The Endocannabinoid System - This Is Not Taught in Medical School

The Endocannabinoid System - This Is Not Taught in Medical School

We are in the midst of a revolution; cannabis is coming back after almost 100 years of prohibition. A multitude of new studies are currently demonstrating how this amazing 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, and since 1974 the American Government has known that cannabis kills cancer cells

Despite cannabis being illegal, for the past 40+ years a number of studies have been revealing 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 the discovery of 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.  

How does the Endocannabinoid System work? 

The newly discovered Endocannabinoid system is a biological system found in just about any living thing with a skeleton. 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. Inside the tissues in our bodies, the cannabinoid system performs different actions, but the end goal is always the same:  Homeostasis, the maintenance of a stable internal environment despite fluctuations in the external environment.  This discovery has increased our understanding of health, disease and human biology. The ECS is arguably the most essential physiological system in our bodies to establish and maintain optimal health.  

What can the Endocannabinoid System help with? 

We now understand diseases such as depression, IBS, fibromyalgia, arthritis and migraines to be intrinsically linked with lower levels of Endocannabinoids and other changes in Endocannabinoid system activity. The Endocannabinoid system has shown to play a significant role in the way our body responds to stress, and 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, then 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.   

A new term called Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CED) is used to describe humans that have 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 and if we can manipulate these receptors using cannabinoids from cannabis, then we could not only cure many diseases but prevent them all together. 

When it comes to health, people are starting to understand that the best solution is always a natural one – in this case, cannabis has been used for thousands of years to treat conditions and ailments. Following this new system and the positive impacts it can have on our body will finally bring further credibility to cannabis. It’s about time – our health depends on it.

READ NEXT: The History of CBD 


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