Scientists and medical experts have discovered all of the human body’s systems. The cardiovascular system, consisting of a network of arteries and veins, was first described in 1628. In 1936, even the intricate signaling channels of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis had been characterized. However, one bodily system remained unidentified until a groundbreaking discovery was made during the lives of many of us less than thirty years ago—the endocannabinoid system.
The human endocannabinoid system is a complex network of cannabinoid receptors throughout the whole body, including the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells. Multiple interconnected mechanisms comprise the ECS. Enzymes generate and degrade cannabinoids, receptor sites on cells for receiving cannabinoids, and endocannabinoids – tiny chemicals that activate cannabinoid receptors. Endocannabinoids are similar to the body’s THC, the most famous and intoxicating component of the cannabis plant.
In addition to being present in humans, endogenous cannabinoids are also present in all animals and fish, except insects.
Like a key that fits into a lock, cannabinoids are intended to bind to cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), activating the receiving neuron and starting a series of processes to carry out a variety of cellular responses necessary for proper operation.
Our ECS is a complex cell-signaling system and one of the most important physiological systems to create and maintain human health. Endocannabinoids and their receptors are found throughout your body. We have:
- Connective tissue
- Immune cells
The endocannabinoids, with complicated activities in the neurological system, immune system, and almost all organs, represent a literal bridge between the mind and body. When you understand this system, you will see a component that may link brain activity to disease states and physical health.
How is the Endocannabinoid System composed?
Scientists identified endocannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors, and enzymes as the three essential components of the endocannabinoid system.
- Endocannabinoids are produced inside the body and function as signaling molecules attaching to ECS receptors. “Cannabinoid” refers to any chemical that stimulates these receptors, and Anandamide and 2-AG are the two primary endocannabinoids in the human body.
- CB1 and CB2 are the primary receptor types of the endocannabinoid system. These binding sites are found on several kinds of cells throughout the body. Various cannabinoids bind to, inhibit, or modify the function of multiple receptors. This comprises endocannabinoids, Phytocannabinoids (found in plants), and laboratory-created cannabinoids. TRPV1 (transient receptor potential vanilloid one) acts as a binding site for CBD, THC, and Anandamide; hence researchers believe it to be a network component.
- Enzymes are proteins that aid in the acceleration of chemical processes. Enzymes in the endocannabinoid system both produce and degrade endocannabinoids. As one of the essential enzymes in the body, fatty acid amidohydrolase (FAAH) spoils Anandamide.
What is the Endocannabinoid System‘s function?
Cannabis researchers have identified the endocannabinoid system as a homeostasis regulator, which implies that it helps guarantee the smooth operation of other processes. Neurons transmit cannabinoids backward across the synaptic gap to receptors to control which chemical they want to receive.
Consider body temperature as an illustration of homeostasis. Bodily processes cease to work if it falls too low or surges too high. Our body continually attempts to maintain a safe temperature of 36–37°C.
All of our other biological systems are in continual physiological homeostasis, and endocannabinoids serve to maintain this condition. The endocannabinoid system modulates the following scenarios:
- Central and peripheral nerves
- Endocrine system
- Immune tissues
What exactly is CBD?
CBD stands for cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid produced by cannabis plants. Due to the absence of psychoactive characteristics, CBD cannot make the high associated with marijuana. However, if you consume CBD oil from Hemp, you do not have to worry about getting high since such products contain less than 0.3% THC.
CBD has a vast array of medicinal qualities. However, when people discuss CBD, they often laud it for its health benefits rather than recreational value.
What exactly is THC?
THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is the primary psychoactive component in cannabis plants, and it is responsible for the profoundly soothing and euphoric effects of getting high. Additionally, it is analgesic, appetite-stimulating, and sedative. Although THC is not the only cannabinoid capable of generating intoxication, it is the only one found in amounts sufficient to cause a high. Because of this, THC has a long history of association with recreational usage.
Despite this, CBD has several recognized medicinal advantages. Its cognitive and mood-altering characteristics may benefit people suffering from various physical and mental disorders.
The Endocannabinoid System, Marijuana, and Hemp
Although marijuana was the catalyst for discovering the endocannabinoid system, it is not the only plant interacting with this signaling network. Both marijuana and Hemp are Cannabis sativa, the same genus, and species. Marijuana and Hemp interact with the endocannabinoid system in distinct ways.
Increased THC concentrations have been developed in marijuana. This phytocannabinoid interacts with CB1 receptors in the brain and provides psychoactive effects. THC has been separated for usage in Sativex, a pharmaceutical medicine authorized by the FDA.
Because it must contain less than 0.3% THC, Hemp is distinct from marijuana, and Hemp is not a restricted drug so long as it fulfills this criterion. Instead of THC, Hemp includes a more incredible amount of CBD, with no psychoactive effects. Two FDA-approved drugs, Sativex and Epidiolex, contain isolated CBD.
Although marijuana is most recognized for its THC concentration and Hemp is best known for its CBD level, both plants contain more than a hundred distinct phytocannabinoids. It has been hypothesized that the synergistic effect of plant chemicals supports the endocannabinoid system. Cannabis is a restricted drug, yet whole-hemp extracts are sold as dietary supplements.
The Endocannabinoid System in Brief
Since ancient times, the endocannabinoid system has helped the human body maintain balance and well-being, but we became aware of it 30 years ago. It is believed that the complex signaling network of endocannabinoids and their receptors affects not just brain function but also the functioning of almost all other organs and systems. Moreover, the foods we consume likely interact with and modulate the endocannabinoid system daily. It will be fascinating to see the endocannabinoid system’s research develop over time.