During your middle school years, you probably learned about your cardiovascular system, your nervous system, your digestive system, and—in all of its awkward glory—your reproductive system. But I’m willing to bet your teacher didn’t educate you on your endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system is made of cannabinoids or endocannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors located throughout our bodies that react to cannabinoids, and the enzymes that break the cannabinoids down. Its entire function is to promote homeostasis within our bodies. Since the endocannabinoid system is responsible for so many of our day to day functions (sleeping, temperature regulation, memory, mood, pain, reproduction, immunity, pleasure and reward systems), it’s health is critical to our overall well-being.
This incredible system explains why cannabis, a plant bursting with cannabinoids, is effective at treating such an array of conditions
The way that cannabinoids interact with cannabinoid receptors can have astounding effects. For example, CBD has been found to destroy breast cancer cells, and that happens because of its ability to down-regulate the ID-1 inhibitor, a major cause of several types of cancer. This function is made possible because of CBD’s interaction with the endocannabinoid system.
There are so many fascinating things to learn about the endocannabinoid system. Here are 8 facts you can start with.
8 Facts About the Endocannabinoid System
The discovery of the endocannabinoid system is the most important discovery in neuroscience to date: Soon after the discovery of THC and CBD, Raphael Mechoulam discovered this wonderfully versatile neurological system in the late 80’s. The discovery of the endocannabinoid system revealed that cannabinoids are far more important to human physiology than we had previously imagined. Because of his findings, we now have a better understanding of disease, health, and biology. More on that later.
Our bodies produce cannabinoids: So…we basically are Kidding. However, our brain does produce anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol, two endocannabinoids that can, just like the cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, stimulate the cannabis receptors located throughout our bodies. These endocannabinoids are created in cell membrane arachidonic acid derivatives and are quickly degraded by enzymes.
Cannabinoid receptors aren’t just in our brains: Although the bulk of cannabinoid receptors are located in our brains, they are also found throughout our nervous system, gonads, organs, immune system, and connective tissues. It’s like our whole bodies are in on this cannabis, homeostasis relationship thing biology’s got going on.
The endocannabinoid system regulates basically…everything: The endocannabinoid system’s job is to maintain homeostasis in our bodies. In order to do this, it helps to regulate sleep, appetite, digestion, hunger, mood, motor control, immune function, reproduction and fertility, pleasure and reward, pain, memory, and temperature regulation. The endocannabinoid system’s role in regulating these functions is to tell them when to start and when to stop, thus creating balance, or homeostasis. The benefits can be physical and even mental. For example, cannabinoids regulate neurogenesis, learning, and neuronal plasticity which may directly affect a person’s ability to be open minded or to learn and develop from past challenges or limiting behaviors. When our endocannabinoid systems aren’t functioning as they should, the consequences can be enormous.
Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency could explain a lot of our problems: When our bodies do not produce enough endocannabinoids or regulate them properly, we have a problem called clinical endocannabinoid deficiency.
Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency can result in conditions such as migraines, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and other similar conditions
This explains why cannabis can treat so many conditions. The cannabinoids present in marijuana stimulate the endocannabinoid system, ameliorating and even curing some of these diseases. To keep your endocannabinoid system healthy, make sure you include an ample amount of omega 3 fatty acids in your diet, exercise regularly, and, of course, supplement with cannabis.
Most animals have endocannabinoid systems, too.: Researchers have discovered the presence of cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 in mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish. So pretty much everyone on this planet—except insects, I guess—could use some marijuana. Consequently, some cannabis producers market their products toward household pets, claiming that these products can help alleviate anxiety, arthritis, allergies, cancer, digestive issues, seizures, inflammation, and joint pain in domestic animals.
Even though the endocannabinoid system is the one system to rule them all, and cannabis is the one plant to help it rule, the feds have made it illegal: Research into the endocannabinoid system is decades old, and the government is fully aware of its importance. The government is also aware that cannabis contains the cannabinoids that stimulate the system and improve its function.
In fact, the endocannabinoid system gets its name from the flower
Despite this, the feds have classified cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug, or a substance with no medical value and a high risk for abuse. Meanwhile, the FDA approves pharmaceutical drugs that have the nation enduring an epidemic of prescription drug abuse and high levels of adverse reactions that often lead to death.
Synthetic cannabis isn’t nearly as effective at stimulating the endocannabinoid system as whole plant cannabis. Since the discovery of the endocannabinoid system, researchers have been trying to synthesize cannabinoids to stimulate it. Back in the 90’s, Marinol, a synthesized version of THC, was developed but lacked the therapeutic advantages of the whole cannabis plant. Today, pharmaceutical companies are attempting to promote “pure” CBD, but researchers have discovered that pure CBD is not nearly as effective as whole plant CBD extracts. The entourage effect, or the synergistic effect created by the cannabis plant’s compounds (cannabinoids and terpenes for example) are what give cannabis its medicinal power.
Further Reading about Endocannabinoid
- Benjamin, Dianna. “NIDA Cannabis Research: Fake News and a Little Collusion.” Wikileaf. 8 March 2017.
- Benjamin, Dianna.. “Why Did the Feds Make CBD a Schedule I Drug?” Wikileaf. 21 February 2017.
- Faust, Amber. “Exploring the Endocannabinoid System.” Wikileaf. 8 May 2017.
- McAllister, SD et al. “Cannabidiol as a novel inhibitor of Id-1 gene expression in aggressive breast cancer cells.” Mol Cancer Ther. November 2007.
- McPartland, JM et al.. “Cannabinoid receptors in invertebrates.” J Evol Biol. March 2006.
- Russo, EB. “Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD): can this concept explain therapeutic benefits of cannabis in migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and other treatment-resistant conditions?” Neuro Endocrinol Lett.
- Sulak, Dustin. “Introduction to the Endocannabinoid System.” .