Since we create and sell CBD products for active humans, we refer back to the Endocannabinoid system a lot. CBD, the non-intoxicating cannabinoid presented in cannabis, works directly in the ECS to help relieve pain, control appetite, regulate sleep, mood and so much more. But before we can understand how this compound works in our body, we must first understand the ECS.
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS), explained simply, is an elegant communication system that maintains balance in our bodies. A series of cell receptors and agonists are what make up the ECS. These cell receptors act like little locks on the on the surface of your cells and the keys to these locks are called agonists. Agonists bind to these cells to relay the message of which direction the cell needs to go, like an internal control tower.
The “keys” for these "locks" are called endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids get their name from, you guessed it, the cannabis plant, where these molecules were first discovered. The plant cannabinoids were discovered first and actually facilitated the discovery of the endocannabinoids that live within our own bodies.
We produce two main endocannabinoids, the first is named Anadamide, which has uplifting and euphoric effects. The world Anada is actually Sanskrit for “bliss." This molecule is responsible for the “runner’s high” that one feels after a tough endurance work out or long run. The other endocannabinoid that exists within this system is called 2-Ag, I couldn't find a cool or exciting meaning for this one, but I'm assuming it's equally important.
Cannabinoid receptors are placed throughout the body to monitor various functions, however receptors are more concentrated in specific areas. The CB1 receptors are more abundant in the brain and central nervous system while the CB2 receptors live on immune cells, GI track and peripheral nervous system. It is because of these receptors, our bodies respond so well to the cannabinoids like CBD, that are found in the cannabis plant. The range of receptors in our bodies show how big of a part they play in helping us function.
The ECS works hard to regulate our most important functions such as;
- motor control functions
- immune functions
- pleasure and reward
Disregulation of this system can result in unpleasant conditions such as fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and other inflammatory diseases.
It is actually possible to be deficient in endocannabinoids, meaning the body doesn’t produce enough on its own, or cannot regulate them properly. When this happens, we become more vulnerable to illnesses that effect the functions the ECS regulates. If your body doesn’t produce enough endocannabinoids on its own, you may want to take a look at your diet. Omega 3 fatty acids will help increase the production of endocannabinoids. In fact, research shows that there is a correlation between low omega 3 levels and mood levels due to poor endocannabinoid regulation. Consuming a healthy amount of omega 3’s, whether it’s fish, fish oil supplement, chia seeds or hemp hearts, including this into your diet could help keep your ECS in better balance.
Enzymes also have an important role in the ECS as they break down leftover any excess or cannabinoids in our system. Which is where the awesomeness of CBD comes in. While THC binds with cannabinoid receptors directly, CBD does not. CBD actually works its medicinal wonders on enzymes, the FAAH enzyme specifically. FAAH is responsible for pulling excess anandamide out of circulation. CBD puts a stop to this, actually increasing the amount of endocannabinoids in your system. So while psychoactive THC mimics anandamide, CBD stops enzyme FAAH from breaking it down, making more of it available for use by cells.
You probably don't remember hearing about this information in biology, and it's probably not something you would discuss with your doctor because these findings are so new. In fact, these discoveries began just a few decades ago, in 1964 when Israeli scientist Raphael Mechoulam was able to identify and isolate THC for the first time. And we've only known about the ECS since 1988, when Allyn Howlett and William Devane found the first cannabinoid receptor on the brain of a rat. As cannabis continues to become normalized, we can expect more studies to help us understand the complexities of the plant and how its properties can benefit our overall health and wellbeing.
Do you use cannabis to help cope with any imbalances in your ECS? Tell us about your experience with medicinal cannabis below.