Basics of the Endocannabinoid System

Guide to the Basics of the Endocannabinoid System

Before we get overwhelmed about the different cannabinoids and what they can do for your body. Let’s talk a little about how cannabinoids work in our biological system. I’m sure you have heard of the ECS or endocannabinoid system. Well the ECS is a natural part of our bodies and all known vertebrates and invertebrates are known to have it. The ECS is crucial for our bodies overall homeostasis. Homeostasis is term given by Walter Cannon in 1926 to describe an organisms ability to maintain a healthy balance of various physiological processes.

The ECS helps regulate these physiological processes via two receptors that are found in certain tissues. These receptors are commonly referred to as CB1 and CB2. The first receptor is found in the central nervous system aka the brain and nerves of the spinal cord. The second receptor is found in the peripheral nervous system, digestive system, and specialized cells found in the immune system.

A few of the important functions the ECS may be responsible for regulating include:
-Stress and Mood
-Inflammation (Including neuro-inflammation)
-Digestive System Health
-Metabolism and Appetite
-Immune system health
-Reproductive/ Fertility
-Internal temperature regulation
-Motor controls
-Pain and Pleasure/ reward

Your bodies precise way of activating the endocannabinoid system is marvelous. After activation, these cannabinoids work swiftly to help bring balance back to whichever system is out of whack, without altering the integrity of other parts of the system. It does so by releasing enzymes swiftly to break down excess cannabinoids after they have done their job as to not upset the balance in the other direction.

** Cannabis products are obvious targets for future treatments because they can stimulate the activation of the ECS.

Endocannabinoid Deficiency

Dr. Russo, in 2001, first proposed the theory called Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency , and explained that certain health conditions may be linked to a lack of adequate endocannabinoid levels. After substantial evidence for his theory was collected, he went further in depth, in 2016, in a paper he wrote titled, Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Reconsidered. Migraine sufferers were found to have distinct decreases of the cannabinoid anandamide recorded in cerebrospinal fluid. Very similar results were also found in those suffering from fibromyalgia.

“If endocannabinoid function were decreased, it follows that a lowered pain threshold would be operative, along with derangements of digestion, mood, and sleep among the almost universal physiological systems subserved by the endocannabinoid system (ECS).” The CED theory also posits that such deficiencies could be present due to genetic reasons or be the result of a disease or injury. (Russo 2016) Several other conditions were also linked to decreased ECS function like post traumatic stress disorder and irritable bowel syndrome. Although more studies need to be done before any conclusive results can be formed.

Other Potential Treatments

CBD has been suggested to help with several conditions like epilepsy, acne, asthma, inflammation, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and many many others. With that being said, more research is currently being conducted on cannabinoids for the potential treatment of various other conditions that don’t just involve the endocannabinoid system. Some of these conditions are:
-Cardiovascular disease
-Autoimmune diseases
-Chronic Pain
-Many neurological conditions and psychiatric illnesses

In conclusion, the endocannabinoid system evolved over 500 million years ago and is present in all known vertebrates and invertebrates. This system is primarily responsible for regulating your bodies overall homeostasis and many other functions. As explained by Dr. Russo, a faulty endocannabinoid system can lead to an array of physiological and psychological irregularities from mood instabilities to poor immune system function.

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