Ever wonder how cannabinoids interact with your body? The answer is through the endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system was discovered in the early 1990’s. Since then, scientists have worked to learn as much as the can about it, publishing thousands of peer-reviewed studies. These studies have shown that the endocannabinoid system helps to regulate everything from mood, to immune system function, to sleep and more.
The endocannabinoid system is made up of receptor sites on cells, enzymes, and endocannabinoids (cannabinoid-like compounds that are naturally produced by the human body). The receptor sites include the CB1 and CB2 receptors, which respond differently to different cannabinoids.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) refers to a collection of cell receptors and corresponding molecules. You can think of cell receptors like little locks on the surface of your cells. The keys to these locks are chemical molecules called agonists. Each time an agonist binds to a cell it relays a message, giving your cell specific direction.
The endocannabinoid system is the name for a series of cell receptors that respond to certain kinds of agonists. Two primary cell receptors make up the ECS, Cannabinoid Receptor 1 (CB1) and Cannabinoid Receptor 2 (CB2). The keys for these receptors are called endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids are like the body’s natural THC. In fact, endocannabinoids got their name from cannabis. Plant cannabinoids were discovered first. Endo means within, andcannabinoid referring to a compound that fits into cannabinoid receptors.
THC tends to favor CB1 receptors, which are most prevalent in the central nervous system, while CB2 receptors are found mostly on cells in the immune system. When THC reacts with these receptors, this is what causes the well known “high” feeling from marijuana. CBD, on the other hand, tends to have an affinity for CB2 receptors, as well as modulating the CB1 receptor. As of this writing, it is not fully clear exactly how CBD interacts with these receptors. This is a major area of focus in current cannabinoid research.
Your body creates endocannabinoids with the help of fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are especially important for this. Recent research in animal models has found a connection between diets low in omega-3s and mood changes caused by poor endocannabinoid regulation. Fortunately, hemp seeds are a quality source of omgea-3s. However, fish like salmon and sardines produce a form of omega-3s that is easier for your body to put to use.
Research and Current Theories
Since discovering the endocannabinoid system and its parts, researchers have worked to further understand how the endocannabinoid system may be used therapeutically. Overall, research indicates that the endocannabinoid system helps regulate the body’s immune and central nervous systems are running correctly.
As we learn more about the endocannabinoid system, we will also learn about the potential for compounds from cannabis, like THC, CBD, and more, to be used therapeutically.
One theory about how the endocannabinoid system relates to our overall health is an “endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome,” which speculates that for some people, the body does not generate enough endocannabinoids. This concept further speculates that the deficiency could be the root cause of many autoimmune disorders, including migraines, fibromyalgia, IBS and more.
This is just a brief overview of the endocannabinoid system. Each year, new studies shed light into what this amazing network does inside our bodies. The discovery of the ECS is what makes medical cannabis such a big deal. Overall, significant research must still be done to better understand the impact of the endocannabinoid system on our overall health, and how supplementing our natural endocannabinoid production with plant-based cannabinoids may play a significant therapeutic role in our health.
What do you think about the endocannabinoid system? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!