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Everything You Need to Know About our Endocannabinoid System

Everything You Need to Know About our Endocannabinoid System

January 17, 2019

how cannabinoids work in the body Imagine a drug that has been used medicinally for over 8,000 years.

A medicine of choice in the early 1900’s used to help with sleeping, pain, inflammation and seizures.

Today, that drug is recognized by researchers for its ability to control seizures, suppress cancer growth in cell cultures, slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, and provide protection to the brain after a stroke.

A drug like this could be considered a medical miracle, right? It may come as no surprise that this “miracle drug” is in fact cannabis.

For decades, marijuana research has lead the way for new initiatives in the areas of human biology, health, and diseases, and in the 1990’s something wonderful happened. The Endocannabinoid System was discovered, and with it the realization that it is a crucial molecular system that helps the human body function.

However, it isn’t something that happened overnight.        

  • Cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis, was discovered by researchers in 1894, and it was the first plant-derived cannabinoid discovered. 
  • In 1930 researchers were able to discover the structure of cannabidiol.
  • In 1940 Cannabidiol (CBD) was discovered.
  • In 1943 the structure of CBD was discovered.
  • Science was changed in 1964 when THC (the psychoactive component of cannabis) was discovered and isolated.
  • 1988 led to the discovery of cannabinoid receptors in an animal’s brain.
  • 1990 gave us the first cloned cannabinoid receptor.

In 1990’s researchers finally discovered two of the body’s major endocannabinoids, which lead to the discovery of the endocannabinoid system. This discovery has opened the door to understanding how the endocannabinoid system regulates and affects every major part of the body.

What is the Endocannabinoid System?

According to Project CBD, a California-based nonprofit dedicated to promoting and publicizing research in CBD, the endocannabinoid system is a “biochemical communication system in the human body…which plays a crucial role in regulating our physiology, mood, and everyday experience.” This intricate system is comprised of cannabinoid receptors that react to the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. In other words—we wouldn’t get high or enjoy the medical benefits of marijuana without our endocannabinoid system.

The endocannabinoid system doesn’t just get us high though.

Researchers have determined that the endocannabinoid system works to regulate processes like:

  • Sleep
  • Appetite
  • Digestion
  • Mood
  • Motor control
  • Immune function
  • Reproduction and fertility
  • Pleasure and reward
  • Memory
  • Temperature regulation
  • Pain

However, the endocannabinoid system can only regulate these areas when working properly. When this system fails, we see an increase in disease and disorders, like migraines, fibromyalgia, and IBS. Thanks to advances in medical science, we’ve discovered that when the body fails to produce enough of its own endocannabinoids, we may be able to supplement with plant cannabinoids.

What’s the Endocannabinoid System made Of?

Consider it like this, the endocannabinoid receptors are locks, and the cannabinoids (like CBD and THC) are keys. Only certain keys will fit certain locks. The largest endocannabinoid receptors are known as CB1 and CB2, and they affect totally different parts of the body. CB1 is found in the central nervous system, while CB2 is found in the immune system. Though they are both part of the endocannabinoid system, these receptors respond to different signals and express themselves in completely different ways.

  • CB1 is found on nerve cells in the brain, and the spinal cord. Though, they can also be found in smaller amounts on the spleen, white blood cells, endocrine glands, and as part of the reproductive, and digestive tracts. Patients suffering from pain, nausea, and depression respond better to medications that affect these receptors, namely ones that include some level of THC.
  • CB2 is found on white blood cells, tonsils, the spleen, and in immune cells. Those with Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome experience more relief from medications that stimulate CB2, in some cases putting patients in full remission.

Unfortunately, every person is different. This means that every person has a different number of receptors in their body, and some can be over expressed or under expressed. These same receptors can also respond to a variety of cannabinoids.  This complicates development of therapeutic grade pharmaceuticals for researchers, because everyone is going to respond to the medications differently.

How does the endocannabinoid system and THC/CBD work together?

Cannabis is made up of different chemical compounds, the most famous being tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

THC is recognized for being psychoactive which gives the user a “high” when used recreationally. THC is thought to stimulate the CB1 receptors, which contributes to the psychoactive effect.

CBD is the counterpart to THC. It provides a great amount of therapeutic benefit to the user. CBD can be an effective treatment for anxiety, sleep disorders, chronic pain, as well as mental disorders. CBD has also been shown to counteract the psychoactive effects of THC.

The difference between the two comes from the strain of the cannabis plant used. Some cannabis plants have high levels of THC and lower levels of CBD. In 2009 researchers were able to isolate CBD dominant plants, which allowed for cultivation of CBD dominant plants. The different strains of plants are used for different types of therapeutic benefit. Some plants contain moderate levels of THC along with the higher levels of CBD, and those are most effective when treating certain types of mental disorders or chronic pain, as they activate the CB1 receptors in the brain. One of the most common forms of CBD is produced with little to no THC which can be extracted from industrial hemp. This makes CBD oil easily accessible for all patients. 

CBD is also extremely effective in supporting your endocannabinoid system indirectly. An endocannabinoid that affects both CB1 and CB2 is known as anandamide which FAAH enzymes break down anandamide before it can be used. Anandamide is known to ease anxiety, nervous through patterns, affect the immune system, and a patient’s sleep pattern. We don’t want to break down too much of this endocannabinoid, and CBD can help. CBD actually suppresses FAAH enzymes, that leaves more anandamide in the body. In this instance, CBD does not directly affect the endocannabinoid system by stimulating the receptors, instead it inhibits enzymes that would limit the amount of endocannabinoid in our system.

To Conclude…

Here at Colorado Botanicals, we offer a variety of CBD products that you can use to restore balance and order to your endocannabinoid system. If you’re experiencing chronic pain, anxiety, sleep disorders, depression, or a general feeling of unwellness, then CBD oil may help.  

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