What is the Endocannabinoid system?
Have you ever thought, “How exactly does cannabis work to treat so many illnesses in the human body?” The answer lies in the Endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system is a network of receptors found throughout the body including all the organs, skin, bones, and even in connective tissues. It’s where you’ll find the most protein receptors in the brain. No matter where in the body the endocannabinoid system has one goal to perform in each tissue: restore the state of homeostasis, which means that the body is in a balanced, internal environment. For example, the system helps with regulating your hormone levels, your temperature, and your heart rate. If something isn’t working just right, your body will activate the endocannabinoid process to correct the problem. Cannabis works so well in the human body because the cannabinoids in the plant latch onto the CB receptors to create a neurotransmission process that helps the body heal.
Pretty amazing, right!?
Functions of the Endocannabinoid System
Experts are still researching how exactly this system works. They know it is involved in a number of the body’s functions, but they do not yet have a complete list of all of the roles endocannabinoids play.
Studies suggest that endocannabinoids are linked to the following processes and systems:
- Pain and inflammation
- Appetite, digestion, and metabolism
- Learning and memory
- Cardiovascular system
- Reproductive system
- Muscle and bone growth
- Skin and nerve function
Early research has shown that the endocannabinoid process is activated anytime one of these bodily functions is in trouble. Whenever something in the body is thrown off balance, the body produces endocannabinoids to help return equilibrium to the body.
CB1 & CB2 Receptors
So far research has discovered two main cannabinoid receptors in humans; CB1 and CB2. The first to be discovered, in 1988, was the Cannabinoid 1 receptor. They were found in abundance in the central nervous system and in the peripheral nervous system. Five years later the Cannabinoid 2 receptor was discovered. These seemed to be more concentrated in areas related to the immune system. However, they are also found in peripheral tissues and organs such as the heart and liver. We now know about other cannabinoid receptors that make up the endocannabinoid system.
CB1 receptors are a part of a group of cell membrane receptors in the body that is found in the nervous system, which accesses nearly every area of the brain and almost every neuron type. These receptors span the inside of every cell wall, and the cannabinoids that come into the body activate them. At this point, considering that CB1 receptors can be found inside and across the cell wall, scientists are unsure of whether the receptors are actually active, or if they are waiting to make their way back to the surface of the cell.
CB2 receptors are a protein that is specifically meant to be involved with the immune system in the body. The CB2 receptor helps with inflammation in the body, and it circulates through the brain and body’s immune cells using the bloodstream. These types of receptors can also be found in bones, the liver, and the spleen.
As more research is done on the endocannabinoid system, we are understanding more about these receptors. It appears that THC has the same infinite links to the CB1 and CB2 receptors as some endocannabinoids (to CB1 more than to CB2). Endocannabinoids are cannabinoids produced naturally within the body (Anandamide, AEA, and 2-arachidonoylglyerol, 2-AG). Once the cannabinoid has done its job, it breaks down into various enzymes and the cycle continues. This is how the endocannabinoid system works.
While the endocannabinoid systems (ECS) and its functions may sound confusing, its effects are simply wonderful. The ECS works in harmony with natural occurring endocannabinoids produced within the body, as well as the cannanabinoids found within the cannabis plant, such as CBD, CBG, THC to name but a few. By including the likes of CBD in to your daily routine, you can achieve the desired outcome of homeostasis. By doing this you will be able to maintain a stable, internal state that persists despite changes in the world around you.