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The Endocannabinoid System: A Scientific Breakdown

Have you ever wondered why cannabis affects us the way it does? Why does THC give us that body-and-mind-relaxing “high”? Well, science has all the answers to the red tie of fate that links the beloved plant to our bodies.

The human body is an intricate machine of complex systems, each working in tandem to maintain overall health and homeostasis. Your respiratory system works to deliver fresh air to the lungs, your cardiac system pumps blood to your heart, and your endocannabinoid system…sends signals throughout your body? But wait, aren’t “cannabinoids” in cannabis?

That’s right—if the body has a system for it, it must mean it’s important (and essential). The endocannabinoid system (ECS) was discovered in the 1990s to play a crucial role in various physiological processes, including mood regulation, pain perception, appetite control, and immune function. Let’s break it down.

Understanding the ECS

Deep down within the brain and nervous system is a biological network of endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes.

Endocannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds that resemble the cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. The two primary endocannabinoids are anandamide (AEA) (derived from the Sanskrit word “ananda,” which translates to “bliss,” or “the bliss molecule”) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). These endocannabinoids are synthesized on demand and act as messengers, transmitting signals between cells.

The receptors of the ECS are known as cannabinoid receptors, and they also have two types. Type one is CB1, primarily found in the central nervous system. Type two is CB2, predominantly located in the peripheral immune system. When endocannabinoids bind to these receptors, they initiate a series of biological responses, modulating various physiological processes.

Functions of the ECS

1. Mood Regulation

Believe it or not, the ECS is behind all the different moods you feel throughout the day. Activation of CB1 receptors in the brain can influence neurotransmitter release, leading to mood, stress, and anxiety changes.

2020 research suggests that targeting the ECS through pharmacological interventions could likely help manage mood disorders like depression and anxiety.

2. Pain Perception

When released in response to pain, endocannabinoids bind to CB1 receptors in the spinal cord and brain. This analgesic effect reduces pain signals—for example, when your hand touches a hot stove, and your reflexes kick in, your hand draws back and feels the aftermath. But, as the pain floods your body, the endocannabinoids dull your pain slightly to maintain homeostasis. This defensive effect of the ECS has inspired the development of many cannabinoid-based therapies for chronic pain management; ever heard of medicinal marijuana

3. Appetite and Metabolism

The munchies” is a popular term coined from the insatiable appetite induced by cannabis use—and for good reason. CB1 receptors in the hypothalamus and limbic system influence food intake, energy expenditure, and the chemical reward system triggered by food consumption. When the ECS is deregulated, it can lead to illnesses like anorexia, obesity, and other eating disorders, making it a therapeutic tool for keeping a healthy metabolism.

4. Immune Function

One of the most important benefits of the ECS is that it modulates immune responses and inflammation. Cb2 receptors found on immune cells regulate the release of cytokines and other immune molecules. The interaction between the ECS and the immune system has implications for various inflammatory conditions, autoimmune disorders, and even cancer.

Clinical Implications and Future Directions

The scientific breakthrough of the first naturally occurring endogenous cannabinoid in 1992 (anandamide) was the first major implication of the endocannabinoid system. It was found by Raphael Mechoulam and NIMH researchers William Devane and Dr. Lumir Hanus.

Thanks to them, our understanding of the ECS has opened new doors for medical research and the development of novel therapies. Cannabis-based medicines with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) have demonstrated promise in alleviating symptoms of epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. The ECS system also breaks down CBD (cannabidiol), which is similar to THC in that it can come from cannabis but differs because it is non-psychoactive. Overall, it takes consistent research to fully elucidate the therapeutic potential of the ECS and uncover the safety and efficacy of cannabinoid-based treatments.

Furthermore, the benefits of the ECS don’t stop there. Researchers are investigating the role of the ECS in other conditions, like neurodegenerative disorders, cardiovascular diseases, and psychiatric illnesses. By honing a deeper understanding of the ECS and its intricate mechanisms, scientists hope to develop targeted therapies to modulate the system for better health outcomes.

Green II Gold Therapeutic Breakthroughs

From a CBD-derived balancing face toner to a facial serum, face cleanser, and more, researchers have discovered the absorbing properties of CBD into the skin and subsequent ECS. Ananda Professional, a hemp-derived cannabis researcher, partners with and educates medical practitioners to find the safest and highest-quality hemp-based medicine available.

Their Green II Gold full-spectrum CBD collection infuses the power of nature with potent botanicals and food-grade phytocannabinoids into their skin care. Discover their therapeutic benefits here.

For more information on the ECS and CBD-derived skin care products, consult your hemp friends at The Hemp Pharmacist.

**The information provided in this blog is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. The use of any information provided on this site should be done only in conjunction with and under the guidance of a qualified medical professional. We are not responsible for any actions or inaction on a user’s part based on the information that is presented in the blog.**

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