It hasn’t even been 30 years since Israeli Professor Raphael Mechoulam discovered our Endocannabinoid System and since then, as the research continues, we now know it’s the biggest network in our body-essential for mental and physical health.
But what is our EC system? And, are we doing everything we can to ensure that it’s working the best it can?
Firstly, let’s start off with the basics. Well, the endocannabinoid system essentially regulates all our basic bodily functions! Endo, meaning originating within the body and Cannabinoid, the name that refers to the group of compounds within the body that activates this system.
It’s a well-known fact that Cannabinoids are a vital part of human health. Although the Endocannabinoid system performs differently in each tissue in the body, the overall goal is always the same-to maintain stable internal conditions to survive!
To understand the human endocannabinoid system, it’s helpful to know a little about one of the most fundamental concepts in biology: homeostasis. And the best way to understand homeostasis is to think of Goldilocks and the three bears.
That classic fairy tale illustrated the idea that the best outcome often lies somewhere in the middle, between two extremes. We don’t want things too hot or too cold, but just right. Endocannabinoids are the chemical messengers that tell your body to get processes moving and when to stop. When the ECS is disrupted, your body can fall out of balance.
Homeostasis is the concept that our body doesn’t want its temperature to be too hot or too cold, blood sugar levels too high or too low, and so on. Conditions need to be just right for our cells to maintain optimum performance. The body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a vital for helping maintain homeostasis—it helps cells stay in their Goldilocks zone.
The Endocannabinoid System is a biological system which plays many important roles in the human body. It is also responsible for the physical and psychological effects of cannabis. The fact that the ECS has widespread effects throughout the body, it is since believed to hold promise-which is why, scientists have recently been exploring ways of targeting the system.
Ok, so, there are two types of cannabinoid receptors in the brain which are known as CB1 and CB2-these help us to perform daily tasks.
CB1 receptors are found mainly in the brain, and some are present in both sexes reproductive organs. They are concentrated in areas which are associated with the behaviours they impact for e.g. memory. They are also found in nerve endings where they can act to reduce the feeling of pain.
CB2 receptors on the other hand, are mainly found throughout the immune system-with some located in the spleen too. Cannabinoid receptors are found all throughout the body, giving them a wide variety of functions.
Dr. Mechoulam’s research in the 1990’s discovered that CB1 and CB2 receptors connect with phytocannabinoids (plant-based) like THC and CBD and it’s no secret that these are the two main ingredients that are found in the marijuana plant.
CBD works so efficiently because of the endocannabinoid (EC) system. As discussed, The ECS consists of a series of receptors that are configured only to accept cannabinoids, especially CBD and THC. When examining the difference between CBD and THC it comes down to how each one interacts with the cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptor.
Scientist first actually discovered our ECS while trying to understand what cannabis does to humans. While it is well known that THC is psychoactive and gets you ‘high’ as well as having effects on the mind, CBD on the other hand, is believed to support and maintain the ECS and it’s never-ending benefits are only really starting to be discovered.
Some people take cannabis for the effects it has on the mind while others use CBD as a food supplement or to support and maintain the ECS system. Either way, cannabis wouldn’t affect us at all if our bodies didn’t already have a system able to interact with chemical compounds like CBD and THC.
Many of us realise the important of “balance” in our daily lives. Balancing work and play is a critical part of our physical and mental health. Keep in mind that “balance” is critical, as research has shown if we tip the scales too heavily in the direction of CB1 inhibition, there may be an associated decrease in fertility, with increased risk of depression, mood disturbance, and immunosuppression. An overabundance of CB1 signalling has been associated with increased psychoactivity, systemic inflammation, cardiovascular risk, diabetes, and obesity. In contrast, CB2 over-activation and dominance could lead to decreased immune function and diminished wound healing.
Using CBD as a daily supplement is a great way to support your bodies Endocannabinoid system and keep it in balance so why not use it as a preventative!
People are waking up to the benefits of CBD as more research is done into the possibilities of this seemingly simple plant. Future generations will look back and wonder why it took so long to figure this out. By understanding how the ECS works at the cellular level, we can more deeply appreciate why we have an ECS to begin with, and how a variety of cannabis-based therapies might actually work.