With cannabis becoming so popular over the past few years, it seems like people are turning to cannabis for just about everything. But how can one plant be beneficial for so many different purposes? How can it perk you up while also promoting sleep? And how can it stimulate appetite while also helping others to stay trim? The reason cannabis can work in so many ways is the body’s endocannabinoid system.
What is the Endocannabinoid System?
Like most animals, humans are equipped with what is known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). In high school, we learn about the digestive system, circulatory system, and reproductive system, but we are not taught about the ECS. Why? Because scientists didn’t discover it until the 1990s and are still working to uncover just how important this system is for our overall well being.
The ECS works to maintain function and health in the human body. It helps to balance most of the systems in our body and helps fine-tune essential functions. It can help control everything from pain, sleep, appetite, mood, inflammation, and more.
The ECS works by regulating homeostasis and ensuring that all our systems work in harmony with each other. Our body uses homeostasis to monitor itself, so when something is wrong, the body can correct it. Think about it like Goldilocks and the three bears. The body cannot be too hot or too cold; it needs to be just right. And the job of the ECS is to make sure everything is working as it should.
How Does the Endocannabinoid System work?
The ECS runs throughout your entire body, and scientists have discovered endocannabinoid receptors in the central nervous system, organs, immune cells, and other tissue. Endocannabinoid receptors even exist in breast milk!
You are probably familiar with neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. They act as nervous system messengers to send messages between receptors throughout the body. Endocannabinoids work the same way to send messages between endocannabinoid receptors.
The two main endocannabinoids are 2-ArachidonoylGlyerol and Anandamide. They work to send messages by binding with cannabinoid receptors, the same way that cannabinoids (THC and CBD) do.
If you think about endocannabinoids as messengers, then think of the cannabinoid receptors as what receives the message. These receptors are located on cells and wait for endocannabinoids to bind to them.
Cannabinoid receptors are found all over the body and help to guard a variety of cells and cell responses. The two types of receptors in the endocannabinoid system are CB1 and CB2
Cannabinoids: How Cannabis Interacts with the Body
If the body is already equipped with its own endocannabinoids, what role does the cannabis plant play?
Cannabinoids are compounds found naturally in the cannabis plant. You’ve heard of CBD and THC, but there are more than 100 varieties of cannabinoids that have been discovered. Because they are created in a plant, they are also called “phytocannabinoids” – phyto means plant.
They have the unique ability to mimic endocannabinoids, which are the compounds our bodies produce naturally. To put it plainly, cannabinoids like THC and CBD help boost the communication in our endocannabinoid system.
Scientists think that sometimes our bodies don’t produce enough of these vital endocannabinoids on our own. And one of the leading theories is that an endocannabinoid deficiency can cause many conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, and even migraines.
Because the ECS plays such an essential part in all our major body systems, it is thought that many problems can occur when it is out of balance. So, when we use cannabis, these plant compounds can step up to do the job where there is a problem or a deficiency in our ESC, helping our body get back to a state of homeostasis.
If you have ever been curious why one plant can offer so many different benefits, it’s all the work of the ECS. With a balanced ECS, the body is in a state of homeostasis where everything works as it should.
While we have learned a lot about the ECS since its discovery in the 1990s, scientists are working every day to uncover more about how it works and how we can use cannabis to boost our overall well being.
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