The Endocannabinoid System
As endocannabinoids were discovered in the 1990s, scientists also discovered the important effects they had on the human body. Endocannabinoids are produced by the human body and flow through the human endocannabinoid system. These endocannabinoids utilize various receptors and proteins that interact within the human nervous system. This helps maintain homeostasis, which is the delicate balance between the many variables in the body. Homeostasis allows a stable internal environment for one’s blood pressure, blood sugar, body temperature and more, and endocannabinoids can help regulate this.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is still being researched today, but there are several known facts about it. The ECS regulates many human and bodily processes such as sleep, appetite, mood, memory, and reproduction. Additionally, the ECS has been linked to controlling one’s stress-response, inflammation and immunity, as well as pain level and perception. One important idea to note is the ECS will still exist and be utilized without the consumption or ingestion of cannabis.
There are three important parts to the ECS, including endocannabinoids, receptors, and various enzymes. Endocannabinoids are similar to cannabinoids found in cannabis but are instead produced by your body. Some examples identified are anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol. These are produced by your body as needed and help internal functions perform correctly.
Additionally, endocannabinoid receptors are an essential part of the ECS as well. These are typically found in your central or peripheral nervous system and endocannabinoids bind to them. The CB1 receptors are located in the central nervous system and may be targeted to relieve pain in the spine for instance. CB2 receptors, found in the peripheral nervous system, might help boost your immune response to inflammation or another symptom of autoimmune disorders.
Finally, the enzymes help break down and recycle endocannabinoids after their usage. The fatty acid amide hydrolase breaks down the endocannabinoid anandamide after its use, and monoacylglycerol acid lipase breaks down 2-arachidonoylglycerol. Additionally, another important molecule involved in the ECS is anandamide, also known as the “bliss” molecule. This molecule is important in the ECS and helps regulate appetite, memory, and pregnancy, as well as cause the “runner’s high” after an intense workout.
THC and CBD have various effects on the endocannabinoid system in the human body. THC can bind to both CB1 and CB2 receptors which leads to some of the effects like pain relief and appetite stimulation. This can also have some undesired effects like anxiety and paranoia as well. CBD, the other major cannabinoid, has less negative effects and does not bind to either CB1 or CB2 receptors. CBD may possibly interact in the ECS by preventing the breaking down of endocannabinoids after their use. CBD can also bind to certain enzymes, which can enhance the natural level of endocannabinoids in the body. Scientists are still researching the exact pathways in which CBD interacts with the ECS and receptors.
Overall, much is still to be learned about the endocannabinoid system and all of its functions. Many research articles link the important function of the ECS in the human body on stress, appetite, sleep, and much more. It is likely the ECS will play a crucial role in the treatment of several diseases.