The Endocannabinoid System:
Considering all the positive benefits marijuana offers, there are many reasons why people use it. There are those who desire the psychoactive effects, while others prefer its highly beneficial healing and therapeutic properties. To understand how our bodies are even capable of effectively receiving the benefits of marijuana, we must first take a look at the endocannabinoid system.
The human body is very intelligent and contains an organic method for engaging with substances such as THC and CBD. The endocannabinoid system is an essential part of our chemical makeup. It is responsible for making sure our bodies can handle cannabinoids and provide us with results when we ingest it.
What is the endocannabinoid system?
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is vital for maintaining good health and overall well-being. Endocannabinoid receptors are in the organs, connective tissues, glands, the brain and immune cells. These receptors are responsible for different mechanisms such as those found on cells to accept cannabinoids, enzymes that make and destroy cannabinoids and actual endocannabinoids.
The cannabinoid system has a unique role to play in each tissue, but the important part is its ability to provide balance within the body regardless of the changes that occur around it. The endocannabinoid system is vital for maintaining homeostasis, allowing our cells to perform at their best on all biological levels. Endocannabinoids and cannabinoids are located between each system within the body granting information exchange from one cell to another. Due to the endocannabinoid systems role in all of our body’s organs, it functions as a means to connect the body and mind.
A few studies have analyzed the human body’s ability to create its own natural version of phytocannabinoids such as CBD and THC which occur in marijuana. Researchers discovered that this is in fact true. Our bodies produce endocannabinoids anandamide and 2-AG, two important equivalents to CBD and THC according to Pacher et al., 2006. This definitely expands our understanding of cannabinoids in profound ways.
The endocannabinoid system along with the consumption of cannabinoids changes how humans relate to their external environment and can affect the way we think, our behavior and how we choose to handle life experiences.
How Endocannabinoids Work
Endocannabinoids exist because the larger physiological system uses it to support the body’s administrative responsibilities. They basically dictate the varying degrees that information is exchanged. Endocannabinoids use this process to control different physiological actions. It is important to keep in mind that the endocannabinoid system has no effect on the parts of the brain that are associated with the lung and heart; therefore, lethal cannabis overdoses are very unlikely.
What are Cannabinoid Receptors?
Researchers are just beginning to learn about and spread knowledge on cannabinoid receptors and the role they play in our bodily functions and overall wellbeing. Cannabinoid receptors play the role of communicating information about the cells external environment to the inside of the cell. The cell will then respond to the outer conditions accordingly.
Researchers have found two vital cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2 in their studies. CB1 and CB2 are located right outside of various types of cells in the human body, and both play critical roles in the endocannabinoid system. Of all the receptors within our brain, CB1 is considered one of the most copious forms. CB1 receptors are mainly found in the nervous system, gonads, organs, connective tissues, and glands. They connect with THC creating the psychoactive effects marijuana users are often familiar with.
On the other hand, CB2 receptors are mostly located in the immune system; however, both CB1 and CB2 are found throughout the body each performing their own function. Our bodies automatically create endocannabinoids such as anandamide and 2-AG, to activate cannabinoid receptors.
Metabolic enzymes make up the third aspect of the endocannabinoid system, which is very effective at destroying endocannabinoids that have been used. There are two major enzymes in this system. One is FAAH, which disintegrates anandamide, and MAGL, which dissolves 2-AG.
The two critical enzymes function to make sure endocannabinoids are used at the appropriate time and exactly as they are intended. This process makes endocannabinoids different from the other molecular indicators in the body, like neurotransmitters and hormones that serve a similar purpose.
The main three components of the endocannabinoid system discussed in this article keep the body functioning properly when things get out of balance. This article will break down how the ECS manages homeostasis when it comes to arousing brain cells in the nervous system and the inflammatory response of the immune system.
The Endocannabinoid System and Brain Cells
Brain cells (neurons) share information by delivering specific signals to one another. The individual cells listen to the others to determine when to fire off its unique signal at the right time. If for any reason the neuron receives too much information and becomes overwhelmed this can cause serious problems. This is where endocannabinoids become important.
When a particular neuron sends out too many signals, the one that is listening naturally creates endocannabinoids in the exact location where it is linked to the overstimulated brain cell. Those endocannabinoid’s purpose is to go to the overactive neuron and connect to CB1 receptors, to tell it to calm down. This is an example of how the ECS maintains homeostasis within our bodies.
The fact that endocannabinoids can move backward explains why they are given the title retrograde signals. Endocannabinoids regulate traffic flowing between neurons due to their ability to travel backward. This is why the ECS is a powerful, intelligent system - it governs cell activity – an important aspect of our bodies’ overall wellbeing.
Endocannabinoids Improve Inflammation
Whenever any type of infection is present in the human body most likely inflammation is soon to follow. Inflammation acts as a form of the immune system’s protection against damage in the body. It effectively gets rid of bacteria and damaged tissue.
If for any reason inflammation is allowed to continue for too long and spreads beyond the area that is damaged, it could cause severe problems. When the immune system is not functioning correctly, it can lead to various immune diseases and chronic inflammation. Where endocannabinoids come in to play is their influence over the immune systems inflammatory response.
According to research conducted at the University of South Carolina, endocannabinoids effect on the immune system has great potential to assist with managing inflammatory issues. The fact that endocannabinoids are created once an immune cell is stimulated indicate that they could be instrumental in controlling immune system activity by stopping or preventing inflammation.
Studies revealed treatments that influence the body’s production of endocannabinoids could be a way to cure a variety of inflammatory disease. An example of this is when bacteria enters the body. The immune systems first response is to realize the bacteria is there, then inflammatory particles will be dispensed to communicate with the other cells, so they know to come and combat the problem.
During this process, endocannabinoids are also discharged, indicating to others to come assist in reducing the inflammatory response to prevent it from becoming extreme. When inflammation is adequately balanced and managed, the immune system is guaranteed to rid the body of impaired tissue and microbes. Once again, ECS’s intelligent process helps maintain homeostasis with the human body.
A Look at THC and CBD in the Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system is responsible for the cannabis plant’s ability to activate psychoactive and curative effects in the human body. As explained earlier, THC stimulates the CB1 receptor in our brain allowing the high that many love to experience when consuming marijuana.
Based on how the ECS works, some may wonder if regular marijuana users are not always high. The reason being, there is a difference in how our bodies interact with its endocannabinoids in comparison to THC and CB1 receptors. Also, the metabolic enzymes used to disintegrate endocannabinoids such as anandamide are not effective on THC, which means THC can remain in the system for a more extended period of time.
The Difference between THC and CBD
Unlike THC, CBD does not have psychedelic effects. Cannabinoids tend to naturally work with more than one type of receptor, and CBD is an excellent example of this. Even though cannabinoids can potentially turn on the same receptors as endocannabinoids, the fact that they interact with more than one receptor causes effects that are quite different. Endocannabinoid tone is a term used to describe CBDs ability to manipulate the total degrees of endocannabinoids present in our brain.
CBD restricts the FAAH enzymes activity, stopping it from disintegrating anandamide. This allows CBD to enhance the amount of anandamide in the body. Slowing or stopping the FAAH enzyme process have proven to be a beneficial method that treats different types of anxiety disorders which could be related to CBD’s role in boosting endocannabinoid tone.
In conclusion, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is made up of various molecules and receptors that keep our body well-balanced. It effectively manages the activity of cells and other systems so that all goes well, and we remain healthy. By understanding the role, ECS plays in homeostasis we are able to acknowledge the intricate biological importance it has in ensuring the effectiveness of cannabis treatments.
Cannabinoids and the Entourage Effect
Both THC and CBD are cannabinoids, but they are part of more than 110 other cannabinoids that can possibly interact with our endocannabinoid system. The ones that we currently know about include THCA, CBDA, THCV, CBG, CBN and CBC. While many in the medical field focus on the effects of CBD or THC, according to Israeli scientists, Shimon Ben-Shabat and Raphael Mechoulam, it may actually be more beneficial to consume a mixture of cannabinoids.
The idea is based on the plant itself. Within nature, those cannabinoids exist in harmony and work together to support the plant. Within our body, the same idea exists. It is called whole plant synergy, an idea that the combination of cannabinoids provides the optimal therapeutic results. Further research defined those benefits as:
- Better absorption of the most active ingredients
- Increased antibacterial effects
- Fewer side effects
- Greater number of therapeutic benefits
Based on the entourage effect, consuming a naturally balanced blend of cannabinoids is the optimal choice for our endocannabinoid system, in terms of potency and side effects.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is made up of various molecules and receptors that keep our body well-balanced. It effectively manages the activity of cells and other systems so that all goes well, and we remain healthy. By understanding the role, ECS plays in homeostasis we can acknowledge the intricate biological importance it has in ensuring the effectiveness of cannabis treatments.