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Did you know your body has an entire system devoted to cannabinoids?
And that it even produces its own cannabinoids?
Scientists have discovered that our bodies have an entire system devoted to cannabinoids. This network of receptors and enzymes is known as the Endocannabinoid System, or ECS for short. The ECS is responsible for a large number of important functions in our bodies like regulating pain, mood, sleep-wake cycles, and appetite. It also produces its own form of cannabinoids called "endogenous cannabinoids" or "endocannabinoids."
To understand the human endocannabinoid system, it’s helpful to first know a little about homeostasis. Or as our friends at Leafy call it, the Goldilocks zone. When you think about it, Goldilocks and the Three Bears lend the perfect metaphor for the body's system of maintaining stability and balance. When Golilocks entered the house, the first bowl of porridge she found was too hot, the second bowl was too cold, and she worked her way down until she found one that was just right. That's a lot like our body when trying to regulate itself to find stability and happiness.
The Endocannabinoid system (ECS) is made up of three core parts: endocannabinoids, naturally produced by your body, function as messengers; receptors sense and bind to the endocannabinoids; and enzymes break them down once they've finished their mission. The network communicates with other parts of your brain by sending chemical signals which function in the body to create homeostasis.
Endo-cannabinoids (EC) were first discovered by Israeli scientists lead by Raphael Mechoulam in 1992 when they noticed the chemical anandamide was present within our brains. This discovery caused them to dive deeper into EC's leading them to find two new types of endogenous cannabinoids known as 2AG and NAPE2. This began their studies on how these molecules work with other neurotransmitters like serotonin or dopamine and looking for ways it could be used medically/pharmaceutically. Much is still to be discovered about the ECS, and researchers are constantly making new discoveries.
"I believe cannabinoids represent a medical treasure waiting to be discovered. "
- Raphael Mechoulam
There are receptors all over the body, but the two most prominent and most studied receptors are CB1 and CB2 receptors.
CB1 receptors are found within the central nervous system - the brain and spinal cord. The central nervous system is responsible for controlling most functions of the body and mind. The CB1 receptor is responsible for appetite, immune cells, motor activity, pain perception, short term memory, and thinking.
A recent study found that CB1 receptors play a large role in regulating mood and emotions. By releasing hormones and regulating brain functions like sleep cycles and pain sensitivity, this system can keep our moods regulated despite what life throws at us.
CB2 is known for its role in reducing inflammation and the body's immune system.
CB2 receptors are found in the peripheral nervous system and within immune cells.
They can be found within fat tissue, bones, the heart, eyes, gut, kidneys, liver, pancreas reproductive system, the lungs, skeletal muscle and the skin.
Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Researchers believe CBD works by preventing endocannabinoids from being broken down. This allows them to have more of an effect on your body and may actually bind with a receptor that hasn’t been discovered yet!
Essentially, CBD is like adding a little extra boost to your existing ecs functions.