What Is The Endocannabinoid System?
Endocannabi- what? Yes, it’s a long word, and yes, it's a complexcell-signaling system. But this biological system in humans and other animals, allows the effects of cannabis to work in our bodies. Not until the 1990s didscientists discover endocannabinoids, which are natural cannabis-like molecules produced by the human body. When this was discovered, scientists realized that cannabis exerted its effects by mimicking our bodily endocannabinoids.
Why Do We Have an Endocannabinoid System?
Taxonomic investigation reveals that the endocannabinoid system has been around for a very long time, having evolved over 500 million years ago. Amazingly, vertebrates, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish all have an endocannabinoid system. The main function of the endocannabinoid system is to maintain bodily homeostasis.
The endocannabinoid system is involved in a wide variety of processes, including pain, memory, mood, appetite, stress, sleep, metabolism, immune function, and reproductive function. Endocannabinoids are arguably one of the most widespread and versatile signaling molecules known to man. The endocannabinoid receptors exist in all areas of our body from our skin, immune cells, bones, fat tissue, liver, pancreas, skeletal muscle, heart, blood vessels, kidney, and gastrointestinal tract.
How Does the Endocannabinoid System Work?
Put simply, the Endocannabinoid system produces endocannabinoids when it is necessary, creating a protective barrier to keep your internal functions running smoothly. The ECS involves three core components: endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes.
Anandamide and 2-AG are the major endocannabinoids (particular molecules) produced in the body. CBD is the cannabinoid produced by Cannabis. Anandamide, 2-AG, and CBD can all activate the CB1 and CB2 receptors.
The CB1 and CB2 receptors are the primary endocannabinoid receptors in the ECS. CB1 receptors are abundant in the brain, and CB2 receptors live in places like the immune system.Endocannabinoids can bind to either receptor. The resulting effects depend on where the receptor is located and which endocannabinoid it binds to. For instance, endocannabinoids can link with CB1 receptors in a spinal nerve to relieve pain. Or, endocannabinoids can link to CB2 receptors in your immune cells to signal that your body’s undergoing inflammation.
Enzymes are also key players in the function of the endocannabinoid system, as they help to break down the endocannabinoid molecules. FAAH and MAGL are the primary enzymes in the ECS, as they quickly break down endocannabinoids. FAAH helps to break down down Anandamide and MAGL typically breaks down 2-AG.
Some experts believe in a theory known as clinical endocannabinoid deficiency. This theory suggests that low endocannabinoid levels in your body could contribute to the development of certain health conditions like migraines, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome. Noneof these conditions have a clear underlying cause, are often resistant to treatment, and sometimes occur alongside each other.
If endocannabinoid deficiency does play a role in these conditions, targeting the ECScould be the missing key to treatment.
The Endocannabinoid System plays a big role in keeping your internal processes stable. Experts are still trying to better understand the ECS but it could eventually hold the key to treating several conditions.