Even though we’re still taking progressive and impressive strides in the realm of cannabis education there are still a few topics circulating that tend to easily confuse many people.
The endocannabinoid system is one of those topics.
There’s often scattered chatter in the cannabis industry about our endocannabinoid system (ECS) and for many good reasons!
Mostly because of its vital relationship to many regulatory functions of our bodies, but also because of the way that cannabis compounds like CBD and THC produce certain effects by interacting with the ECS.
There exist so many different ways for a consumer to choose from as far as how to take CBD. The most commonly chosen methods include smoking CBD, ingesting it as an edible or gummy, and rubbing it on as a topical for localized relief. No matter the avenue in which the CBD gets into the body, it’s fate is ultimately decided by its relationship and reaction to the body in the endocannabinoid system.
The ECS is directly impacted by CBD and other components of the cannabis plant. It is a highly complex organization within our bodies that scientists and doctors still don’t have 100% figured out yet.
This is partly because the Endocannabinoid System wasn’t technically discovered for what it was until the early 90’s¹ and also because there’s further testing and studies to be done to unfold more discoveries.
Most people will continue to enjoy the long list of health benefits that come with a stellar CBD regime without ever knowing what the ECS is or how it works and that’s okay. But if you’d like to take a stab at understanding how our bodies were made for CBD then keep reading.
In this article we’re going to unpack some of the most important things to know about the ECS and how science says our bodies are responding to CBD.
A Quick Story About How the ECS Came to Be Important
Even though the two most commonly known compounds (CBD and THC) were extracted from the cannabis plant all the way back in 1940, it wasn’t until 20 years after the fact that their structure and composition were more thoroughly understood.
Dr. Raphael Mechoulam is the chemist credited for most of the breakthrough research surrounding the endocannabinoid system.¹ Dr. Mechoulam’s discoveries marked the catalyst responsible for the piles of research that have since been conducted trying to figure out the inner workings of the ECS.
Dr. Mechoulam is quoted saying “two eminent scientists said that the endocannabinoid system is involved in essentially all human disease. This is a very strong statement, but seems to be correct.”¹
Strong statement indeed. But, all judgement aside, it seems the man was onto something.
Cannabinoids, Endocannabinoids and Other Terms to Know
Before we jump into the deep end of the research on the ECS, it’s essential to take a moment and clarify the definitions of cannabinoids and endocannabinoids first. Without a clear understanding of these things, all efforts to understand the endocannabinoid system will fail.
Cannabinoids are compounds residing in the cannabis plant. Some examples include THC, CBD, and CBG.
Endocannabinoids are defined by The Endocannabinoidome publication as “the endogenous ligands of cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2)” and they go on the further state that “a growing body of evidence has emerged the role of the ECS in the regulation of several physiological conditions and numerous diseases.”²
So in simpler terms, endocannabinoids are molecules that are constructed by our own bodies which just so happen to be very similar to the cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant.
Endocannabinoid receptors are located all over the body, and exist for endocannabinoids to bind to. They are categorized into CB1 receptors and CB2 receptors.
How Does CBD Work Within the Endocannabinoid System?
Depending on the type where the category of receptor is and the type of endocannabinoid that binds to it, results are unlocked within the body.
For instance CB1 receptors are more commonly seen in the central nervous system in areas such as your brain, lungs, vascular system, muscles, liver, bone marrow and pancreas. And CB2 receptors tend to be more prevalent throughout the peripheral nervous system commonly residing in areas like your spleen, skin, and immune system.³
The entire reason (seemingly) for our body to be constructing endocannabinoids is to assist our internal systems functioning and working properly.³ And let’s not forget their striking similarities to cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. So when a cannabinoid like CBD enters into the body (no matter the means or method) they proceed to bind to our receptors exactly like the body’s own endocannabinoids would do. And just like how that act of binding unlocks a specific outcome with our endocannabinoids, the same exact thing happens when CBD meets a receptor.
Given all of the information above one fact stands out above the rest. A healthy and well-functioning endocannabinoid is vital in the pursuit of keeping physical and mental balance. And utilizing a regular CBD regime in your life might prove to be more beneficial than you previously imagined.
What Does the Future Look Like for Cannabis Medicine?
With all that we know now about how cannabinoids bind to receptors and unlock certain results in the body, it begs the question...
What does all of this mean for the future of cannabis in the medical scene?
Well it means we have some exciting things to look forward to regarding the potentials involving cannabis to aid in medical diagnosis. The sheer numbers of peer-reviewed studies being conducted and published since the beginning of the legalization is incredible and who knows the knowledge that will be discovered over the next decade. As the legal barricade to even more research weakens over time, the majority of the world holds out hope to see some medical breakthroughs in our time.
There you have it.
Whether you smoke it, bake it, rub it on your skin, or drop it into your food—the truth is, your body is going to react to the CBD in one way or another. And most likely in a positive way.
Setting out to gain a full understanding of the endocannabinoid system can feel intimidating for many people. We hope this informative article has shed some light on what it is, and as well as how CBD works within it.
- News Wise
- The Endocannabinoidome