What is the Endocannabinoid System, and How Does It Work?
The Role Endocannabinoids and the Endocannabinoid System
What is the Endocannabinoid System, and do we all have one? If so, how does it work?
We all have an Endocannabinoid System, also known as ‘ECS’ for short. The system is named after the cannabis plant that led to its discovery, and the root of it comes from the Sanskrit word, “Ananda”, which means bliss. The ECS is often categorized as the most important physiologic system involved in establishing and maintaining human health.
Background of The Endocannabinoid System:
In the early-mid 1990s, the ECS was discovered by Ralph Mechoulam and his colleagues after they located and identified two naturally produced major endocannabinoids within the human body. Around the same time, Lisa Matsuda and her team of researchers identified a THC-sensitive receptor within lab rat brains at the National Institute of Mental Health. From this point on, over 20,000 scientific studies have been released in the past two decades regarding the ECS and cannabinoids.
About The Endocannabinoid System:
As briefly mentioned above, the ECS is important for the human body’s health and equilibrium. The main goal of this system is homeostasis. For those of you who don’t know, homeostasis is the maintenance of a stable internal environment regardless of different fluctuations within the external environment.
The ECS has various integrated mechanisms including the following:
-Enzymes responsible for creating and destroying cannabinoids
-Receptor sites on cells to receive cannabinoids
-Endocannabinoids themselves, which are cannabinoid-like compounds that the human body naturally produces
Overall, each of these mechanisms are responsible for regulating different biological responses through communication within the body. Within the ECS, naturally occurring cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) interact with our bodies while triggering and delivering beneficial effects.
The ECS is linked to a variety of important processes concentrated within the brain, nervous system, and reproductive organs. Regions of the brain that control heart and lung function aren’t affected.
Endocannabinoids and Cannabinoid Receptors Explained:
The ECS refers to a collection of cell receptors and corresponding molecules, which leads into an important point. The ECS is the name for a series of cell receptors that respond to certain agonists within our bodies. The primary cell receptors that make up the ECS consist of Cannabinoid Receptor 1 (CB1) and Cannabinoid Receptor 2 (CB2) but more continued to be studied.
Rather than referring to these receptors as CB1 and CB2, people often refer to them as endocannabinoids. Primary endocannabinoid receptors are throughout the body including; the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, immune cells, and at the intersection of the body’s different systems. As a result, this allows for communication and coordination between different cell types.
However, specific cannabinoid receptors are more concentrated in certain regions of the body. For example, CB1 receptors are highly abundant within the central nervous system. Whereas, CB2 receptors are on immune cells, in the Gastrointestinal Tract, and within the peripheral nervous system.
Benefits of Endocannabinoid Receptors:
CB1 receptors have a variety of benefits such as; increased appetite, decreased nausea, immune system balance, inhibition of tumors, and modulation of stress and anxiety. On the other hand, CB2 receptors have their own benefits, which includes fighting inflammation and tissue damage.
Fortunately, endocannabinoids help regulate sleep, mood, appetite, digestion, hunger, immune function, reproduction and fertility, pleasure and reward, pain, memory, and temperature regulation. Endocannabinoids also regulate the body’s metabolism while helping control the transfer of energy through various cells.
The Role Endocannabinoids and the ECS Plays:
Endocannabinoids and their receptors are throughout our bodies. The ECS delivers intricate actions that occur within our immune system, nervous system, the body’s organs. It acts as a bridge between our body and mind. However, the role the endocannabinoids and the ECS plays is significant for all of us.
The endocannabinoids that our bodies naturally produce interact with our body’s receptors while transmitting information about changing conditions to kick-start a response. As a result, the body can receive help to achieve homeostasis within itself.
At the end of the day, we all need balance within our lives, and some of us need it more than others. Fortunately, endocannabinoids help us maintain an optimal balance within our body. When the body needs to get different processes moving, endocannabinoids act as chemical messengers to alert the mind and body of this.
Although our bodies naturally produce endocannabinoids, in some bodies, it’s possible to have difficulty generating enough endocannabinoids, which can lead to an endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome (CECD). For those who have an endocannabinoid deficiency, consuming additional cannabinoids like CBD could provide much-needed help, especially for fighting off illnesses.
Unfortunately, it’s possible to experience a higher susceptibility to illnesses if the body doesn’t produce enough endocannabinoid. When the body cannot regulate them properly, one can also experience higher chances of an illness. Thus, understanding the role the ECS plays and the importance of endocannabinoids is crucial to achieving the overall well-being you’re looking for.
CBD, THC, & The ECS:
Consuming CBD and/or THC results in a variety of medicinal benefits. However, the relationship these compounds have with endocannabinoids is a unique one. For example, THC binds with the body’s cannabinoid receptors directly, but CBD doesn’t. CBD works indirectly with the receptors and can increase the number of endocannabinoids within the body’s system, whereas, THC only mimics the body’s naturally produced cannabinoids.