The Endocannabinoid System

posted by on March 22nd, 2020

The body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a communication system that is very extensive and elaborate. It consists of three main components: endocannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors, and the enzymes that break the cannabinoids down. The ECS exists in many areas of our bodies from our immune cells, nervous system, spinal cord and brain. There are even cannabinoid receptors in our skin.

One of the roles of the endocannabinoid system is to keep our bodies in a state of balance known as homeostasis. If we achieve internal homeostasis, we can experience optimal health. The ECS system regulates pain, stress, appetite, energy, cardiovascular function, reward perception, reproduction, and sleep, to name a few. 

Let’s breakdown the main components of the endocannabinoid system.

Endocannabinoids

Endocannabinoids are naturally produced within our bodies. The two main types include anandamide (AEA) and 2-AG (or 2-arachadonoyl-glycerol). Anandamide was uncovered in the 1990s, and is involved in regulating mood, memory, pain, cognition, and emotions. AG is associated with pain relief, nausea relief, appetite stimulation, and inhibiting tumor growth.

Cannabinoid Receptors

The second part of the ECS are the cannabinoid receptors. These are cell membrane receptors that bind cannabinoids to trigger cell responses. There are cannabinoid receptors in many areas of the body including the brain. There are two main types:

CB1 receptors are mainly in the central nervous system, they affect motor and cognitive function. The CB1 receptor is what responds to THC as well as responding to the body’s naturally occurring endocannabinoids — anandamide and 2-AG.

CB2 receptors are located within the immune system and play a role in neuro-protection and neuro-inflammation. CBD can bind to at least 12 sites of action in the brain. These activate multiple pathways to elicit feelings of relaxation and improved mood. These action sites are also a part of the ECS.

Enzymes

The third part of the system is the enzymes that break down the endocannabinoids. The enzyme FAAH works quickly on the chemicals our bodies produce, like anandamide, but not on external cannabinoids. This is why THC produces a high and anandamide does not.

It is always important to discuss with your practitioner before adding anything new to your supplement regimen. Discuss options and appropriate dosing with your healthcare provider. It is also important to source products from companies you trust.

Remember there is still so much research underway regarding the endocannabinoid system. Take control of your health by staying informed of new research.

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