What is the Endocannabinoid System?
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) including its receptors, endogenous ligands “endocannabinoids”, synthesizing and degrading enzymes, and transporter molecules has been detected from the earliest embryonal stages and throughout pre- and postnatal development; endocannabinoids, notably 2-arachidonoylglycerol, are also present in maternal milk. During three developmental stages, early embryonal, prenatal brain development, and postnatal suckling, the ECS plays an essential role in development and survival.
The endocannabinoid system is a system of the human body that plays an important role in our internal biological system also in a future life: acting or regulating appetite and digestion; metabolism; chronic pain; inflammation and other immune system reactions; mood, learning and memory, motor and movement, sleep, heart and vascular function, muscle building, bone regeneration, health and growth, liver function, reproductive function, stress, skin and nerve function, communication between human body cells and much more.
Not less important is, that Cannabis plays an important role in the endocannabinoid system of the human body. The human biological system responds to the active ingredients of Cannabis, called cannabinoids, and through these receptors, the beneficial effects of Cannabis work. ECS exists and is active in our body even when we do not use Cannabis.
The name is made up of the active components endo (that is, inside the body) and cannabinoid (the active ingredient in the Cannabis that reacts with the receptors).
So there is a system in our body that consists of receptors that interact with cannabinoids in the Cannabis plant like CBD, THC and others.
This system is the catalyst for many of the benefits of CBD.
To understand how CBD works and to fully understand the benefits it can bring, it is important to first understand the endocannabinoid system.
You probably didn’t even realize it existed, did you?
History of the endocannabinoid system.
In 1988, the first cannabinoid receptor was identified in a rat’s brain.
The researchers found that these receptors only interacted with the receptors found in the Cannabis compound, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). More surprisingly, these receptors were found concentrated in parts of the brain responsible for mental and physiological processes (that is, memory, high cognition, emotion, and motor coordination).
Five years later, in 1993, another cannabinoid receptor was identified. This receptor is distributed throughout the immune system and in the peripheral tissues of the body and had the same response to THC as the first receptor.
At that time, the researchers realized they had come up with something big.
Only two years later, in 1995, researchers discovered that two receptors, now considered CB1 and CB2 receptors, were found not only in rats but in thousands of other species, including humans.
As technology evolved over time, researchers were able to further analyze the relationship between cannabinoid receptors in our bodies (called “endocannabinoids”) and cannabinoid receptors in cannabis compounds such as CBD and THC (called “phytocannabinoids”).
They discovered a completely unknown signaling system between phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids. Of course, they called this system the endocannabinoid system, ECS.
Although researchers have not yet linked these findings to any particular health benefits, it has been a tremendous breakthrough in discovering the fact that our bodies interact with cannabinoids in Cannabis.
Components of the endocannabinoid system:
The endocannabinoid system consists of various components that work together to form a complete and fully functional system that helps regulate and control the body’s response to cannabinoid effects. The ECS comprises three main components:
⦁ Cannabinoid receptors on the cell wall surface
There are various receptors in the human body, including:
CB1 receptors are abundant in the brain and spine. The highest concentrations are found in those parts of the brain that are involved in influencing behavior. Most importantly, they are also found in the hypothalamus and amygdala. They are responsible for regulating appetite, managing stress and anxiety, limiting nausea, as well as memory processing and emotional reactions.
CB1 receptors are also present at the nerve endings where they reduce the sensitivity to pain (one of the main reasons why Cannabis is used to relieve pain).
CB2 receptors are located in the immune system cells of the peripheral nervous system. When activated, it induces an immune response to inflammation, which plays an important role in the treatment of many chronic diseases.
Enzymes are very important in the endocannabinoid system. They are responsible for the degradation of the endocannabinoid residue once its physiological relevance has ceased.
Enzymes exist in two forms: fatty acid hydrolase (FAAH) and monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL). FAAH is responsible for destroying surplus anandamide while MAGL is working on 2-AG. Some enzymes ensure that the endocannabinoid is used when it is needed, but it is not left unnecessary in the body system.
Functions of the endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system is important for many basic human functions such as appetite, immune system, metabolism, digestive system and disorders, pain, sleep, memory, mood, inflammatory response, etc. In addition to regulating these basic bodily functions, it also has an effect on the physiological response of the disease.
A very good example is the treatment of cancer and the fight against cancer cells. Tumor cells contain much more cannabinoid receptors than healthy cells and tissues in the human body. There are also cases where people with arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, anxiety or chronic pain show higher levels of endocannabinoids.
Therefore, many scientists and medical researchers believe that the function of the endocannabinoid system is homeostasis – the regulation of the body system under all conditions, while maintaining the balance of the internal environment.
Poor health is largely a consequence of the body being unable to achieve homeostasis. Therefore, the endocannabinoid system and the maintenance of balance in the body are crucial.
Why do we need phytocannabinoids?
Phytocannabinoids are cannabinoids that occur naturally in the Cannabis plant.
Like any machine, whether it is due to poor maintenance, damage or natural aging, our body and it’s systems can deteriorate and malfunction. When this happens, it affects the whole body and can cause various health problems.
As we discovered, endocannabinoids are designed to help maintain the health of the body. If this level goes down, they work to prevent it from going down further. Otherwise, as health levels slowly decline over time, it can become a major health problem.
At this point, phytocannabinoids like CBD come into the game.
CBD and endocannabinoid system.
Now that we have a general understanding of the endocannabinoid system, let’s talk about how it interacts with phytocannabinoids, like CBD, to benefit the body.
Purpose of endocannabinoids.
Since the discovery of the endocannabinoid system in the late 1990s, researchers have become increasingly aware of the synergistic relationship between phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids. Because endocannabinoids are involved in many bodily functions, the researchers say they help facilitate the maintenance of those functions.
If you imagine the body as a machine, where each system works together to make the machine move, then the immune system is like a filtration system, the brain is like a motherboard, and endocannabinoids help maintain those systems.
How does CBD work?
Studies have shown that CBD binding to CB1 or CB2 receptors alters and/or enhances the function of this receptor, thereby improving receptor function.
In addition, if the body suffers from cannabinoid deficiency, CBD intake may help to compensate for the deficiency (studies show that cannabinoids are a limited resource in the human body and can cause, for example, headaches, irritability and other health problems).
Basically, it’s like turning on our endocannabinoid system.
By connecting to our body’s CB1 and CB2 receptors, CBD not only helps maintain vital health functions, but also helps restore homeostasis or balance in the body. It is one of the key functions among many other health benefits.
Benefits of CBD.
Most health problems are caused by body imbalances.
In a healthy body, everything is as it should be and the body is balanced. On the other hand, there is too much or too little in an unhealthy body, which disrupts the body’s natural balance.
Stress and anxiety often occur in response to a situation that we perceive as risky, dangerous, or undesirable. Hormone imbalance or excessive information in the brain will increase cortisol levels, causing a feeling of stress. CBD combats stress by regulating the brain’s response to stress signals and maintaining cortisol levels.
Inflammation can be described as a part of the body that becomes swollen and hot, often very painful. Inflammation can be associated with conditions such as arthritis, bacterial infections and autoimmune diseases. CBD fights inflammation by suppressing the inflammatory response and pathways, stimulating the production of regulatory cells and managing our perception of pain.
The seizures are caused by an incorrect electrical activity in the brain, causing the violent shaking of the body. CBD has been shown to significantly reduce seizures in patients suffering from Dravet’s syndrome and Lennox-Gaustat syndrome, two very severe forms of epilepsy. CBD reduces seizures by slowing down nerve activity and suppressing the brain’s response to amplified signals that cause brain overload.
Let’s appreciate and be grateful for our endocannabinoid system.
The examples above are just some of the ways in which CBD works with ECS to benefit the body, but the list is still ongoing and is being updated. You can read about other benefits in the BLOG section of our website.
There are hundreds of studies proving CBD as an effective treatment for dozens of diseases and all thanks to our body’s endocannabinoid system, so be grateful for it and take care of yourself and your health!
Cannabis compounds like CBD and THC exist for a reason, and it’s certainly not an accident that we have an endocannabinoid system. Who created us, created our anatomy and created a system directly related to Cannabis, which is truly mind-boggling.
The endocannabinoid system is a real treasure trove for scientists and medical professionals. Although a complex system, it plays an important role in many body processes and appears to have promising potential in the treatment of many diseases.
A great video about the endocannabinoid system and CBD can be watched HERE.
Photo from Unsplash.