Here’s why. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex network of receptors and compounds found throughout the human body. It plays a crucial role in regulating various physiological processes such as appetite, mood, pain, and sleep. Understanding how the ECS interacts with cannabis is essential to understanding the effects and benefits of cannabis.
Today, the discovery of the ECS and the identification of its components has led to a deeper understanding of the effects and benefits of cannabis and its potential as a therapeutic tool for a range of health issues.
The ECS is made up of three main components: endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes. Endocannabinoids are natural compounds produced by the body that bind to receptors in the ECS. The two main endocannabinoids that have been identified are anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). These compounds act as messengers that help to regulate various physiological processes in the body.
The ECS also has two main receptors: CB1 receptors, which are primarily found in the brain and central nervous system, and CB2 receptors, which are primarily found in the immune system and peripheral tissues. These receptors are responsible for receiving and responding to endocannabinoids and other compounds, such as those found in cannabis.
Enzymes are responsible for breaking down endocannabinoids once they have fulfilled their function. The two main enzymes involved in this process are fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL).
When the ECS is working properly, it helps to maintain homeostasis, or balance, in the body. However, when the ECS is out of balance, it can lead to various health issues such as chronic pain, anxiety, and depression. This is where cannabis comes in.
Cannabis contains compounds called phytocannabinoids, which are similar to endocannabinoids and can bind to the same receptors in the ECS. The most well-known phytocannabinoids are THC and CBD. THC is responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis, while CBD does not have psychoactive effects but has a wide range of medical benefits.
In 1964, researchers Raphael Mechoulam and Yechiel Gaoni at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel isolated and synthesized THC from Cannabis sativa, marking a critical milestone in the study of cannabinoids. Soon after, in 1988, the first cannabinoid receptor, CB1, was identified by Allyn Howlett and William Devane at St. Louis University School of Medicine.
The Human Link to Cannabis was Discovered in the 90s
In 1991, Mechoulam and his team discovered the endocannabinoid, anandamide, which was named after the Sanskrit word for “bliss.” They also discovered the enzyme responsible for breaking down anandamide, which they named fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH). This discovery led to the understanding that the body produces its own natural cannabinoids and has a biological system to regulate them.
In a recent article in Be Brain Fit, anandamide is touted for its positive impacts on mental health and its capacity to be picked up by receptors in the brain. “After the discovery of anandamide, scientists began searching for cannabinoid receptors and found that the human body is brimming with them.”
In 1992, a second endocannabinoid, 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), was discovered by a Japanese research team. They found that 2-AG was much more prevalent in the body than anandamide, and that it also binds to the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system.
This breakthrough research provided evidence of the existence of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a complex cell-signaling system that plays a crucial role in regulating a wide range of physiological processes, including appetite, mood, pain, and sleep. The ECS is made up of receptors, endocannabinoids, and enzymes, and interacts with both naturally occurring endocannabinoids in the body and cannabinoids found in plants like cannabis.
The discovery of the ECS has had a significant impact on our understanding of how the body works and how it interacts with cannabis and other compounds. It has opened up new avenues for research into the potential medical uses of cannabis and its effects on the body, as well as the development of new drugs that target the endocannabinoid system.
A study published in the European Journal of Pain found that cannabis can help to reduce chronic pain by interacting with the ECS. The study found that cannabis can increase the levels of endocannabinoids in the body, which can help to restore balance to the ECS and reduce pain.
Your ECS Gives Cannabis A Big Hug
Another study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that cannabis can help to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression by interacting with the ECS. The study found that cannabis can increase the levels of anandamide, an endocannabinoid that is known to regulate mood, in the body. This can help to improve mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Cannabis can also help to improve sleep by interacting with the ECS. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that cannabis can help to improve sleep by increasing the levels of anandamide in the body. This can help to reduce insomnia and improve the overall quality of sleep.
It is important to start with a small dose and gradually increase it until you find the right amount that works for you. Additionally, it is always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional to make sure that cannabis is safe for you.
The ECS is responsible for regulating various physiological processes in the body, and cannabis can help to restore balance to the ECS. Studies have shown that cannabis can help to reduce chronic pain, anxiety, and depression, improve sleep, and improve overall well-being. However, as with any medication, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional and start with a small dose.