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The Endocannabinoid System - This Is Not Taught in Medical School

It's 2022, and we are amidst a revolution; cannabis is coming back after almost 100 years of prohibition. Many new studies are currently demonstrating how this excellent plant can heal us. If you haven't heard of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) before – don't panic! …your doctor probably hasn't either.

And yet, it's one of the essential systems inside the body. It acts as the body's master regulatory system. It's the second largest neurotransmitter systems inside the human body. It’s critical for homeostasis. Let’s dive right in.

The History of the Endocannabinoid System

Humans are still learning about this system and what effects it can have on the body, but what we already know might surprise you. The American Department of Health and Human Services has a patent on CBD. Since 1974 the American Government has known that cannabis kills cancer cells. Yes, you read that correct the governments around the world know cannabis is a natural healer and can do wonders for the human and animal bodies. 

Despite cannabis being illegal in almost every place on earth for the past 40+ years, many studies have revealed the truth: cannabis is good for you.

One of these recent discoveries was by Lisa Matsuda in 1990 at the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine. Lisa discovered the actual DNA sequence that defines a THC receptor. This discovery is critical to understanding that THC works by activating cannabinoid receptors in the brain and central nervous system. In 1992, shortly after this discovery, the first Endocannabinoid was discovered by Raphael Mechoulam, William Devane and Dr Lumir Hanus; they named it Anandamide after the Sanskrit word for bliss. Want to know something interesting? Chocolate also contains Anandamide…no wonder it goes so well with cannabis!

These and similar discoveries traced the metabolic pathways of the cannabinoid THC back to its roots, leading scientists to discover an entirely unknown molecular signalling system inside the human body. Because cannabis played a significant role in finding this system, it was rightfully named The Endocannabinoid System (ECS). This system has been active within us for millions of years, and medical research will continue to break down the boundaries of the interaction between human biology and the cannabis plant. 


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How does the Endocannabinoid System work? 

Cannabis plants produce a class of compounds known as cannabinoids. Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are the two best-known cannabinoids. CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning it does not produce the "high" associated with THC. Hemp plants contain high levels of CBD and low levels of THC. Marijuana plants have high levels of THC and low levels of CBD. The human body also produces cannabinoids, known as endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids bind to the same receptors as plant-derived cannabinoids. When endocannabinoids bind to these receptors, they modulate various physiological functions.

The newly discovered Endocannabinoid system is a biological system found in just about any living thing with a skeleton. Endocannabinoids are lipids that bind to cannabinoid receptors in the body. These lipids are produced by the body on an as-needed basis. Receptors in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands and immune cells respond to cannabis and cannabinoid compounds in our bodies and bind to these receptors.
Endocannabinoids help regulates various physiological functions, including mood, pain, appetite, inflammation, and memory.

Inside the tissues in our bodies, the cannabinoid system performs different actions, but the end goal is always the same: Homeostasis.

What is Homeostasis?

Homeostasis is the body's ability to maintain a stable internal environment despite changes in the external environment. Endocannabinoids are constantly being produced by the body to help maintain homeostasis. For example, suppose you eat a meal that contains fats. In that case, endocannabinoids are released to signal the body to store them in adipose tissue (fat cells). Suppose you exercise and your muscles need more energy. In that case, endocannabinoids are released to signal the body to release stored sugars (glycogen) from the liver.

The Endocannabinoid System is constantly working to maintain homeostasis within the body, and it is thought that dysregulation of the Endocannabinoid System is involved in various diseases. This discovery has increased our understanding of health, disease and human biology. The ECS is arguably the most important physiological system in our bodies to establish and maintain optimal health.

What are Phytocannabinoids?

Phytocannabinoids are plant-derived cannabinoids that interact with the Endocannabinoid System. The best-known phytocannabinoids are THC and CBD, found in cannabis plants. THC is responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana, while CBD does not produce any psychoactive effects.

Cannabis isn't the only plant that contains phytocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids are also found in other plants, including black pepper, echinacea, and ginseng. Some of these plant-derived cannabinoids have been shown to have medicinal benefits, and there is a growing interest in the therapeutic potential of phytocannabinoids. Our Terpene Essentials Range uses terpenes to interact with the receptors in our bodies and hundreds of people have reported positive effects. 

What can the Endocannabinoid System help with? 

We now understand diseases such as depression, IBS, fibromyalgia, arthritis and migraines intrinsically linked with lower levels of Endocannabinoids and other changes in Endocannabinoid system activity. The Endocannabinoid system has been shown to play a significant role in how our body responds to stress. It's responsible for maintaining many of our daily bodily functions, such as naturally preventing diabetes and maintaining healthy bone density. Essentially if our Endocannabinoid system is not functioning correctly or unbalanced, your whole body could be at risk. The Endocannabinoid system can help assist the performance of our immune system, nervous system and all of the body's organs; it acts as a bridge between body and mind. 

Endcannabinoid Brain

A new term called Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CED) is used to describe humans with an unbalanced Endocannabinoid system. Dr Russo has provided a list of disorders that could be associated with CED. Here are some:

  • Neonatal failure to thrive
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Phantom limb pain
  • Glaucoma
  • Dysmenorrhea; painful menstruation
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

Understanding the Endocannabinoid system and the possibilities of how it can advance human health is endless. This one single system helps to regulate every aspect of our well-being. If we can manipulate these receptors using cannabinoids from cannabis, then we could not only cure many diseases but prevent them altogether. 

When it comes to health, people are starting to understand that the best solution is always a natural one, and the Endocannabinoid System is a relatively new discovery. Scientists are still learning a lot about how it works. However, it's clear that the Endocannabinoid System plays a vital role in human health, and cannabinoids like CBD and THC can positively affect many conditions.

Following this new system and the positive impacts it can have on our bodies will finally bring further credibility to cannabis. It's about time – our health depends on it.


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