All mammals have an endocannabinoid system. Endocannabinoids are produced by our bodies. The role of the endocannabinoid system is to help the body maintain balance. It works with the central and peripheral nervous systems to help regulate multiple functions in the body from mood to perception of pain.
We’ll give you a little background on the endocannabinoid system before we dive into what endogenous, or internal, cannabinoids the body makes itself.
The Endocannabinoid System
The body may make its own cannabinoids, but it is also designed to accept cannabinoids from hemp and cannabis. This complex system, the endocannabinoid system, helps keep the body in a state of homeostasis (balance). There are receptors throughout this system, CB1 and CB2 receptors that help send messages to the rest of the body which triggers or activates a certain type of response. These receptors react differently to certain cannabinoids.
Although the body can produce its own natural endocannabinoids, it doesn’t always produce enough. This is often referred to as an endocannabinoid deficiency.
What’s interesting about the body is that it will only produce endocannabinoids when they’re needed. If your body is unable to produce the endocannabinoids it needs, or enough of them – a little outside help from hemp and cannabis might be needed.
Some of the functions of the endocannabinoid system include regulating:
- Perception of pain
- Satisfaction/reward system
- Emotional response
- Immune system response
The list continues, but these are some of the main functions of this complex system.
This complex system wasn’t discovered until the 1980s, and it’s not known why it took so long to find. A full understanding of the endocannabinoid system still isn’t known today – nearly 40 years later.
This is just a quick description of the endocannabinoid system and how the body makes its own endocannabinoids. You can read a full explanation of this system in our guide titled The Endocannabinoid System.
The Naturally Produced Endocannabinoids
How many endocannabinoids are there? Scientists haven’t figured that out yet. In fact, there are still likely a few cannabis cannabinoids that haven’t been properly identified yet. The first endocannabinoid we’re going to discuss is anandamide – also known as “the bliss molecule”.
Anandamide was discovered in the 80s along with the endocannabinoid system. This is one of the most important endocannabinoids, in regards to mental health that our bodies make. What’s interesting about anandamide is that it is an Omega-6 fatty acid and it acts as a neurotransmitter.
When it’s secreted or produced by the body, the body and mind are rewarded with feelings of joy, satisfaction and happiness. This is why it’s also called “the bliss molecule”. Food intake is one way to trigger the release of anandamide.
When you eat certain foods, you might feel happier than when consuming other foods. Foods that help your body by providing energy are the ones that will help with the release of the endocannabinoid.
The body is supposed to make its own anandamide when the supply is low or emotions are out of balance – such as depression. This isn’t always the case though. Sometimes the body is so off balance that it just can’t make the amount of an endocannabinoid that it needs to.
Anandamide plays a role in:
- General mental health
- Perception of pain
- Cognitive function
When anandamide becomes available, it interacts with FAAH (fatty acid amide hydrolase). FAAH is what lets the body absorb anandamide.
2-AG’s scientific name is 2-arachidonoylglycerol. It is another Omega-6 fatty acid and is also one of the crucial endocannabinoids. It must collide with monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL) to be absorbed. When it is activated, however, it helps the endocannabinoid system react and respond to inflammation. 2-AG has powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
It is also an essential neuroprotectant.
2-Arachidonyl Glyceryl Ether
This endocannabinoid has two other names – 2-AGE and Noladin Ether. It stimulates both CB1 and CB2 receptors, but has a stronger affinity to CB1 receptors. its job is to activate mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK). MAPK’s job in the body is to fight off some of the internal problems, mainly in the gastrointestinal system. It’s also responsible for lowering intraocular pressure.
NADA’s scientific name is N-Arachidonoyl dopamine. It’s one of the endocannabinoids that is concentrated higher in the brain. It plays a major role in cognitive activity, response and function. The brain and body need NADA because it has strong antioxidant properties.
Some research also suggests that it helps smooth muscle contractions, which may also lead to relaxed blood vessels. The relaxing properties of it are essential for proper flood flow. It also assists with helping the digestive system remove toxins from the body.
Virohamine might be one of the endocannabinoids that you’ve heard of. There isn’t much known about it although it is one of the best-known endocannabinoids. One of the biggest jobs it has in the body is to help regulate body temperature.
It works in the opposite way that anandamide works in the body. It works the most in peripheral tissue while stimulating CB2 receptors.
From the few endocannabinoids listed above, you can see that not many have been identified yet. Science still has a ways to go. But what’s known about endocannabinoid deficiencies?
If the body can’t make enough of its own, balance and properly operating systems are not in line. Homeostasis isn’t achieved. Your doctor might preach about eating healthy diet, refraining from using toxic substances (drugs and alcohol) and leading an unhealthy lifestyle – but it’s not just your doctor being a doctor. All of this matters to your endocannabinoid system too.
Some of the things that hinder endocannabinoid production in the body include:
- Poor appetite
- Making bad food choices
- Allergies or reactions to medicines
- Viral infections
- Some genetic issues
- Drug use
- Some chronic conditions
- Some diseases
All of these factors can hinder the production of these necessary items. When your body does have a deficiency, knowing which of the endocannabinoids your body needs is a little difficult. What you can do, however, is make changes to your diet and lifestyle that may help increase endocannabinoid production. You can also consider giving your body some cannabinoids from outside sources like hemp, cannabis and CBD products.
It is ideal to provide cannabinoids in a way where bioavailability is high because you don’t want to deprive your body of cannabinoids that it needs to help regulate the endocannabinoid system. Bioavailability varies from product-to-product, strain-to-strain and is different for each delivery method.
As research barriers continue to come down, science will be able to identify and discover more endocannabinoids. For now, there are a handful that have been discovered and studied at least a little bit. Further research is needed to understand the full function of these compounds and molecules, what cannabinoids from outside sources best replace or supplement naturally produced endocannabinoids and how their efficiencies truly affect the body.