What is the Endocannabinoid System?

YOUR SIMPLE GUIDE TO THIS COMPLEX TOPIC

4 min read

CBD is everywhere - literally!

Your grandmother is probably taking CBD tonight before she goes to bed.

No one could have ever imagined cannabis products breaking into the mainstream in just a few short years. 

If you haven’t taken CBD yet, you may wonder, ‘what is all the hype about?’ or ‘is this just another health and wellness fad?’ While these are legitimate concerns, the reason why CBD is so popular is that we all possess an endocannabinoid system (ECS).

All mammals have this complex network of neurotransmitters, receptors, and enzymes that is responsible for regulating some of the body’s more important functions

This is what all the hype is about!

Prohibition has given researchers and scientists challenges in understanding the ECS and the interaction with cannabinoids. Now that there is hope that cannabis prohibition will end soon, hopefully, we will gain a better understanding of this complex network responsible for many of the body’s most important functions.

Endocannabinoid System 101

The ECS is made up of 3 major components:

  • Endocannabinoids
  • Endocannabinoid receptors
  • Enzymes that manipulate the production of endocannabinoids

You may be wondering - ‘why is there a complicated network located in my body named after weed?’ 

The ECS was discovered after cannabis had been broken down into separate cannabinoids, we know of at least 114 of them

CBD and THC are both cannabinoids. 

It wasn’t until 1992 when Dr. Lumir Hanus and Dr. William Devane discovered the existence of cannabis-like compounds naturally produced in our bodies.

Endocannabinoids

So far, we know of two endocannabinoids, anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol. Our bodies produce them as it sees fit.

Anandamide is known as the ‘BLISS MOLECULE’ 

Experts believe this fatty acid neurotransmitter is responsible for the runner’s high. During extensive exercise, our body decides that it needs to produce this endocannabinoid. 

This creates a rush of serotonin giving the runner a natural high.

Endocannabinoid Receptors

There are two types of endocannabinoid receptors in our bodies, CB1 and CB2. CB1 is located mostly in the brain and CB2 is primarily found on white blood cells throughout the body.

Endocannabinoids and cannabinoids like THC can bind with both types of receptors. 

This is what creates the instantaneous high after smoking marijuana. THC closely resembles anandamide; this may be the reason why it fits with CB1 receptors and triggers activation.

Other cannabinoids such as CBG and CBDa are beginning to draw attention because of their ability to bind with CB1. 

The research on these cannabinoids is even less than CBD, so we are years away from fully understanding them. But if it turns out to be true and we can use these cannabinoids to manipulate the ECS, they rise to popularity the same way CBD did.

Enzymes

CBD can’t bind with either type of CB receptor. But it is believed to inhibit enzymes that prevent the production of anandamide. 

Experts believe this indirect reaction promotes a healthy ECS.

What Does the ECS Do?

The ECS is responsible for regulating responses all over the body. Endocannabinoids are produced on demand when the body needs them. 

These neurotransmitters cause a release in the CB1 and CB2 receptors believed to control: 

  • Mood
  • Memory
  • Appetite
  • Pain
  • Sleep-wake cycle

For instance, say you twist your ankle. The pain caused by the injury triggers a response by the ECS, white blood cells are sent to the area to HELP HEAL the wound.

The ECS is also believed to affect MOOD. People with deficient levels of endocannabinoids could be suffering from mental health conditions. By introducing cannabinoids into the body, these levels are increased.

More Research, More Data

Scientists have had success cloning endocannabinoids and endocannabinoid receptors. 

They can see whether cannabinoids have the ability to bind with the receptors or not. The gap in understanding happens after this reaction.

Experts don’t completely understand how the activation can help humans improve their lives. We all know that THC creates a high, but it is yet to be fully understood. Scientists know that the ECS has a major role in these important functions, but more research is needed to be able to use cannabinoids for specific purposes.

The ECS is complicated. 

The leading cannabis scientists are still trying to figure out exactly how it works. The biggest take away for beginners to understand is that CBD has an indirect effect on the ECS. This means that taking CBD one time isn’t going to do much. You need to take CBD consistently, over extended periods to successfully create a healthy production of endocannabinoids.

Taking CBD is much different than THC. It takes dedication to see results, once a user understands why, it is much more likely that they will commit themselves to taking CBD every day.

SOURCES

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2219532/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4620874/

https://www.healthline.com/health/endocannabinoid-system#how-it-works