The Endocannabinoid System 101
Say it with us—endo-canna-binoid. Great, you’re ready to learn about the amazing endocannabinoid system.
The first thing to know is that the endocannabinoid system is made up of receptors that interact with THC and CBD, collectively known as cannabinoids, and is just starting to really be studied by researchers.
Let’s go back to 1988 when the first evidence of the endocannabinoid system was found by researchers who were studying the brains of mice. Their conclusion? That this system exists to interact with tetrahydrocannabinol (your friend, THC).
But this wasn’t the only amazing thing they found.
Even more intriguing was the discovery that these receptors are largely concentrated in the parts of the brain that regulate processes like memory, emotion, cognition, and coordination. There was a distinct link to emotional regulation and physiology.
As time and research continued, even more discoveries were made about the endocannabinoid system and how our bodies process these compounds. In 1993, researchers found more cannabinoid receptors somewhere else in the body: the immune system. Yes! You know the one. These receptors in the immune system interacted with the THC compound in the same way as the ones found in the brain.
Further research has uncovered much more about how human cannabinoid receptors and receptors in cannabis compounds, such as THC and CBD, interact. Big surprise, the relationship between endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids is way more complex than many suspected.
So, what’s the bottom line? Turns out, humans have a system that’s literally made to interact with cannabinoids.
At this point, researchers knew they were onto something really big.
We’re still discovering just how much this system affects different parts of the body. We still don’t know precisely how the human body’s cannabinoid receptors tie into our overall health, but studies have shown that there are some rather important health benefits associated with endocannabinoids. This is also the case with phytocannabinoids.
The Endocannabinoid System and Phytocannabinoids
Different phytocannabinoids, like THC and CBD, interact differently with the endocannabinoid system. Each phytocannabinoid is unique, not just in the way it interacts with the human body, but in the potential benefits for health.
What’s clear is that phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids work together to achieve certain effects. Endocannabinoids are found all through the body. Researchers think that they help maintain different bodily functions, for everything from the immune system to the nervous system.
The endocannabinoid system most definitely plays a crucial role in maintaining the body’s homeostasis, or normal overall functioning. Homeostasis doesn’t just affect the organ function, circulation, and so on, but also the anxiety levels and mood changes. Scientists are still researching exactly how this all works.
Humans have two main types of endocannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are located in the brain and central nervous system. They interact with the sensation of pain, stress, motor skills, and memory. CB2 receptors are found throughout the organs. They interact with the cardiovascular, immune, and muscular systems.
It’s a big discovery, so it makes sense that we’re still figuring it out. But the importance of cannabinoids will *blow* your mind.
Why You Need Phytocannabinoids
Endocannabinoids help with your body’s upkeep for your general health. It happens to everyone: as you get older, your body parts get damaged and start to break down. Some of this is just because of aging. But health problems can definitely be a part of it too. Endocannabinoids help to maintain your overall health.
But there’s a caveat to that.
If your health gets worse, your system might not be able to pull it back to a healthy place. What does this mean? It means that when your system corrects itself, it might find new homeostasis that’s anything but healthy. For situations like these, phytocannabinoids can make all the difference. Why? Precisely because of the way they interact with endocannabinoids.
You’ve probably heard of CBD. CBD interacts with both CB1 and CB2 receptors in the body. When it does this, it improves the performance of the receptors, enabling them to do what they’re supposed to do even better than before. CBD also helps resolve cannabinoid deficiency, which can cause headaches, mood changes, and other negative symptoms.
Cannabinoid deficiency is most likely the result of the endocannabinoid system running low on cannabinoids. In that case, CBD helps body parts do exactly what they’re supposed to do — sometimes better than they could before.
But that’s not the end of what CBD can do.
CBD can also help with some psychological conditions. For example, it helps maintain cortisol levels and helps your brain respond to stress signals more efficiently. Anxiety increases cortisol levels and causes the feelings associated with stress, so balancing cortisol levels in the brain is a must. CBD can also relieve inflammation because it suppresses the body’s inflammatory responses, especially when applied directly onto the skin. This is great news for people with arthritis, infections, or autoimmune disorders. CBD also promotes the generation of regulatory cells and can relieve the ways your brain processes pain.
What’s one of the coolest things CBD can do?
Believe it or not, CBD can also reduce seizures. People who have Lennox-Gaustat Syndrome or Dravet Syndrome, two of the most severe types of epilepsy, often see a big reduction in seizures when using CBD. CBD helps to slow nerve activity which can overwhelm the brain.
The other commonly known cannabinoid is THC. While CBD reduces anxiety, THC can cause anxiety in some people. THC is also the cause of the “high” that most people think of when they think about cannabis because it’s psychoactive. Because CBD is not psychoactive, it delivers all the health benefits without affecting your brain.
For most people, CBD doesn’t cause any side effects. In some people, it might cause mild nausea.
It’s clear they work differently, but we’re still not sure precisely how THC and CBD interact with the endocannabinoid system. It makes sense that CBD would be beneficial to the body’s endocannabinoid system, but we still don’t understand the cause and effect of this process. A lot of people have reported relief of their symptoms and improved overall health. But the bottom line is that we’re still finding out about all the things that CBD can do. And we can’t wait.