Endocannabinoids are endogenous small molecules found throughout the body in human beings and all other mammals. Endocannabinoids derive from arachidonic acid, anandamide, and 2- arachidonoylglycerol.
Who discovered the Endocannabinoid System?
Each endocannabinoid is part of the endocannabinoid system, or ECS. Remarkably, the ECS was not discovered or named until the mid 1990s. The discovery of the ECS occurred after research began to explain why cannabis or marijuana seemed to be useful for so many ailments. Israel is often given credit for leading the way in cannabis research, but the U.S. government also funded studies in the late 1980s.
There has been extensive research in the last twenty years demonstrating how a healthy ECS system can keep all body systems well balanced and functioning properly.
How does the ECS system work?
The endocannabinoid system runs throughout your entire body. It is present in the brain, all other organs, tissue, glands, and immune cells. The purpose of the ECS is balance or homeostasis.
Depending on the system or organ involved, the endocannabinoids bind with and stimulate C1 or C2 receptors on a cellular level. This cellular activity potentially alleviates diseases throughout the body and mind, including psychological disorders.
The C1 receptors are found mostly in all parts of the brain, but are also located in the blood, muscles, and reproductive system. The C1 receptors impact pain signals and also have anti-spasmodic and anti-nausea indications.
The C2 receptors are found primarily in the spleen and organs of the digestive tract. In addition to promoting digestive health, the C2 receptors help control inflammation and are essential in alleviating symptoms in auto-immune diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus and others.
There are genetic and endogenous conditions, such as auto-immune disease, which may impact the functionality of the ECS. However, another leading cause is poor health habits such as a diet lacking in nutrition or consisting of foods such as refined sugars, flours and unhealthy fats. Alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse can also wreak havoc on the ECS. It is highly recommended that you follow proper health practices, but often that is often not if there is substantial damage to the ECS or the person is suffering from an auto-immune or some other inherited disorder.
The ECS and Cannabis
One of the reasons the ECS works so well with cannabis treatments is that the cannabis plant has the same system, or phytocannabinoids, which promote growth and protect the plant from the elements. The human endocannabinoid system is designed to be very responsive to cannabinoids, especially when the strain and dosage of hemp or marijuana is formulated for an individual’s particular ailment. In some instances, cannabis treatments have shown great results where all other treatments have failed.
Many different cannabinoids coordinate with the ECS, but two of the most noted are THC and CBD. Marijuana plants contain from .5 to 30% THC depending on the strain, whereas a hemp plant must contain less than .3% THC. Both marijuana and hemp derive from the Cannabis Sativa species.
Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the cannabinoid most associated with marijuana. It is what gives a person the euphoric high, but it also does so much more. As part of the ECS system, it attaches to the C1 receptors. Abuse of THC can lead to memory loss, impaired judgment, and coordination problems, but used medicinally it can provide pain relief, decrease nausea, increase appetite, and reduce anxiety.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, binds with the C2 receptors and are known for reducing inflammation which plays a significant role in pain reduction. They are also helpful in digestive disorders and help to balance out the euphoric properties of THC.
Many doctors and healthcare professionals maintain that the right strain and dosage of cannabis can improve your health and even prevent certain diseases.
The endocannabinoid system running throughout the body explains why cannabis treatments have shown positive results on disorders relating to all systems. Listed below are a sampling of diseases in which cannabis may help to alleviate symptoms or even stifle the disease.
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Auto-immune disorders
- Depression and other psychological disorders
- Chronic pain
Though the research is promising in cannabis treatments, it is important to note that it’s not a cure-all and should not be substituted for good health practices. Though adverse side-effects are minimal, it is recommended you consult a healthcare professional regarding dosage and to address any concerns about contraindications with other medications.