The Endocannabinoid System.

The Endocannabinoid System & You

The endocannabinoid system is a collection of cell receptors and corresponding molecules found in the body. A system of the body that functions in a similar way to others more commonly known, such as the immune, endocrine or reproductive system.

Effects on the Body

The endocannabinoid system impacts physiological processes such as pain modulation, memory, appetite, anti-inflammatory responses, and immune system regulation. Based on current research of the endocannabinoid system, it is believed that it’s function is to achieve homeostasis, or the stability of the body’s internal environment.

How it Works

The endocannabinoid system plays a role in regulating a range of functions and processes in the body. It does so through those cell receptors and corresponding molecules. Cell receptors behave like locks on the cells. The keys to these locks are endocannabinoids. Each time an endocannabinoid binds to a cell receptor, it communicates a message, giving the cells specific directions.

There are two different types of cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are primarily found in the brain and central nervous system. CB2 receptors are found in peripheral cells, mainly expressed in immune tissues.

What are Cannabinoids

Cannabinoids are chemical compounds which act on cannabinoid receptors. There are three types of cannabinoid compounds:

  1. Endocannabinoids
    1. Neurotransmitters produced by human tissue
      1. anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG)
  2. Phytocannabinoids
    1. Naturally occurring cannabinoids found in plants
      1. CBD and THC are both phytocannabinoids
      2. 113 total cannabinoids have been identified in the hemp plant
  3. Synthetic Cannabinoids
    1. Man-made, manufactured cannabinoids

The Science

The individual components of the cannabis plant, including THC and CBD, were discovered and studied over the early to mid-1900s, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that scientists truly connected the dots on how cannabinoids interact with the body. 

The discovery of anandamide, a neurotransmitter and endogenous cannabinoid with a structure similar to THC, was a turning point for scientists. In 1992, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, one of the scientists responsible for much of the 20th century cannabis research, discovered that anandamide was part of a larger system in the body. Known as the endocannabinoid system, this network consists of powerful endocannabinoid receptors that bind with cannabinoids and allow the compounds to enter into the bloodstream. 

Since then, knowledge of the endocannabinoid system, how cannabinoids affect the body, and the impact CBD can have on illnesses has grown at an exponential rate. 

A 2006 study published in the The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics synthesized everything scientists knew about the endocannabinoid system since its discovery. This included key findings from neural research and significant results from clinical trials across multiple categories spanning pain and inflammation, gastrointestinal disorders, and musculoskeletal disorders.

After looking at such a large cross-section of research, scientists concluded the future of cannabinoids to be overwhelmingly positive, indicating significant therapeutic uses for CBD.