The Endocannabinoid System

By March 16, 2019 No Comments
The Endocannabinoid System

Every mammal has an endocannabinoid system. What it essentially means is that all mammals are “pre-wired” to react and interact with the body’s naturally produced endocannabinoids and cannabinoids from cannabis or hemp. This guide will explain what this system is, what it does and why it took so long for it to be discovered. We’ll also discuss how CBD helps this system function and may support appropriate responses within the body.

What is the Endocannabinoid System?

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is named after the cannabis sativa plant and THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). It is the system in the body that regulates multiple functions and systems in the body to maintain homeostasis. Homeostasis is balance. The endocannabinoid system works mainly with the central and peripheral nervous systems.

Cannabinoid receptors in the body regulate:

  • Appetite
  • Pain
  • Mood
  • Sleep

These receptors also regulate other functions in the body. Endocannabinoids are naturally produced inside the body. Receptors receive messages from systems in your body, like the central nervous system. When the “messages” come to the receptors, the chemical messengers bind to the receptor. This is how effects are created in the body, and when it comes to just CBD, you may notice improved symptoms. There is no intoxicating high associated with CBD.

The endocannabinoid system has two main types of receptors, the CB1 and CB2 receptors. They respond and react to different cannabinoids. Some cannabinoids, however, are able to respond to both CB1 and CB2.

The body only produces endocannabinoids when it needs them. Sometimes, however, the body isn’t able to produce enough endocannabinoids to achieve balance.

CB1 Receptors

You’ll find the biggest concentration of CB1 receptors in the brain and spinal cord. They influence behaviors such as how you process an emotion or how your body determines that you’re hungry. Your memory is also regulated by CB1 receptors.

CB2 Receptors

CB2 receptors live in the peripheral nervous system predominantly. The role of these receptors is to regulate inflammation and inflammation response system behaviors. Those suffering from ailments such as arthritis or chronic inflammatory diseases likely have an imbalance within CB2 receptors, hormones and necessary compounds made by the body in combination with improper signaling paths.

cannabinoid receptors in the human body

Cannabinoid Receptors

Discovery of the Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system wasn’t discovered until the late 1980s. While trying to understand cannabis and its effects on the body more, scientists discovered this “new” system in the body. It’s still being studied today as few studies have been done on the ECS system. So far, scientists know of two naturally produced endocannabinoids. Those are the 2-AG and anandamide.

Anandamide wasn’t discovered until 1992. 2-AG was discovered in 1995. What scientists do know is that higher concentrations of 2-AG are mainly found in the brain. Anandamide is known as the “bliss molecule” which aids in regulating satisfaction, mood and emotional response. When there isn’t enough anandamide in the body – triggers for stress and depression might be harder to shake.

How CBD Supports the Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system really works backwards. This is okay, because it’s how the functions in the body are triggered to regulate/fix themselves. These functions don’t know what to do without the body telling them that there’s something wrong.

What happens is neurons are activated and tell a fat cell that cannabinoids/endocannabinoids are needed. Once the demand is sent via chemical message from within the body, endocannabinoids are released from the cell. They go on a backwards journey to the requesting neuron to attach to the proper receptor.

Now, this may seem confusing, but as mentioned above, endocannabinoids are created within the body on demand.

Cannabinoids support the body by reducing inflammation, calming moods, balancing insulin levels and evening out the overall nervous system in the body. The endocannabinoid system is designed to work with exogenous (outside of the body) introductions of cannabinoids. So, if you ingest CBD, your body will accept it and distribute it to the “requesting” system inside the body.

One of the main aids of CBD in the ECS system is the ability to slow depletion of anandamide and other cannabinoids naturally occurring in the body. Slowing the deterioration allows CB1 and CB2 receptors to embrace exogenous cannabinoids to enhance the overall effect on the body.



How does CBD work?

A common question regarding CBD is – CBD doesn’t make you high so how do you know it’s working? It’s really simple actually – you’ll just feel better. If you have chronic inflammation, for example, you might notice less joint pain or none at all. You might notice less general inflammation in the common locations in your body.

CBD supports the action of calming receptors in the brain responsible for anxiety. Those suffering from anxiety disorders, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly use CBD to reduce symptoms and calm their brains. By slowing down the production of 5-HT1A in the body, reducing feelings of excitement.

When it comes to the ECS, CBD and pain, CBD interacts with TRPV1 receptors. These are the receptors that send messages that you’re in pain, or have a fever or have increased inflammation. CBD is a stimulant, so it might support the calming of aggravated nerves causing neuropathic pain.

We all have this thing called an “orphan receptor”, just because scientists haven’t been able to fully study what group of receptors it belongs to yet. The receptor is called GPR55 and is most present in the cerebellum. It aids in bone density and blood pressure regulation. Stimulating this receptor may slow bone softening/weakening disorders and regulate your blood pressure. When this receptor works too much (overactive), a diagnosis of osteoporosis is likely.

While some studies have been conducted on the effects of CBD in the body, more are needed to further explain the how and why questions that lawmakers, physicians and medical cannabis users have.

CBD scientific structure

CBD Structure

Closing Thoughts

The endocannabinoid system and cannabinoids are designed to work together. When functions are lacking endocannabinoids, the introduction of cannabinoids from cannabis or hemp may lend a hand to the systems in the body that are out of balance. Healthier responses and functions may occur as cannabinoids support these responses. The endocannabinoid system plays a role in virtually every function in the body, including digestion and mood. Many pharmaceuticals are designed to correct imbalances, but they also often come with negative side effects. Science is slowly uncovering the efficacy of cannabis and cannabinoids to help regulate the body in a natural way.

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