Posted on: September 29, 2018
Updated: October 2019
The Endocannabinoid System
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) was first discovered in the 1990s while a team of scientists who were 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.
What Are Cannabinoid Receptors?
Cannabinoid receptors are located on the surfaces of the 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. By doing so, this allows the cells to produce an appropriate cellular response.
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. Astudy 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.
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 which is a very important aspect to achieve optimal health.
Our bodies try to achieve what’s known as homeostasis, which is essentially considered the “goldilocks” zone of ideal health. For instance, if we get too cold, our natural response is to shiver to attempt to bring our body temperature back to normal. 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). Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD) was a theory first proposed by a neurologist by the name of Dr. Ethan Russo. The idea was that when our bodies don’t produce enough endocannabinoids the body becomes unbalanced, allowing certain diseases to arise.
When your Endocannabinoid System is out of balance, you may experience symptoms like pain (where there shouldn’t be pain), the inability to sleep, forgetfulness, rampant inflammation, and fatigue.
Cannabinoids and the Endocannabinoid System
Cannabidiol or CBD is one of hundreds of cannabinoids that are found naturally in the cannabis plant. CBD can help treat certain conditions by interacting with the endocannabinoid receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system by plugging into the receptors like a lock and key.
Aside from treating any endocannabinoid deficiencies, studies have shown that CBD may also be introduced to have beneficial therapeutic effects like reducing anxiety, alleviating pain, reducing inflammation, minimizing seizures, helping memory and learning, schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and neurodegeneration. Studies into the effectiveness of using CBD in treating autism have also shown promising results.
The Future of CBD and Cannabinoids
CBD 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.