We all took health classes in school that gave us a crash course in how our bodies work. It covered basic things like how many bones you have in your skeleton, how important taking care of your heart is, and how your nerves function. There is one major piece that you probably never heard of: The Endocannabinoid System.
First discovered in the early 1990s by researchers exploring how THC interacts with the human body, every human has an ECS built into them even if they have never used cannabis in their life. Before cannabis prohibition, hemp and marijuana had been used for thousands of years to treat a number of ailments, including epilepsy, headaches, arthritis, pain, depression, and nausea. Traditional healers may not have known why the plant was effective but their experience demonstrated its effectiveness and provided the basis for later scientific inquiry. The discovery of the ECS revealed a biological basis for the therapeutic effects of plant cannabinoids and has sparked renewed interest in cannabis as medicine.
So how does my ECS work?
Your body produces molecules called endocannabinoids. They are similar to the compounds called cannabinoids found in cannabis, such as CBD, CBG, CBN, but they are produced naturally by your body. Endocannabinoids identified by experts include anandamide and 2-arachidonyglyerol (say that three time fast!). These natural compounds are produced by your body on an as needed basis, and help keep your internal functions running smoothly.
Endocannabinoid receptors are found throughout your entire body. Naturally produced endocannabinoids bind to them and send signals that your body has a problem needing the attention of your ECS. There are two main endocannabinoid receptors:
- CB1 receptors, which are mostly found in the central nervous system
- CB2 receptors, which are mostly found in your peripheral nervous system, especially immune cells
Endocannabinoids can bind to either receptor. The effects that result depend on where the receptor is located and which endocannabinoid it binds to. For example, endocannabinoids might target CB1 receptors in a spinal nerve to relieve pain. Others might bind to a CB2 receptor in your immune cells to signal that your body’s experiencing inflammation, a common sign of autoimmune disorders.
How does CBD work with my ECS?
Experts aren’t completely sure how CBD interacts with the ECS. Many believe it works by preventing endocannabinoids from being broken down. This allows them to have more of an effect on your body. While the details of how it works are still under debate, research suggests that CBD can help with pain, nausea, and other symptoms associated with multiple conditions.
The bottom line
The ECS plays a big role in keeping your internal processes stable. But there’s still a lot we don’t know about it. As experts develop a better understanding of the ECS, it could eventually hold the key to understanding how cannabis influenced the evolution of humans and what maintaining your ECS can mean in today’s world!