The Endocannabinoid System.
Endocannabinoid. Say it in your head. Can you say it as one word? It may take a try or two.
It reminds me of trying to say ambulance or meringue when I was little. The words are complex and hard to say, but really, when you get down to the nitty gritty, the thing itself is quite simple.
ES, Endocannabinoid System. It is how the body stays healthy. And is the most important physiologic system involved in establishing and maintaining human health. It promotes homeostasis affecting everything from sleep, appetite, pain, inflammation, memory, mood, and even reproduction.
So, in basic terms, the ES helps modulate the regulation of homeostasis across all major body systems ensuring that all systems work in concert with one another. The Endocannabinoid System plays crucial roles in health and disease outside the brain as-well.
Ever since the first endocannabinoid receptor was identified in the late 1980s. The field has been overwhelmingly focused on the central nervous system. The main endocannabinoid receptor, CB1, was first discovered in a rat brain and is now known to be among the most abundant G protein–coupled receptors in neurons.
It is evident that the endocannabinoid system—a family of endogenous ligands, receptors, and enzymes—isn’t exclusive to the brain. It is present everywhere in the body that scientists have looked: the heart, liver, pancreas, skin, reproductive tract, you name it. And disrupted endocannabinoid signaling has been associated with many disorders, including diabetes, hypertension, infertility, liver disease, and more. There is so much that’s still unknown about this system. It looks to be regulating every physiological system in the body.
There are several different types of cannabinoids that the endocannabinoid system can act on.
Endocannabinoids – These are natural cannabinoids that your body produces on its own.
Phytocannabinoids – Phytocannabinoids are produced by the cannabis plant. This includes things like THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD (cannabidiol), CBN (cannabinol), etc.
Synthetic cannabinoids – These are laboratory produced cannabinoids such as those found in your pharmaceutical products like nabilone or sativex.
A prescription for a cannabinoid product can sometimes help you make up a deficiency within your endocannabinoid system. If your body is not producing enough endocannabinoids then we can sometimes supplement the deficiency with those cannabinoids found in plants or created synthetically. Both endogenous (created within) and exogenous (external) cannabinoids bind with receptors in the endocannabinoid system. There are two primary types of receptors in the endocannabinoid system known as the CB1 and CB2 receptors.
CB1 receptors are typically found in the brain and throughout the nervous system. Cannabinoids that target these receptors can have an effect on motor learning, coordination, pain modulation and metabolism.
CB2 receptors are primarily found in the immune system and thus are thought to act in a primarily protective role.
Five facts about The Endocannabinoid System.
1. All animals have an endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The most primitive animal found to express cannabinoid receptors is the sea-squirts, an animal which evolved over 600 million years ago.
2. The endocannabinoid system (ES) plays a role in many diseases.
The ECS helps bring balance to the body. As a result, it is no surprise that scientists have observed changes in ECS activity in a number of diseases. Everything from neurodegenerative disorders to rheumatoid arthritis and cancer have shown changes in endocannabinoid levels and greater receptor expression. This suggests that the ES may be an effective target for restoring balance in the body and promoting good health.
3. The endocannabinoid system (ES) explains why natural cannabinoids in hemp and other plants have therapeutic effects.
Before cannabis prohibition, hemp and marijuana had been used for thousands of years to treat a number of ailments. Including epilepsy, headaches, arthritis, pain, depression, and nausea. Traditional healers may not have known why the plant was effective but their experience demonstrated its effectiveness and provided the basis for later scientific inquiry. The discovery of the ES revealed a biological basis for the therapeutic effects of plant cannabinoids and has sparked renewed interest in cannabis as medicine.
Research has shown that small doses of natural cannabinoids from hemp and other plants help support the ES and enhance it’s signaling. This suggests that small, regular doses of naturally occurring cannabinoids from hemp and other plants, might act as a tonic to our most central physiologic healing system.
4. Exercise and diet can also boost the endocannabinoid system (ES).
Scientists have found that prolonged aerobic exercise increases levels of anandamide, the “feel good” endocannabinoid. Diet is also a useful target. Increasing your intake of the essential fatty acid, omega 3, found in oily fish or healthy seeds like flax or hemp, can therefore help support endocannabinoid brain signaling.
5. Doctors know very little about the endocannabinoid system (ES).
Talking with your doctor about the ES can be frustrating since the majority of doctors are not trained on it. This is beginning to change but for now it is helpful to go armed with good information about the ES, especially when speaking with your doctor.