Endocannabinoid System -full explanation
So what is the endocannabinoid system?
What is all the fuss about it?
As CBD (cannabidiol) gains popularity, more people understandably want to know its relation with the Endocannabinoid System (from now on named as ECS).
The reason behind this interest? CBD (or any phytocannabinoid) interacts with our ECS boosting its effects.
The ECS is just another system in our bodies like, for example, the gastric or the cardiovascular systems.
Despite the ECS is fundamental for correct body functioning, is common for people to be unaware of it. But why? Mainly because of its recent discovery and the stigma created against it by its association to cannabis recreational use.
Table of Contents
In the early ’90s, during the study of phytocannabinoids like CBD and THC, researchers found that humans have cannabinoid receptors.
Like many breakthroughs in science, it was discovered by accident whilst investigating something else, in this case, the CBD and THC.
The finding of the cannabinoid receptors led to discovering the first endocannabinoid (cannabinoid produced by our own body) the Anandamide, also known as the bliss molecule.
These two findings: the receptors and the Anandamide, made the discovery of the ECS, and that is the very reason why the ECS owns its name to the Cannabis plant.
Now let’s get a bit more in deep with the explanation of the ECS.
The ECS is a complex intercellular communication network, similar to the transmission system between neurones, but it spams across the body, not just the brain.
We could say that it is like a “thermostat” regulating several functions in our bodies like balancing and stabilizing the activity and production of different organs and systems.
In other words, we can think of the ECS as an orchestra director, making sure our bodies are working in perfect equilibrium.
Homeostasis is the technical name for perfect equilibrium.
Is the capacity to keep a relatively stable and steady internal condition that persists despite changes on the outside. Examples of this are our body temperature, blood sugar levels or blood pressure.
The ECS is in charge of maintaining these stable conditions by balancing our metabolic processes and optimising our bodies function. Coming (again) with another simile, the ECS is the” balance sensei” of our bodies.
Because of the short period that the ECS has been investigated and its immense complexity, many things still to be unveiled and fully understood.
How does the endocannabinoid system work?
The cannabinoid receptors and the CBD (or any kind of cannabinoid) work the same way as a lock and a key. When interacting together, they bind to each other, which leads to receptor activation.
This activation, triggers a signal onto the cell’s interior which provokes an action onto body regulation (the orchestra director giving instructions).
As discussed, the CBD or any phytocannabinoid (cannabinoids from the hemp) can bind as well to the cannabinoid receptors and produce effects equivalent to endocannabinoids.
Parts of the ECS
The ECS consist of:
- Cannabinoid receptors.
- Endocannabinoids ( cannabinoids produced by our bodies)
- Enzymes: Molecules that synthesize and break down cannabinoids (endo + phyto).
CB1 receptors are mainly found in the nervous system, especially in the brain, and their distribution is widely studied in humans. They are in high presence around regions of the brain related to cognitive functions, anxiety, pain or coordination. We can also find them located in other parts of our body such as our fat cells, liver, lungs, smooth muscle, gastrointestinal tract, pancreatic ß -cells, vessels, reproductive organs or lymphatic nodes.
CB2 receptors Mainly located in the cells of our immune system. Recently, CB2 receptors have been found in brain stem neurons, skin nerve fibres, bone cells, and in our liver and pancreas.
GPR55 Receptors: Information is limited, but it can be found in the digestive system, central nervous system, adrenal glands and spleen.
TRPV1, GPR18, 5-HT3, PPARs: We still knowing not much much about these ones.
The two main endocannabinoids are
- Anandamide (ANA) or bliss molecules as you already know, is the first endocannabinoid discovered. As a curiosity, its name comes from the word “ananda” which in Sanskrit means bliss, a state of serenity, spiritual peace and happiness. ANA is produced in the brain regions where memory, motivation, other higher cognitive processes and movement control are managed.
- 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG).
The most common endocannabinoid in the brain is 2-AG. Its concentration on the brain is about 200 times higher than the bliss molecule.
Other endocannabinoids that have been identified are the 2-arachidonylglycerol ether (Noladin), Virodhamine and N-arachidonoyldopamine (NADA).
Implications of the ECS
Let remember that the ECS is a balance master and as such, its function is to maintain our body in perfect working equilibrium.
As you know, still a lot to discover, but the distribution of the ECS receptors can correlate with the regulation of:
- Energy balance and metabolism
- The response to stress
- The female reproductive system
- The autonomous nervous system
- Pain response
- Temperature regulation
- The immune system
- Physical exercise
How CBD interact with our ECS?
CBD helps out our ECS by supporting it on its vital function of regulating body homeostasis. Researchers are currently studying the possibility of CBD enhancing the effects of endocannabinoids in our bodies by inhibiting the cannabinoids enzymes.This is something very promising .
Still a long way to go to fully understand the ECS and its strong relation with phytocannabinoids. We are sure that more parts of this complex system still yet to be discovered.
With your support, we can break stigmas and bring awareness about the hemp.
We know that the endocannabinoid system exists in every human and is critical to have it in an optimum condition to enhance our wellness.
Phytocannabinoids can help boost our ECS and improve body balance.
We hope this article helps you to find the perfect equilibrium.
Voice of Nature, embrace its power.