You’ve heard of cannabis. You’ve probably even heard of cannabinoids. But do you know why those marijuana compounds are able to do so much good in our bodies, tackling everything from chronic nerve pain to inflammation and depression? What are endocannabinoids?
The amazing effects of cannabis flowers and leaves owe a lot of their medicinal prowess to the Endocannabinoid System. This intricate biological system of naturally produced chemicals has prepared the human body to receive and utilize the more than 80 cannabinoids found in marijuana.
Indeed, certain cannabinoids bear a striking resemblance to natural neurotransmitters and other chemicals our bodies produce all on their own. When something happens to interrupt or retard that natural production, cannabis can step in to repair, replenish and reawaken those processes.
The Endocannabinoid System
The body’s Endocannabinoid System helps regulate us, letting us achieve a biological imperative: homeostasis. Every moment of the day, our bodies are working to maintain this balance of temperature, blood sugar, blood pressure, iron levels, blood oxygen, calcium, and many other variables. A single variable falling out of balance can be detrimental to health in many ways, ranging from feeling sort of “blah” for a few hours, to a long-term illness.
The Endocannabinoid System is made up of three essential elements:
- Cannabinoid receptors
- Metabolic enzymes
Together, these elements let our bodies keep an eye on what is happening on a cellular level. The cannabinoid receptors – two types, called CB1 and CB2 – are ready to jump in and begin the process that will correct any imbalances. These are the “locks”.
Endocannabinoid molecules bind to these receptors and activate them. The two primary endocannabioids are anandamide – which is a lot like THC and is known as the “bliss molecule” – and 2-AG (2-Arachidonoylglycerol). These are the “keys”: anandamide fits perfectly into CB1 receptors, and 2-AG binds primarily with CB2, though both endocannabinoids can affect the other receptor with less potency.
Finally, metabolic enzymes inside the cells destroy the endocannabinoids after they have served their purpose. They include FAAH (fatty acid amide hydrolase) for anandamide and MAGL (monoacylglycerol lipase) for 2-AG.
This process occurs in nearly every bodily system. The Endocannabinoid System is very efficient in that it is generally initiated only when re-balance is needed.
Let’s get science-y for a minute
If you’re curious, anandamide and 2-AG are created in the body following a reaction between arachidonic acid and another endogenous molecule (glycerol for 2-AG and free amines for anandamide).
How Was the Endocannabinoid System Discovered
You might have guessed that discoveries about the endocannabinoid system stemmed somehow from the cannabis plant itself. It’s not as if the plant and its compounds was named after a system we were already aware of.
Who Discovered THC?
An Israeli scientist named Raphael Mechoulam discovered THC in the 1960s (or, well, discovered what it was that made people high and offered the other benefits found in marijuana). CBD was discovered around the same time. After that, everyone started trying to figure out how and why these compounds worked, and if maybe – just maybe – our bodies were already doing something similar all on their own.
When Were Cannabinoid Receptors Discovered?
They didn’t uncover cannabinoid receptors until the late 1980s, in a rat’s brain of all places. They quickly realized that the brain is teeming with these cannabinoid “locks” – there are more of them than any other neurotransmitter receptors. It didn’t take long to figure out that these receptors play a role in a ton of different functions within the body.
A few years later, the pioneering scientist Mechoulam, and his team, isolated anandamide, and 2-AG was found two years later. Since that time, more and more has been uncovered about the fascinating Endocannabinoid System – all thanks to someone’s curiosity about marijuana!
Endocannabinoids and Inflammation
Here’s an example of how the Endocannabinoid System can help return to body to homeostasis.
Inflammation occurs when the immune system feels it needs to protect the body from danger, such as infection or injury. The process helps to remove germs and other problematic substances, but if it persists longer than necessary or if the immune system sees danger in something that is not dangerous, this protection can be detrimental. Inflammation becomes detrimental when it causes conditions like arthritis, gout, Lupus, and sinusitis.
Endocannabinoids can stop or decrease the inflammation requests sent out by the immune system. When molecules that cause inflammation are triggered by signals from the immune system, endocannabinoids come along on the trip, and prevent an excessive reaction. This enables the inflammatory molecules to do their job, but not overstay their welcome.
What Functions Does The Endocannabinoid System Regulate?
In addition to inflammation, the Endocannabinoid System can regular the following functions:
You might recognize that cannabis is known for affecting many of these functions as well. That’s no coincidence. The endocannabinoid system and the compounds found in this healing, all-natural remedy are very closely linked.
CBD and the Endocannabinoid System
Finally, let’s talk about CBD!
You now know the endocannabinoid anandamide and the cannabinoid THC are very similar. But what about that other prevalent cannabinoid found in marijuana, the one that is currently being celebrated for its ability to eradicate seizures and ease pain without any psychoactive effects?
THC binds with CB1 receptors in the brain and body, but CBD bypasses this connection and instead interacts with FAAH (remember, this is the fatty acid that degrades the endocannabinoids after they’ve done their job). CBD joins forces with FAAH to assist in the breakdown of leftover anandamide, but prevents it from obliterating the neurotransmitter completely. The remaining “bliss molecules” protected by CBD can be used elsewhere in the body, elevating your mood without that euphoric high known to THC.
How cool is that?
Cannabis Seeds To Get The Most Out Of Your Endocannabinoid System
Now that you’ve learned all about the endocannabinoid system, why not plant some cannabis seeds? They’ll grow into healing plants that will help this vital system be more effective!
- Jack Herer improves mood and decreases stress and anxiety.
- Blueberry Auto-Flowering eases pain and can relieve depression. It is also high in CBD.
- CBD Moby Dick is a non-psychoactive strain that can ease symptoms of depression and stop muscle spasms.
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