The Endacannabinoid System (ECS) was first discovered in the ’90s while a team of scientists led by Raphael Mechoulam was studying the effects of THC on the human body. During this study, they happened to discover a remarkable and complex network of receptors expressed in the cells of both the central and peripheral nervous systems. This network, known as the endocannabinoid system, has shown to have an effect on how a person feels, moves, and reacts, making the discovery of its existence truly groundbreaking.
Cannabinoid receptors are located on the surface of cells in our body. These receptors essentially “listen” to the conditions outside of the cell, and transmit information about those conditions back to the inside of the cell, allowing an appropriate cellular response to be performed. While there are many cannabinoid receptors, the two major ones are known as CB1 and CB2:
CB1 receptors primarily reside on the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, but they’re also found in other places like the spleen, endocrine gland, parts of the reproductive system, both the gastrointestinal and urinary tracts, as well as in white blood cells. Because of the abundance of CB1 receptors in the brain, cannabinoids can influence certain brain functions, such as memory, pain, and motor control.
CB2 receptors are mainly found in white blood cells but are also found within the gastrointestinal system, immune system, tonsils, thymus gland, and with the highest density located in the spleen. CB2 receptors appear to be responsible for reducing inflammation. Because CB2 receptors are found in these areas, CBD has been demonstrated to be an effective treatment for Crohn’s Disease. A study conducted in 2009 also found that CB2 receptors have the potential to treat other conditions such as Alzheimer’s, ALS, AIDS, and even MS.
Everyone has an Endocannabinoid System, which is a complex network of receptors that regulates a lot of important body functions through both CB1 and CB2 receptors. These receptors manage things like appetite, digestion, immune function, inflammation, mood, and sleep to name a few.
What Does the Endocannabinoid System Do?
As it stands now, we do not have a full picture of what the ECS does, but as we mentioned earlier, we do know that the ECS is responsible for regulating our body’s everyday functions. Our bodies try to achieve what’s known as homeostasis, which is essentially considered the “goldilocks” zone of optimal health. For instance, if we get too cold, our natural response is to shiver to attempt to bring our body temperature back to normal. As another example, if we eat too many sugary foods, the glucose in our blood rises. When this happens, we produce insulin through to absorb the excess glucose.
Homeostasis is essential to our health. Our bodies are constantly making tweaks and adjustments to try and regulate itself, and our Endocannabinoid System is the driving force behind this natural tendency.
When our bodies don’t produce enough endocannabinoids, we have what is known as an endocannabinoid deficiency (ECD). There have been quite a few recent studies showing that clinical endocannabinoid deficiency can result in various health conditions such as migraines, IBS, fibromyalgia, and more. +
This is why cannabis can be an effective option to treat an array of illnesses. However, its true capacity for healing currently remains severely understudied. Much more research is needed to understand the medical health benefits of cannabis, but as CBD Oil and cannabis become more mainstream, further studies may be right around the corner.