September 11, 2020
Research and studies from all over the Internet give insight into the capabilities of CBD and its effects on the body. But possibly more important than how CBD oil works is why it can affect the human body the way it does.
CBD, like any other cannabinoids doesn’t actually work on its own within the body. When CBD molecules enter the bloodstream, they continue to travel and pass through the blood-brain barrier to reach the endocannabinoid system. Yes believe it or not there is a specific system in our bodies that are receivers for cannabinoids!
But what is the endocannabinoid system exactly? And why is the system necessary for cannabinoids to even work? This guide details this bodily system – mainly how does the endocannabinoid system work, the endocannabinoid system function, and why it is crucial. This is true not only for cannabinoids but also for overall wellness.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS), also referred to as the endogenous cannabinoid system, is a complex physiologic network that stretches throughout the human body and helps establish and maintain overall health and wellness.
The endocannabinoid system is not only present inside human bodies but in all vertebrates, including mammals, reptiles, fish, amphibians, and birds. Early research on the ECS shows that the system may have evolved well over 500 million years ago!
It uses complex actions, such as the signaling or transmission of neurons, that affect our nervous system, our immune system, and several of our body’s organs. And it typically serves as countless bridges of communication between the mind and body.
Initially, scientific findings suggested that the endocannabinoid system function was only connected to the brain and nerves; however, throughout the years, researchers discovered that the ECS encompasses several parts of the body, including skin, gastrointestinal tract, bone, tissue, and other biological structures.
And now, modern studies explain the involvement of the ECS with many different physiological functions such as sleep, metabolism, mood, appetite, stress, and general pain – even reproductive and immunological abilities.
Even though the scientific community is still working to uncover the secrets of the endocannabinoid system, we currently know that it helps to regulate a broad range of processes.
And even if you don’t use CBD products, the ECS still functions and remains active inside your body. For the endocannabinoid system to work correctly, it uses three critical components:
The cannabinoid receptors comprise the entirety of the endocannabinoid system and allow it to function. These connectors spread throughout the body – attached to cellular membranes – and are possibly more numerous than any other connective system.
Two known types of cannabinoid receptors that make up the ECS – Cannabinoid Receptor 1 (CB1) and Cannabinoid Receptor 2 (CB2).
CB1 receptors are predominant within our central nervous system (CNS), which contains our brain and spinal cord; they can affect or send transmissions to the connective tissues, neurons, glands, gonads, and organs associated with the CNS.
CB2 receptors are more prevalent with the peripheral nervous system (PNS), consisting of nerve fibers branching from the CNS and stretching to many different organs and parts of the body such as various limbs, skin, muscles, and immune cells.
Cannabinoid receptors work by transmitting information to the inside of the cell regarding conditional changes; this process then starts the most suitable cellular response. And many tissues can have both CB1 and CB2 receptors that link to different actions. They become active primarily through the use of endocannabinoids.
Endocannabinoids are one of the two types of cannabinoids that activate the cannabinoid receptors within the endocannabinoid system. But more importantly, they are the cannabinoid molecules that our bodies produce naturally.
Phytocannabinoids, in contrast to endocannabinoids, are cannabinoids synthesized naturally from plants.
Scientists haven’t quite figured out how many endocannabinoids our bodies typically produce because they only become synthesized when needed.
Two vital endocannabinoids have been discovered through the years:
Also known as N-arachidonoylethanolamine (AEA), it is a fatty acid neurotransmitter that has been featured in many scientific reviews that have researched how it affects humans. It is sometimes referred to as the “bliss molecule” because anandamide derives from the Sanskrit word “ananda,” which can mean delight or joy.
It was identified and named first in 1992 by Israeli organic chemist Dr. Raphael Mechoulam.
Although 2-AG was already a known chemical compound, scientists later discovered its compatibility with cannabinoid receptors. It was also described first by Dr. Mechoulam along with his student, Shimon Ben-Shabat, between 1994 and 1995. Levels of 2-AG are particularly high in the central nervous system, and it is also found in breast milk and maternal cows.
Both endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids stimulate cannabinoid receptors by attaching or binding to them. In particular, to answer what is CBD, it’s a non-intoxicating phytocannabinoid that typically connects to CB2 receptors – sending signals to the body parts and organs closely associated with these bodily systems.
On the other hand, THC, which is a psychoactive phytocannabinoid, normally binds to CB1 receptors throughout the central nervous system (CNS). And sometimes, CBD may also attach to CB1 receptors – restricting other molecular compounds from interacting or affecting the functions performed by the CNS.
Without phytocannabinoids, the endocannabinoid system uses our endogenous cannabinoids, which the body only creates when needed, and which have short-range effects and a shortened half-life before their degradation from enzymes.
Earlier, it was mentioned that the endocannabinoid system helps to maintain health and wellness. And while it does so in many different ways, its primary purpose is to help manage homeostasis.
Homeostasis is the stability and balance of our physiological and cognitive functions in response to fluctuations – created internally or externally – that would cause our bodies to behave or perform differently than usual.
We typically maintain homeostasis through negative feedback methods – meaning that only when something changes, the body begins to correct itself. And the endocannabinoid system plays an essential role in that correction.
The ECS becomes used only when and where it is required because its role is to keep all other systems functioning within the optimal range.
If a neuron in the brain starts to send too many signals at once, the neuron that’s receiving all those transmissions will synthesize endocannabinoids where it’s connected to the hyper neuron. The endocannabinoids make their way to the overacting neuron and attach to its CB1 receptors and send their signals to calm that neuron down – returning things to that optimal range and maintaining homeostasis.
Other biological systems similarly work when trying to return to their optimal range of functioning. Another example is how our immune system uses inflammation as a response mechanism to physical damage or infection.
Inflammation is useful when it’s repairing damaged tissue or getting rid of pathogens. The resulting inflamed area is from the immune cells and fluids flowing to the injured site and getting things back to how it used to be – they’re working within that optimal range.
However, if inflammation spills over into perfectly fine areas and organs, or lasts much longer than needed, it can cause much harm. Chronic inflammation is when inflammatory responses remain for too long, and when it starts to attack healthy cells, it becomes an autoimmune condition.
Overall, the ECS does a significant amount of work to stabilize our bodily functions. It’s a fundamental structure made up of cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoid neurotransmitters, and metabolic enzymes. And all these pieces work together to help maintain homeostasis.
But by understanding homeostasis, the endocannabinoid system function, and the role the endocannabinoid system plays with our internal balance and stability, we can develop and explore alternatives for maintaining wellness. In the future, such options could become standardized methods that are less invasive and more amicable than today’s conventional means.
March 22, 2021
So many people who connect with us talk about wanting to get better sleep. Which is understandable!
If anyone thinks sleep isn't so important then you should watch this! It's one of our favourites and really highlights the importance of sleep well.
March 22, 2021
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