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Endocannabinoid System 101: How Cannabinoids Affect Your Health

Lars
September 17, 2020

Every time you look for anything related to CBD, you’ll be inundated by information on how it’s an extreme pain-reliever, that it could reduce all your stress and anxiety, improve your immunity, cure cancer, and myriad health benefits. While these are valid selling points with a scientific basis, rarely does anyone address how CBD works in your body and takes effect. 

You may read about Endocannabinoid Systems a few times when looking into CBD, but what exactly is the ECS, and how does it work? 

Even if one is not interested in using CBD products, it’s important to learn about an essential physiological system that is the ECS seeing it plays a significant role in regulating various chemicals in your brain and promoting wellness. 

Endocannabinoid System


Discovered in the 60s, Endocannabinoid System is a complex web of receptors, enzymes, and biochemical pathways that are responsible for the production and usage of cannabinoids made by our bodies, endocannabinoids. These are closely connected with the neurological and physiological functions of the body, involved in everything from metabolism and inflammation to immunity, mood, and thermoregulation. 

The system is believed to have evolved over hundreds of millions of years and can be found in almost all living things. 

The Endocannabinoid System is broadly made up of three main players.

  • Endocannabinoids
  • Cannabinoid receptors
  • Enzymes 

 

Endocannabinoids


The human body is a complex web of systems, and each system communicates with different parts of the body in its own way. For instance, neurotransmitter chemicals like serotonin and oxytocin are used by the nervous system for mood alleviation, stress relief, etc. 

Likewise, the ECS uses endocannabinoids all through our bodies. There are two main eCBs, namely.

  • Anandamide: involved in lifting mood, memory, regulating appetite, and even pregnancy. Its name originates from the Sanskrit word for “bliss,” and this neurotransmitter is the known source of “runner’s high.” 
  • 2-arachidonoylglycerol: known for regulating emotions, cardiovascular health, controlling seizures, it has recently been found to be the neurotransmitter responsible for the satisfying feeling you experience after orgasm. 

 

Cannabinoid receptors


While eCBs go around throughout the body, CB receptors act as gateways to the cells waiting to receive them. They are responsible for allowing and binding the eCBs to the respective cells impacting your immunity, mood, inflammation, etc. 

There are two main types of cannabinoid receptors namely.

CB1: found throughout the nervous system, they are vital for the proper functioning of the brain and are involved in mood, memory, cognitive functions, and more. They are the main drivers of the psychoactive high you feel when smoking marijuana. 

CB2: found in the immune system; these are responsible for the body’s inflammation and response to foreign invasion. An overreaction by the body due to autoimmune disorders like arthritis, asthma, etc. can be controlled by targeting these receptors. 

Enzymes


Synthesizing and breaking down the eCBs is the primary function of enzymes. eCBs are lipid-based (synthesized from fats), which is the reason CBD products use coconut/MCT oils as a carrier. 

Enzymes are molecules responsible for the production, transportation, and breaking down of the eCBs throughout the body. They are both the on switch and the even more important off switch that prevents  ECS from constant stimulation. 

Importance of Phyto-cannabinoids for the ECS


The problem with the Endocannabinoid System is that it can be easily thrown off balance due to stress, lifestyle, diet, sleep, and various other factors. 

Hemp plants have a range of phyto-cannabinoids like THC, CBD, CBDa, CBN, CBG, etc. All of them impact the CB receptors differently and can have a significant impact on your wellness. 

Scientists have found that external cannabinoids produced by phytochemical-rich plants like cannabis can interact with the body’s ECS. They act as a supplement to the eCBs produced by our bodies and can hugely impact our well being. 

How does CBD react?


While external cannabinoids can bind to both CB1 and CB2 receptors, researches have shown that CBD doesn’t directly trigger the receptors. Instead, it enhances their ability to bind with the endocannabinoids while also empowering the enzymes to produce more natural eCBs. 

CBD works indirectly with even the TRPV1 receptor, which controls vital functions like pain, inflammation, homeostasis, and more. It increases the production of anandamide. 

Different cannabinoids have different effects on the CB receptors. For instance, THC, which gives one a psychoactive high binds directly with the CB1 receptors while CBD has no side effect on it at all. Thus, the medical community has advised using both CBD and THC as a palliative treatment because CBD counteracts the adverse effects of THC. 

CBD is also said to have a number of health benefits such as alleviating pain, controlling anxiety and emotions, reducing seizures, promoting homeostasis, and more. 

Conclusion


The Endocannabinoid System is a vital part of our body and involved in a variety of health functions. If it is disrupted for any reason, it’s crucial to get it back to 100%. 

CBD might just be the external supplementation that could greatly improve its functioning. This is also an evolving field of study, meaning research is continually being conducted, and the potential benefits of CBD for our ECS is likely to grow.

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