Everything You Need to Know About The Endocannabinoid
All humans – as well as other vertebrate creatures – are naturally equipped to respond to cannabinoids, the active compounds in cannabis. In fact, the human body manufactures cannabinoids all on its own. These naturally occurring cannabinoids and the ones found in cannabis activate the vast network of cannabinoid receptors found throughout the body – a network called the endocannabinoid system.
What Is the Endocannabinoid System?
Scientists first advanced the idea of a whole-body network of cannabis-sensitive receptors in the early 1990s, while studying the effects of marijuana. That led to the cloning of the first known cannabinoid receptor, CB1. Not long after, a second receptor, CB2, was identified, and in the following decades, research revealed that this system of receptors could be linked to nearly every function in the body, able to affect processes as diverse as immune responses, gut health, and mood.
The Endocannabinoid System Maintains Balance
Research on the scope and functioning of the endocannabinoid system reveals that its far-reaching network of receptors may be the “driver” of overall health, keeping the body’s many subsystems working in balance and supporting the immune responses that fight inflammation and other causes of disease.
To make that happen, both naturally occurring cannabinoids, THC and cannabidiol, or CBD, that come from cannabis are able to trigger the CB1 and CB2 receptors to stimulate neurotransmitter activity in the brain, central and peripheral nervous systems, and other essential regulatory systems throughout the body.
Endocannabinoid Deficiency May Cause Disease
Though the body may produce many others, at this point only two endocannabinoids have been well studied: anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol, or 2-AG. The body normally produces enough of these compounds to maintain stability among its many systems, but studies suggest that low levels of endocannabinoids can lead to a condition called clinical endocannabinoid deficiency, which may account for conditions such as fibromyalgia, migraine, and irritable bowel syndrome.
It is possible to increase the production of endocannabinoids with exercise or even by eating certain foods such as turmeric, cumin, and pepper. But because the exogenous cannabinoids found in cannabis so perfectly match our native ones, many people turn to cannabis products containing CBD to ease chronic pain, anxiety and a number of conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, arthritis, and seizures.
The endocannabinoid system is a recent discovery, and research continues to add new insights into the many ways in which it supports health and mind-body balance. But workings of this complex system provide new evidence that, for many conditions, cannabis can be the natural way to wellness.