Back in 1990, scientists made a remarkable discovery that both changed the way we view the human body and cannabis: the endocannabinoid system.
This system developed over time within our bodies for a number of functions, including our mood and appetite. However, what has everyone’s attention is the way it naturally interacts with cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant (known as phytocannabinoids).
Some theories speculate our bodies have evolved for the sake of cannabis. Others believe this s nothing more than a mere coincidence. Whatever your argument is, there’s no denying that the endocannabinoid system is a fascinating aspect of the human body. And one of which we have a great deal to learn more about.T
throughout this article, we’re going to take a deeper look into the endocannabinoid system and how it plays a major role in each of our lives.
The endocannabinoid system is a structure of neurons, neural pathways, and other cells collectively working together with molecules, enzymes, and either one or both cannabinoid receptors.¹
These cannabinoid receptors are known as:²
Resides in the brain (particularly our hypothalamus, hippocampus, and amygdala), central nervous system (CNS), connective tissue, intestines, and our testes/ovaries. They’re known for benefits, including (but not limited to):
• Decreasing anxiety
• Decreasing blood pressure
• Decreasing depression
• Decreasing fear and paranoia
• Decreasing intestinal inflammation
Resides in our immune cells (particularly, B and T cells, macrophages, microglia, monocytes), spleen, tonsils, thymus. They’re known for helping people almost every type of known human disease, including (but not limited to):
•Bone and skin
• Kidney and liver
When we consume a cannabis plant; these receptors naturally interact with the various phytocannabinoids. This is also what causes us to feel effects such as psychoactivity (or a “high”).
The interactions between phytocannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system are so great, research as of this time has only scratched the surface. However, in order to even understand what we know about this interaction, we must first know what phytocannabinoids are.
Phytocannabinoids and Their Importance
The cannabis plant is made up of hundreds of phytocannabinoids all of which will have an effect on the body when consumed. For the sake of this article, let’s briefly y take a look at the prominent cannabinoids:
CBC is one of the least active cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. But even with such a reputation, it’s become a very popular discussion piece amongst scientists. This is namely due to it’s potential in preventing cancer cells from spreading throughout the body.³Like other phytocannabinoids, CBC has also been found to relieve pain. For these potential health benefitts, researchers are looking into using CBC as a complementary therapy for cancer patients going through traditional cancer treatment (such as chemotherapy).When consumed, CBC interacts with a cannabinoid found within our bodies (known as an endocannabinoid) called anandamide.
The anandamide is a molecule found in our brains that’s responsible for appetite, depression, fertility, memory, and pain.
It goes without saying that CBD has been making a lot of noise recently. And for good reasons.CBD is one of the most abundant phytocannabinoids found in the cannabis sativa plant. It contains no psychoactive properties (so it won’t get you “high”) and it holds a list of potential medical benefit ts.5 These include:
• Anxiety reliever
• Immune system inhibitor
• Inhibits bacterial growth
• Inhibits cancer cell growth
• Pain reliever
• Promotes bone growth
• Reduces blood sugar levels
• Reduces the risk of artery blockage
• Reduces inflammation
• Reduces nausea and vomiting
• Reduces seizures and convulsions
• Suppresses muscle spasms
CBD is able to have these effects as it doesn’t directly attach itself to CB1 or CB2 receptors, unlike other phytocannabinoids. Instead, CBD indirectly infl uences our endocannabinoid system to naturally produce more cannabinoids.
Cannabidiolic acid (CBDA)
CBDA is a precursor to CBD. In other words, in order for CBD to take on its molecule form, it must start out as CBDA. This is a common trait amongst phytocannabinoids which you’ll fi nd in CBC, CBG, THC, and THCV.
Unfortunately, these precursors have not been found to have nearly as many medical benefits as the cannabinoids that follow. Therefore, more research is being placed on the phytocannabinoids found in a cannabis plant after it’s been harvested.
Going off CBDA, each precursor to a phytocannabinoid determines a specific class of cannabinoids. CBG is no exception. But the truth is, since the prohibition on cannabis, little research has delved into these other classes of phytocannabinoids, including CBG. What we know as of this time is that it helps with sleep problems, such as insomnia, and slowing bacterial growth.
AS research continues, scientists will most likely base it off what’s already known. Therefore, in the case of CBG, scientists will have a strong interest in seeing how the phytocannabinoid can slow bacterial growth and what they can do to magnify this benefi t.
Up until CBD made its way to the market, THC (or Δ9-THC) was the one phytocannabinoid everyone knew of. And this may simply be for the reason that it’s solely responsible for producing the effects everyone thinks of when it comes to marijuana; the euphoric high.
Still, there’s no denying that THC has a number of other medical benefits, including pain alleviation, cancer cell growth inhibition, and nausea relief. Considering THC is another phytocannabinoid that’s abundant in the cannabis plant (and, possibly, the most in-demand), it comes as no surprise many scientists have placed the focus of their research here.
Endocannabinoids and Their Interaction with Phytocannabinoids
Endocannabinoids are the cannabinoids found within our bodies (more specifi cally, our endocannabinoid system). These variety of cannabinoids are responsible for a number of physiological functions, including:
• Appetite, hunger, and metabolism
• Female reproduction
• Immune system response
• Memory and cognition
• Movement and coordination
• Sensory processing
Though research of our ECS remains limited, it’s given that maintaining an ECS is important to your overall health and
wellness.8 With that, it’s important to understand just how the endocannabinoid system works on us in a day-to-day setting. The following are five facts about our ECS to take into consideration:
1.) Endocannabinoid receptors are the amplest found throughout the human body.
Endocannabinoid receptors far outnumber all our neuromodulatory receptors combined. Neuromodulatory receptors include serotonin and dopamine, the chemicals responsible for making us feel pleasure and happiness. Out of all the endocannabinoid receptors, anandamide is the most plentiful.
Anandamide is found within the central nervous system and CB2 receptors. Some of it’s biggest functions include:
• Eating patterns
• Pain relief
• Sleep patterns
It also plays a major role in the early stages of an embryo during pregnancy. Though its role here isn’t entirely understood, many medical professionals assume that infertility is caused by unhealthy anandamide.
2.) Our endocannabinoid system gives us insight into diseases.
When our ECS is balanced, our body is at its healthiest. When an imbalance takes place, the body is either subjected to or more prone to disease.
Scientists have observed this phenomenon in diseases such as neurodegenerative disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer. Within individuals facing one of these diseases, the endocannabinoid levels are changed as well as greater receptor expression.
Many scientists are looking further into this as a means of developing medicines to treat various diseases, including Clinical Endocannabinoid System Deficiency Syndrome. It’s believed this syndrome may be the root cause of many diseases and, if targeted early on, can prevent such diseases.3.) You can help your endocannabinoid system through diet and exercise.
Scientists have discovered that aerobic exercises are a great way to boost anandamide. As we mentioned, this endocannabinoid has a number of roles in the human body that are essential to daily life. If you’re interested in taking things a step further, certain diets will directly impact our endocannabinoid system. From what scientists know as of this time, foods with large sums of essential fatty acids (Omega-3) are ideals, such as oily fish or hemp seeds. These foods will have an impact on endocannabinoid brain signalling.
Written and Published By Paul James In Weed World Magazine Issue 143