What is the Endocannabinoid System and CBD?
You may have heard of cannabinoids and their association with cannabis, but did you know that our bodies produce their own cannabinoids too? The endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays a crucial role in regulating various physiological processes, and understanding it could have important implications for health and well-being.
Scientists and cannabis experts continue to study and examine the ECS. As far as we know, it helps to regulate a range of functions in the body, including:
- Immune function
The ECS is a real system in the body that is active even without the cannabinoids we give it. Keep reading below to learn more about the ECS and how it works with cannabinoids.
What is the Endocannabinoid System?
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is a complex cell-signaling system that plays a crucial role in regulating various physiological processes, such as mood, appetite, discomfort, sleep, and immune function. It was first discovered in the early 1990s when researchers were trying to understand how THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, affected the body.
The Endocannabinoid System is named after the compounds in the plant that led to its discovery, cannabis. These compounds are called cannabinoids.
However, the Endocannabinoid System is not just involved in the effects of marijuana. It is a fundamental system that exists in all vertebrates, including humans, and is involved in many processes critical to health and well-being.
How Does The Endocannabinoid System Work?
The ECS consists of three main components: endocannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors, and enzymes. Endocannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds that are similar in structure to the compounds found in the cannabis plant, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
The two main endocannabinoids are anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). We are going to focus mainly on the cannabinoid receptors and their role, as they play the most important part.
These cannabinoid receptors are proteins that are found on the surface of cells and are responsible for receiving signals from endocannabinoids. Our body has two kinds of cannabinoid receptors in the Endocannabinoid System: CB1 and CB2.
The CB1 receptors are found throughout the body but are focused mainly on the brain. These receptors facilitate movement, discomfort, emotion, mood, thinking, appetite, memories, and other functions. The CB2 receptors are mostly found in the immune system and affect discomfort and inflammation.
Enzymes are responsible for breaking down endocannabinoids once they have fulfilled their function. The two main enzymes in the ECS are fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), which breaks down anandamide, and monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL), which breaks down 2-AG.
The Endocannabinoid System functions through a process known as retrograde signaling, which means that when a neuron is activated, it releases endocannabinoids that bind to CB1 receptors, inhibiting the release of neurotransmitters.
This mechanism serves to modulate the activity of the nervous system and maintain homeostasis. In an effort to keep the body in homeostasis, research has shown that the ECS plays a part in the following processes:
- appetite and digestion
- inflammation and other immune system responses
- learning and memory
- motor control
- muscle formation
- bone remodeling and growth
- reproductive system function
- skin and nerve function
These are just some areas of the body where the Endocannabinoid System potentially helps keep the body in balance. More research is needed to know the full extent and reach of the ECS.
To sum this up, the endocannabinoid system plays a part in helping the body to stay in homeostasis or balance. There are two main receptors in the body that, when stimulated, help signal to the body that there is a problem. The body then does what it can to potentially fix the issue.
How Does THC And CBD Work With The Endocannabinoid System?
Now that we know how the Endocannabinoid System works let's talk about how CBD and THC interact with it. The ECS contains compounds that can activate or inhibit the system when the cannabis plant or its compounds is introduced into the body.
When THC is presented to the body, it attaches itself to the CB1 receptors adding to the cannabinoids our body naturally produces. THC is bound to these cannabinoid receptors, and it signals the brain to release more dopamine. This excess of dopamine combined with the THC aids in the "high" feeling associated with THC.
CBD, on the other hand, has been shown to have a more complex mechanism of action, modulating the activity of the ECS indirectly and interacting with other receptors in the body. It is believed that CBD stimulates these cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) and encourages the body to produce its own cannabinoids. These cannabinoids then try to find the problem area within the body and may potentially help fix this problem.
CBD is mainly known to potentially help with improvements in symptoms related to sleep, mood, and discomfort. Since these potential problems are associated with some of the systems that the Endocannabinoid System helps with, CBD may be a good option to try if you are experiencing these symptoms.
Side Effects of Cannabinoids
While the Endocannabinoid System is mainly associated with being helpful, there can be some adverse effects when the ECS is used. The ECS has also been linked to the regulation of appetite and metabolism. CB1 receptors are highly expressed in the hypothalamus, a region of the brain that plays a key role in the regulation of food intake and energy expenditure.
Studies have shown that activation of CB1 receptors increases food intake and leads to weight gain, while the blockade of CB1 receptors has the opposite effect. This is why THC is known to increase appetite, whereas CBD has been known to decrease it.
Just like any other system in our body, any sort of overload on this system can cause more problems within our body. Because of this, it is important to know more about the ECS and how the things we introduce into our bodies may affect it.
Sum it up!
Hopefully, you now have a clearer understanding of the endocannabinoid system and its functions. Sometimes reading about the systems in our bodies, including the Endocannabinoid System, can get confusing with all the technical terms, but hopefully, we explained it well enough for you to understand!
The Endocannabinoid System plays a vital role in helping our bodies stay in homeostasis or balance. If we can understand this system a little better, we may be able to make healthier decisions and help our bodies better.
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