The Endocannabinoid System, or the ECS, is a complex system found in every single human body. The ECS plays a role in regulating many different physiological processes such as mood, appetite, pain, and sleep. In this post, we’ll explain what the ECS is, how it works, and why it’s important for our health.
The ECS is made up of three main components: endocannabinoids (cannabinoids produced by the body), cannabinoid receptors (proteins found on cell surfaces that interact with cannabinoids), and enzymes that break down cannabinoids. Endocannabinoids are produced by the body and act as signaling molecules that help to regulate the activity of the ECS.
When endocannabinoids bind to cannabinoid receptors, they trigger a series of chemical reactions that can affect various physiological processes. The ECS is involved in many different physiological processes, including the regulation of appetite, pain, mood, sleep, and immune system function. It is also thought to play a role in the development and progression of certain diseases.
The ECS is a complex system that is still being studied, but research has shown that it can play a crucial role in maintaining homeostasis or balance in the body. When the ECS is not functioning properly, it can lead to a range of health problems, such as chronic pain, inflammation, and neurological disorders.
Furthermore, cannabinoids found in marijuana can interact with the ECS, altering neurotransmitter release and producing various effects on the body, including relaxation, euphoria, and altered perception of time and space.
Research has linked the ECS to the following processes:
These functions all contribute to homeostasis, which refers to the stability of your body’s internal functions. If something — such as pain from an injury or a fever — throws off your body’s homeostasis, your ECS kicks in to help your body return to its ideal operation.
Experts believe that maintaining homeostasis is the primary role of the ECS.
Now that we understand the ECS and how it functions in our bodies to maintain homeostasis and better health, we need to know how cannabis and the cannabinoids contained in it affect the ECS and how they work together.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is one of the main cannabinoids found in cannabis and one of the most commonly recognized. Once THC is consumed, it interacts with the ECS by binding to receptors, just like endocannabinoids do. It binds to both CB1 and CB2 receptors.
The other major cannabinoid found in cannabis is cannabidiol (CBD). Research is ongoing to determine exactly how CBD interacts with the ECS. But researchers do know that it doesn’t bind to CB1 or CB2 receptors the way THC does. Some research shows that CBD works by preventing endocannabinoids from being broken down, allowing for a more powerful effect on healing the body.
CB1 receptors – The CB1 receptor is one of the most abundant G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) in the central nervous system and is found in particularly high levels in the neocortex, hippocampus, basal ganglia, cerebellum, and brainstem. CB1 receptors are also found on peripheral nerve terminals and some extra-neural sites such as the testis, eye, vascular endothelium, and spleen.
CB2 receptors – The CB2 receptors are found predominantly in cells and tissues of the immune system (Klein, 2005; Mackie, 2006). In the CNS, CB2 receptor expression is associated with inflammation.
In addition, some experts believe that there can be a clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CED) in the human body that can actually cause certain conditions. An article published in 2016 includes research and reviews occurring over 10 years on this subject. Low endocannabinoid levels, or ECS dysfunction, have been shown to appear together with migraines, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome among other conditions. In addition, the study showed that 97% of those suffering from migraines also had fibromyalgia. None of these conditions have a clear underlying cause and they are often resistant to traditional treatment. These conditions are sometimes diagnosed as psychosomatic when there is a lack of evidence as to the underlying cause in addition to the failure of endless traditionally-used pharmaceuticals.
In conclusion, the Endocannabinoid System is an important and complex system that plays a crucial role in maintaining balance in the body. Further research is needed to fully understand its functions and potential therapeutic applications but existing research and anecdotal reports from patients are extremely encouraging concerning the healing benefits of ECS coupled with cannabis.
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