Cannabis plant is what gives you a ‘’high’’ or exaggerated feeling within your mind and body.
Once this external cannabinoid has found its way into your body, it combines with receptors found in your ECS, in much the same way as endocannabinoid, the internal, pre-existent cannabinoid. Its properties allow it to infuse with both the CB1 and CB2 receptors, meaning process’ such as inflammation can be carried out in a much more efficient manner by your body.
Though, in some cases, it can have negative impacts such as paranoia and anxiety. There could, potentially, be more negative side-effects, but with our current technology and understanding, we simply aren’t able to fathom what they are yet.
Experts are attempting to produce a synthetic form of THC which will only work with our body in beneficial ways. Essentially, they’re trying to reduce the full capability of the cannabinoid in order to tailor it to the individual needs of people.
The second predominant cannabinoid found in cannabis is called Cannabidiol, or more commonly referred to as CBD. The main advantage of CBD is that it doesn’t have the wild, brash ability to negatively affect your body in the way that THC does. It is a considerably suppressed form of external cannabinoid which has no real negative influences on your body.
Quite frankly, it’s still theorized. The claim with the most substance to this point is that the CBD works by preventing endocannabinoids from decaying and breaking down. This allows them to live and work for longer within your body, thus, increasing the amount of time they can aid your body.
Another, less substantial theory, is that the CBD works with a receptor in your body which is yet to be discovered. Whilst we don’t know everything about the human body yet, this theory isn’t so popular because experts believe we would’ve discovered the existence of a third receptor, given the technological advancements we’ve made in biology in recent years.
Most evidence currently suggests that CBD can help ease the pain in the body and the trauma on the mind that stems from multiple conditions such as arthritis or nausea.
What happens if you’ve got a deficiency of endocannabinoid’s in your system?
‘’Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency’’, otherwise known as CECD, is a theory that experts believe in. The theory suggests that low levels of endocannabinoid’s in your system can lead to the development of certain neurological and bodily conditions. It has also been accredited with the reason for why some people develop migraine, fibromyalgia or IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).
It has not yet been proven, but if CECD does have any sort of link to these conditions, trying to aid the ECS through use of external cannabinoids could be the answer for a cure.
In each part of the body, the endocannabinoid system performs different tasks, but the ECS always has one goal in mind: Homeostasis. Your ECS works to maintain a stable internal environment, through the inevitable changes and variations in the external environment.
It works to keep your body running smoothly, allowing you to go about your normal daily activities without fault. With that being said, we’ve only scratched the surface on the capabilities of the ECS – it could hold the key to treating several conditions. It may even hold the key to the continued existence of humanity.