The endocannabinoid system or ECS is a biological system composed of endocannabinoids that play a very important role in the human body. It is known to maintain the homeostasis of the human body which takes place in the brain and the immune system.
The discovery of the ECS is new. In 1992, a chemist named Dr Lumir Anus along with American researcher Dr William Devane isolated the first endocannabinoid in the brain. Since then, researchers have been learning more about this system and its potential benefit in the body. Here’s a guide on how the endocannabinoid system works and its role in the human body.
What Is The Endocannabinoid System?
The endogenous cannabinoid system is a cell-signalling system known to play a critical role in regulating bodily functions including sleep, mood, appetite, and memory. When our external environments alter, the ECS keeps our internal functions stable as well as helps to reduce the risk of anxiety and depression.
The endocannabinoid system components are receptors, endocannabinoids, and enzymes. The ECS receptors, CB1 receptors and CB2 receptors. Endocannabinoids bind to these receptors to take action. Endocannabinoids bind to either receptor and effects will depend on where the receptor is located and which endocannabinoid it binds to. Exogenous cannabinoids like THC produce their biological effects through their interactions with cannabinoid receptors.
- CB1 cannabinoid receptors. CB1 receptors are mostly found in the central nervous system or brain. This receptor’s major role is to regulate the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate.
- CB2 cannabinoid receptors. CB2 receptors are mostly found in the peripheral nervous system, mainly the immune system. This receptor modules immune cell functions and help with inflammatory diseases.
What are Endocannabinoids?
Endogenous cannabinoids or endocannabinoids are naturally occurring lipid-based neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers in the body that send signals between nerve cells. Endocannabinoids are similar to cannabinoids which are found in the Cannabis Sativa plant, but they are produced by the body.
Endocannabinoids help with various bodily functions. Two endocannabinoids that have been identified are known to help keep the body’s internal functions healthy. These are:
- Anandamide (Archidonoyl ethanolamide or AEA). Anandamide synthesizes in areas of the brain where motivation, memory, cognitive processes and movement control are managed. It influences physiological systems such as pain, appetite, and pleasure.
- 2-arachidonoyl glycerol (2-AG). 2-AG plays an important role in the regulation of the circulatory systemthrough its metabolites, effects on blood vessels, and/or heart.
Enzymes are responsible for breaking down the endocannabinoids when they’ve carried out their function. The two main enzymes responsible for these are fatty acid amide hydrolase, which breaks down the AEA, and monoacylglycerol acid lipase, which breaks down the 2-AG production.
Cannabinoids in Cannabis
Cannabinoids are natural compounds found in the Cannabis Sativa plant. Over 400 compounds in the cannabis plant and around 60 are termed cannabinoids. Two of the most well-known cannabinoids in the plant are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the main active ingredient in the cannabis plant which is known to have the psychoactive effects of cannabis and causes a “high” feeling to users, whereas CBD is non-psychoactive and will not cause people adverse effects.
Cannabinoids exert their effects by interacting with specific receptors found in the body. They are also differentiated based on their degree of psychoactivity. Aside from THC, the main active component of cannabis, cannabinoids like Cannabinol (CBN) and Cannabinidiol (CBDL) are psychoactive and cause psychoactive effects while Cannabigerol (CBG) and Cannabichromene (CBC) are compounds like CBD that don’t cause “high” effects.
Although there are known therapeutic benefits of cannabis, it’s not legal in the UK. Currently, the only legal cannabinoid in the UK is CBD. Other cannabinoids found in cannabis are illegal to possess, grow, distribute or sell in the country as cannabis is classified as a Class B drug. Individuals caught will get up to a maximum of 14 years in prison.
The Entourage Effect
CBD and THC are both well-researched and popular exogenous cannabinoids. People take them in various ways. However, some experts say that taking CBD and THC with other smaller organic compounds is more effective than taking them separately. This is called the entourage effect.
The Entourage Effect is a theory that all compounds from the cannabis plant can work together to produce a better effect than when taken alone. CBD is a well-known remedy for anxiety, stress, and chronic pain among others. Some studies suggest taking CBD with THC will reduce the unwanted side effects of THC such as anxiety, hunger, and sedation.
A study in 2011 published in the British Journal of Pharmacology suggested that taking terpenes (aromatic compounds found in plants), and phytocannabinoids may be beneficial for pain, inflammation, anxiety, epilepsy and even diseases like cancer. However, there is little we know about the entourage effect and it’s still just a well-supported theory.
What is the function of Endocannabinoids and the ECS?
The endocannabinoid system comprises chemical signals and cellular receptors (CB1 and CB2) that are packed throughout the body. To stimulate these receptors, are bodies produce endocannabinoids which are molecularly similar to cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant.
The ECS plays a role in contributing and maintaining homeostasis which refers to the maintenance of stability or optimal conditions within the body to proper functioning. The ECS may contribute to the development of diabetes by promoting energy intake and storage, impairing both glucose and lip metabolism. Some of the well-known benefits of the regulation of ECS include:
- Appetite and digestion
- Immune function
- Memory and learning
- Reproductive system function
- Pain sensation
How does the body produce and release endocannabinoids?
The body naturally produces endocannabinoids. They can be seen in various organs and tissues such as the brain, muscles, and cells. Endocannabinoids become active when they bind with a cannabinoid receptor. Certain foods and activities can also help the ECS function optimally, improve your health, and enhance the effect of cannabis. Here are some of the ways you can do to help the ECS function properly:
- Taking essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6
- Eating chocolates
- Drinking herbs and tea
- Eating organic
- Moderate alcohol drinking
- Stress-reducing activities
- Yoga and Meditation
- Regular exercise
What are the therapeutic uses of cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are active chemicals in the cannabis plant that are involved in the regulation of appetite, memory, movement, and pain as well as promoting weight loss. Cannabinoids can help reduce anxiety, reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and also control nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy.
CBD is the most researched and well-regulated cannabinoid. It is non-psychoactive and will not create a “high” effect, unlike the cannabinoid THC. Possible health benefits of CBD include:
- Stress relief
- Decreasing physiological effects of anxiety such as an increased heart rate
- Improving symptoms of PTSD
- Pain relief
- Improving sleep
- Cancer treatment
How does CBD interact with ECS?
CBD or Cannabidiol is a non-psychoactive compound extracted from the hemp plant. Researchers don’t know exactly how CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system. However, they know for sure that they don’t bind to the cannabinoid receptors in the ECS the way THC does. Many experts believe that CBD interacts with the way these receptors bind with THC, modulating its psychoactive effects. Some believe that CBD also works by preventing the endocannabinoids from being broken down and allowing them to provide certain effects on the body. There is no evidence that CBD directly binds with the receptors in ECS but researchers believe that it influences them in some way.
Cannabinoids may provide great therapeutic benefits that can be used to help treat a wide variety of health conditions. As a result of the pervasive social uses of cannabis and the involvement of endocannabinoids in several biological processes, much has been learned about the roles of ECS. While the ECS plays a big role in regulating functions in the body as well as keeping it happy and healthy, there’s a lot we don’t know about it. More research is still needed to understand how the system fully works.
If you want to try using a cannabinoid that is well-regulated, is legal, and provides great benefits for the body, you can use CBD. CBD has been proven to treat various health conditions without causing unwanted side effects. Products containing CBD are very popular nowadays but it’s important to know what brand you’re going for as some forms of CBD contain small amounts of THC because it’s present at low levels in the hemp plant.
ZenBears CBD gummies ZenBears UK are a great option if you want to try using CBD. These gummies are vegan-friendly, THC-free, and extremely delicious making them irresistible.