The Endocannabinoid System
What is the endocannabinoid system?
This is a system comprising of cell receptors and molecules that correspond to each of the receptors. The endocannabinoid system may be the most important system in the human body responsible for the maintenance of human health. Endocannabinoids and their receptors are present all over the body. They can be found in the brain, organs, glands, immune cells and connective tissues. The cannabinoid system performs a different task in each tissue. However, the goal remains the same – homeostasis. Homeostasis refers to the maintenance of a stable internal environment.
Cannabinoids enhance homeostasis at every facet of life.
Endocannabinoids are also present at the intersection of all body systems. This enhances cell-to-cell communication and coordination. For instance, at an injury site, cannabinoids inhibit the release of activators from injured tissue; this stabilizes the neurons preventing over-firing, and also inhibiting the release of pro-inflammatory agents.
Literally, the endocannabinoid system serves as a link between the body and the mind. Understanding this system will enable one to fully understand how the conscious mind can promote health and disease.
How a person relates with his external environment is also influenced by the endocannabinoid system. Administration of endocannabinoids affects a person’s social behavior. It promotes creativity and humor alongside sharing.
Components of the endocannabinoid system
The endocannabinoid system plays a very critical role in homeostasis. It has three key components namely:
- The endocannabinoid receptors present on the cell surface
- The endocannabinoid molecules which activate the receptors
- Metabolic enzymes that degrade the endocannabinoids after usage.
The endocannabinoid receptors are of two kinds: CB1 and CB2. The former is present in large numbers in the brain. Their interaction with THC gives rise to the psychotic effect experienced when a person takes in cannabis. CB2 receptors are readily available in the nervous and the immune system. Both receptors are present in other parts of the body.
The endocannabinoid molecules are agonists for the endocannabinoid receptors. The body’s cells produce the molecules. Endocannabinoids are of two major types – 2-AG and anandamide. Endocannabinoid molecules are synthesized on demand.
How/Why the endocannabinoid system is important
Researchers are on a constant search to discover the real mechanisms of action of the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system has a number of therapeutic benefits to the body and regulates other systems in the body.
The endocannabinoid system and industrial hemp
The industrial hemp is an ally to the endocannabinoid system. The industrial hemp does not have any psychoactive property. It contains less than one percent of THC. Hemp comes from the same cannabis species as marijuana.
Hemp mimics the behavior of endocannabinoids and interact with the cannabinoid receptors to support the endocannabinoid system. Interaction of the hemp with the cannabinoid receptors stimulates various physiological functions in the body.
One of the compounds present in hemp is the THC (though not in significant amounts). It activates receptors, which then triggers a response. The THC is an agonist of two important endocannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2. THC is most particular about the CB1 receptor. It doesn’t degrade rapidly. It functions well for pain relief, reduction of nausea, and stimulation of the appetite.
CBD, the other component of hemp acts as a receptor blocker. Its affinity for CB1 and CB2 receptors is very low. Therefore it does not fit well into the receptors. It doesn’t activate the receptors but instead prevents its binding to other compounds like the THC.
There is need for more research to understand more deeply, how the endocannabinoid system impacts on our health and how supplementing the natural production of endocannabinoids with plant-based cannabinoids could affect our health.