A Look into the Endocannabinoid System
Ever heard of the endocannabinoid system, or ECS? It may ring a bell, or maybe it sounds like something completely foreign. However, it is just the opposite. All mammals and vertebrates possess an endocannabinoid system, even the 600 million year old sea squirt! Learning more about how it works and what it has to do with CBD is important information for those who are striving to reach their healthiest self.
So, what is the ECS?
Essentially, the endocannabinoid system is the combination of cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors. There are two types of cannabinoids that are relevant to this topic in specific, which are phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids occur naturally in the body, "endo" meaning internal. Phytocannabinoids are cannabinoids derived from the cannabis plant, "phyto" meaning plant.
Two of the known receptors for cannabinoids are CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are commonly found in the head near the brain but are still slightly spread throughout the body. CB2 receptors are more sporadic throughout the body, but are more prominent throughout the internal organs and nervous system.
Now that we know some of the important terminology, we can ask the same question scientific researchers asked years ago: Why are these cannabinoid receptors present in not only humans, but all other mammals and vertebrates?
In order to answer this question, researchers had to work backwards to find a biological explanation.
In 1988 the first cannabinoid receptor was discovered in the brain of a rat. The receptor was named CB and responded significantly to THC. Majority of this early research was conducted utilizing synthetic THC. Through this research it was found that the CB receptor is most prominent near the brain and affects mental and physical body processes like memory, overall thought process/ cognition, motor skills and more.
In 1992 was the discovery of the first endocannabinoid-anandamide. Again, endocannabinoids are naturally synthesized cannabinoids. THC mimics anandamide and binds with the CB1 receptor.
In 1993 the second receptor was found. The CB receptor was renamed CB1 and the new discovery was named CB2. CB2 receptors were found to have more of a relationship with immunity and the nervous system. Receptors are prominent in the liver, heart, spleen, reproductive organs, kidneys, bones, and much more.
In 1995 was the groundbreaking discovery-not just rats possess an ECS. As a matter of a fact, all mammals and vertebrates do. Also in 1995, was the finding of the second endocannabinoid 2-Arachidonoylglycerol, or 2-AG. The phytocannabinoid that mimics this most closely is CBD.
What does the ECS do within the body?
As important as the scientific history of the endocannabinoid system is, it is equally important to consider what this system truly does.
Primary, the endocannabinoid is responsible for maintaining the body's homeostasis, or internal balance regardless of external factors or stimuli. A few examples of what the ECS maintains are metabolism, bone health, insomnia, anxiety, memory, and immunity. The endocannabinoid system has been referred to by many as one of the most crucial body systems in order to maintain optimal health.
How do the ECS & CBD work together?
When CBD enters the body the endocannabinoid system is activated. Unlike THC which binds directly to CB1 receptors providing a psychedelic, psychoactive "high" feeling, CBD has been shown to affect both receptors indirectly. When CBD is present, the receptors' abilities and characteristics are improved, promoting immunity, a balanced appetite and pain management/ tolerance.
Multiple organisms obtain an endocannabinoid system, such as humans, mammals and vertebrates. CBD and THC, both phytocannabinoids, have the ability to mimic the characteristics of the naturally occurring endocannabinoids the body possesses. Supplying your body with phytocannabinoids, can potentially diminish the risk of endocannabinoid deficiency. Basically, the CB1 and CB2 receptors are locks, and cannabinoids hold the key.