The Endocannabinoid System.
Researchers first discovered the endocannabinoid system during some studies on the effects of cannabis on the human body. Although not all of its processes have yet been understood, we know for sure that millions of cannabinoid receptors are present in our body that interact with molecules produced by our own organism, whose structures resemble those of other compounds contained in the Cannabis plant ( those directly responsible for its effects on our body and mind). Have you ever wondered what makes cannabis so effective in our bodies? Well, the endocannabinoid system!
Following the discovery of the endocannabinoid system, it has become a leading research in the health industry, due to its potentially beneficial effects and therapeutic properties for human health.
WHAT IS THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM?
The term “endo” is the abbreviation of endogenous, that is, native or produced within an organism, a tissue or a cell. “Cannabinoid” refers to a group of compounds that are capable of activating the endocannabinoid system.
Imagine the receptors of our body as a set of locks, each of which is equipped with a specific set of keys: chemical molecules called “agonists”. Every time an agonist binds to a receptor a response is generated, a message with a specific instruction for the cell. The Endocannabinoid System (SEC) consists of two specific primary cell receptors: CB1 and CB2. Agonists, or keys, for these cannabinoid receptors are produced by our body (endocannabinoids), but are also present in other sources external to our body, such as in Cannabis (phytocannabinoids).
Cannabinoids are the natural chemical messengers of our body. Although there are different types, they all fall into two broad categories: “Endogenous” and “Exogenous”.
Endogenous: “Endo” means that it originates within the body. Endogenous cannabinoids are produced by our body naturally and interact with cannabinoid receptors to regulate various basic functions, such as mood, pain, sleep, apetite and more.
Exogenous: These cannabinoids come from a source external to our body. They are commonly found in Cannabis, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). When they are hired, they interact with the SEC producing physical and psychological effects within the body.
The endocannabinoid system is the name that defines a series of specific receptors that respond to a certain type of agonist. The SEC is composed of two primary cell receptors: the Cannabinoid Receptor 1 (CB1) and the Cannabinoid Receptor 2 (CB2). The “keys” compatible with these two “locks” are the endocannabinoids, or cannabinoids. Cannabinoid receptors can accommodate different types of cannabinoids. When they come into contact, the interaction between the two produces certain effects within our body.
These receptors are distributed throughout the human body, but are present mainly within the brain and spinal cord. They concentrate mainly in the areas associated with the behaviors triggered by them, such as in the hypothalamus, involved in the regulation of appetite, and in the amygdala, which plays an important role in mnemonic and emotional processes. We can also find CB1 receptors in nerve endings, where they work by reducing the sensation of pain.
These receptors are concentrated in the cells of our immune system and peripheral nervous system. When activated, they act by reducing inflammation, as an immune response. Their role in the immune responses of our body in combating diseases and other health problems is now widely recognized.
Cannabinoids produced naturally in the human body are called endocannabinoids. These molecules are produced from fatty acids, like omega-3s. The two most important and known are:
Anandamide: The first endocannabinoid discovered by scientists. Its name derives from the term “ananda”, a Sanskrit word meaning well-being, joy. It is found in higher concentrations around areas of the body that are more distant from the brain.
2-AG (2-arachidonoylglycerol): Present in higher concentrations in the brain.
These endocannabinoids are called “punctual release” neurotransmitters because they are synthesized only when the body requires them. After being released, they are rapidly metabolized by some enzymes, such as FAAH (Amide Hydrolase of Fatty Acids) and MAGL (Monoacylglycerol Lipase).
There are many other endocannabinoids, such as noladin, virodomine and n-arachidonoyldopamine (ADA), but their precise role in our body is still not entirely clear.
Our body produces endocannabinoids in order to trigger certain bodily functions and reactions. Ethan Russo, a senior consultant at GW Pharmaceuticals, believes that “a deficiency in cannabinoid levels can cause numerous problems within our body”. This means that some debilitating conditions may arise due to a malfunction of the endocannabinoid system, such as chronic pain or fibromyalgia .
Unlike endocannabinoids, exogenous cannabinoids, such as those found in Cannabis plants, can enter our bodies and continue to act for much longer periods of time.
This has a markedly higher effect on the activation of the endocannabinoid system (SEC), allowing its processes to work much more effectively and vigorously than they normally can.
Research has shown that the cannabinoid THC binds to both receptors (CB1 and CB2), activating the endocannabinoid system in both cases.
The effects of THC are commonly considered psychological, but the compound itself has the ability to cause effects that go far beyond the simple “high” normally associated with marijuana. It can act positively on chronic pain, nausea, appetite, asthma and glaucoma. Furthermore, it has been proven to have beneficial properties against cancer and symbiotic effects on the body when it is taken together with CBD.
CBD does not have the ability to bind to all receptors, but acts by inhibiting the FAAH enzyme. This prevents and slows down the reduction of anandamide, one of the most important endocannabinoids in our body. The result is an accumulation of anandamide in the brain.
If on the one hand THC causes psychoactive effects in the brain, on the other hand CBD acts on a body level. However, research on the possible therapeutic benefits of the latter cannabinoid is only beginning. Today we know for sure that it helps in therapies to treat some serious health problems, inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, reducing and preventing inflammation, nausea, diabetes, PTSD, schizophrenia, rheumatoid arthritis, epilepsy and cardiovascular diseases. Furthermore, it has been shown to have effective antipsychotic, anxiolytic and pain-relieving properties against muscle spasms or neuropathic pains.
FUNCTIONS OF THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM
But how does it have such a wide reach? Well, the endocannabinoid system essentially regulates all the basic functions and processes of our body, which means that it acts directly on:
Neuroprotective and developmental functions
Cannabinoid receptors are present in all areas of our body. CB1 receptors are present in higher concentrations in the central nervous system, while CB2 are more frequent within immune cells, in the gastrointestinal tract and in the peripheral nervous system. This should give you an idea of the immense variety of functions that the endocannabinoid system can perform within our body.
Studies have shown that people with Parkinson’s, arthritis and chronic pain tend to have higher levels of endocannabinoids in their bodies. Similarly, high levels of cannabinoid receptors are found in cancer cells. This suggests that the endocannabinoid system may have the function of regulating homeostasis, or the ability of an organism to maintain stable internal equilibria, regulating physiological processes.
This sounds like a pretty great system doesn’t it? I sure think so! I hope you have enjoyed this more in-depth description of The Endocannabinoid System. This should have given you a better understanding of how CBD oil can really help you out in so many ways! My top 5 recommended CBD oils are below, please feel free to check them out so we can get you on your way to feeling better 🙂
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