What Is the Endocannabinoid System and What Does It Do?
Did you know that one of the most important bodily systems is named after cannabis? You read that correctly -- it’s called the endocannabinoid system, and it keeps us alive through a process called homeostasis.
Although the endocannabinoid system (ECS) was discovered only thirty years ago, it’s played a monumental role in human lives for millions of years. We evolved with the help of this system, but many people don’t know anything about it or that it exists at all.
That’s probably due to the controversies and ignorance surrounding cannabis. After all, many people don’t even know that cannabis and marijuana are different. This lack of awareness means people are missing out on treatment for health conditions, as scientists believe CBD could play a pivotal role in their treatment with the assistance of the ECS.
Keep reading to learn more about this fascinating part of our bodies and how Medsana CBD can make it even better.
What is the endocannabinoid system (ECS)?
“Endo” is a Latin prefix short for “endogenous,” meaning something that is produced naturally in the body. Quite simply, “cannabinoid” comes from the word “cannabis,” so an “endocannabinoid” is a naturally occurring cannabis-like substance.
Endocannabinoids are neurotransmitters (small molecules) that bind to cannabinoid receptors and their proteins located throughout the body. This powerful system regulates the cardiovascular, immune, and nervous system functions within cells. The ECS and the endocannabinoids inside make up an entirely natural system that has been around for hundreds of millions of years.
A Brief History of the ECS
The human endocannabinoid system was discovered in 1964, decades after CBD and one year after THC. Thanks to Dr. Raphael Mechoulam’s scientific breakthroughs, cannabinoid research began swiftly. Although initial research focused mainly on humans and other mammals, scientists found that most animals, including birds, leeches, mussels, sea urchins, and even the Hydra, the most primitive animal with a nervous system, have endocannabinoids.
Humans sharing neurochemicals with a 10-millimeter long invertebrate tells us that the ECS evolved long ago. Scientists believe the system dates back approximately 600 million years, so as animals evolved, the ECS became connected to many bodily functions, especially neurological functions.
The ECS and Homeostasis
Scientists believe that a main function of the endocannabinoid system is
homeostasis, the state of equilibrium in which our bodies prefer to function. An example of homeostasis is in regulating body temperature; our bodies respond to hot temperatures by signaling our sweat glands. The ECS is vital in maintaining homeostasis because it helps cells stay within their optimal conditions.
When your body senses a disturbance in its optimal conditions (extreme temperatures, sickness, stress, etc.) it activates the ECS to correct the imbalance.
A person may experience a wide range of potentially life-threatening health problems if their internal equilibrium is disturbed.
Because it’s possible to activate the endocannabinoid system with CBD, many people use CBD products for relief from various conditions. Cannabis products are currently being researched for their efficacy as potential treatments for a range of conditions and diseases.
At Medsana, we keep up with the latest scientific research on CBD and fully believe that our products help people live better lives. Our CBD products work in conjunction with the naturally-occurring endocannabinoid system. They are all-natural and can help you feel balanced, calm, and focused.
Keep reading to learn more about the ECS, then visit Medsana to find the best CBD product for you.
How Does the Endocannabinoid System Work?
The ECS works differently in every tissue in the body, and contrary to popular belief, this system does not only affect the brain and nervous system. Although the endocannabinoid system and the brain have a close relationship, scientists believe this system affects nearly every physiological system in the human body.
The three main components of the ECS are:
- Endocannabinoids (eCBs) - Molecules that bind to cannabinoid receptors.
- Cannabinoid receptors - Found on the surface of cells, these are located throughout the body.
- Metabolic enzymes - These break down endocannabinoids after they are used.
It might be easier to wrap your head around what the ECS is and what it does by breaking it down into its smallest component - endocannabinoids. Think about it this way: you’ve almost certainly heard of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. These are chemical “messengers” for the nervous system. In the same way, endocannabinoids are the “messengers” of the ECS. They’re produced throughout your body and interact with tissue in different ways.
One of the main endocannabinoids in your body is anandamide. This lipid-based molecule is associated with appetite, memory, pregnancy, bliss, and the feeling of “runner’s high” after intense exercise.
Now that we know endocannabinoids (eCBs) are the “messengers” of the ECS, it’s time to learn how they are absorbed and interact with the body.
Cannabinoid receptors can be considered the “guards” or “gatekeepers” of a cell. They are located on the outside of cells, waiting for specific neurotransmitters (“messengers”) to attach to them. Depending on the type of cell on which the receptor is located, the substance that binds to it will affect your mood, feeling, immune response, and consciousness.
The two most widely-known cannabinoid receptors are called CB1 and CB2. These were the first cannabinoid receptors to be discovered and they are the most widely researched and studied.
- CB1 receptors are mostly located in the central nervous system (CNS), which makes up the nerves within the brain and spinal cord. CB1 receptors can be found in much smaller quantities in other parts of the body. These receptors are necessary for a functioning, healthy brain. Depending on where they’re located in the brain, CB1 receptors regulate your mood, memory, pain tolerance, and motor function. These receptors are also responsible for producing the “high” feeling from THC.
- CB2 receptors are found within the peripheral nervous system (nerves in your arms, hands, legs, and feet), the digestive system, and the immune system. These receptors help fight inflammation and stimulate our body’s response to germs. If you use CBD products, your CB2 receptors are responsible for mitigating the symptoms of an overactive immune system.
CBD and the endocannabinoid system have a special relationship. Unlike other cannabinoids (including THC), CBD doesn’t directly activate either CB1 or CB2 receptors. Instead, CBD alters the receptor’s ability to bind to cannabinoids, blocking these receptors instead of activating them, which is what THC does. That’s why scientists believe that CBD can counteract some of the psychoactive and memory-related effects of THC.
Of course, you won’t need to counteract the effects of THC if you choose a THC-free product from the get-go. At Medsana, all of our products are made with 99% pure CBD oil and contain 0% THC. That means you can take CBD and work, go on a date, drive, or any other activity without worrying about being high or feeling the psychoactive effects of THC.
The final piece of the ECS puzzle is the enzyme. Enzymes can be thought of as a recycling and production center. Once endocannabinoids have done their job and brought the body to homeostasis, enzymes come along and break them down before they can upset the balance in the other direction.
Remember anandamide, the molecule associated with runner’s high and feelings of bliss? Like other endocannabinoids, after being used, anandamide is broken down by a certain enzyme called FAAH. THC binds to the same receptor as anandamide, but it doesn’t act in the same way. THC prevents FAAH from breaking it down, allowing the THC to continue building up, creating stronger effects.
CBD is different. It prevents the FAAH enzyme from breaking down anandamide. This allows anandamide, the naturally-occurring “bliss molecule,” to have more of an effect.
So unlike THC, which is not found naturally in the body and which prevents FAAH from breaking it down, CBD prevents FAAH from breaking down a naturally-occurring endocannabinoid. That means a natural, organic substance affects the body instead of an unnatural, psychoactive substance.
That’s why CBD may be much more effective than THC in providing therapeutic benefits - you get the good stuff without the undesirable effects of THC.
The Endocannabinoid System and CBD
An agonist is a substance that triggers a physiological response when it binds to a receptor. An inverse agonist also binds to that receptor but produces an opposite effect. That’s why if a person takes THC and CBD together, the CBD may reduce the negative effects of THC, such as memory loss.
As mentioned, CBD basically does the opposite of THC. THC is an agonist to CB1 receptors, whereas CBD is an inverse agonist.
CBD binds to both CB1 and CB2 receptors throughout the body, meaning that this substance could help alleviate many health conditions.
CBD prevents FAAH from breaking down the naturally-occurring “bliss molecule” anandamide, leading to a higher concentration. Anandamide has a naturally calming effect on the brain, which is why scientists believe that anandamide-boosting CBD could be a viable option in the treatment of stress disorders.
Maintaining a Healthy Endocannabinoid System
To maximize the benefits of CBD and to keep your body’s endocannabinoid system healthy, choose a tincture or softgel from Medsana. At Medsana, all of our products are 99% pure CBD and absolutely no THC. That means you get the therapeutic benefits without mind-altering effects.
Visit Medsana and browse our new CBD products today!