The Endocannabinoid System
BY STEVE BORN
We’re all familiar with the immune system and the importance of maintaining its vitality so that we can enjoy optimal health. One system that you may not be familiar with yet is the endocannabinoid (pronounced: en-doh-kuh-NAB-in-oyd) system. With the increasing popularity of CBD and the plethora of benefits it provides, it’s time to get to know this all-important bodily system.
Research has defined the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is present in all vertebrates, as a complex cell-signaling system whose main function is to “maintain bodily homeostasis – biological harmony in response to changes in the environment.”1
Though the particulars involving the ECS are complex, it’s safe to say that it plays a crucially important role in our health and well-being because it regulates many key aspects of our biology and helps maintain the stability of our internal environment. Research has shown that the ECS “is involved in a wide variety of processes, including pain, memory, mood, appetite, stress, sleep, metabolism, immune function, and reproductive function.”2, 3
While it was once believed that endocannabinoid receptors were only present in the brain and nerves, we now know that receptors are present throughout the body, including our skin, bones, muscles, heart, and various other organs. Dr. Bayne French states that the ECS “consists of two endocannabinoids (AEA and 2-AG, which are produced in our bodies), two receptors on cells (CB1 and CB2, which AEA and 2-AG interact with), and the protein enzymes that produce and degrade AEA and 2-AG.”4
What Is CBD? How Does It Work? Why Should I Take It?
CBD is short for cannabidiol (pronounced: canuh- bih-DIE-all), one of over 100 compounds called cannabinoids that are found in the cannabis plant. These chemical compounds activate the cannabinoid receptors found throughout the body; and, along with the bodilyproduced cannabinoids Anandamide (AEA) and 2-Arachido onolglycerol (2-AG), they provide a wide range of benefits to help maintain and improve our health.
There are two major cannabinoid receptors:
Cannabinoid Receptor Type 1 (CB1):
These receptors are found throughout the body, though primarily in the brain. As expected, these receptors are involved with mood, emotions, thinking, movement/coordination, appetite, and more.
Cannabinoid Receptor Type 2 (CB2):
These receptors are found mainly in the immune system throughout the body. When CB2 receptors are activated, they work to reduce aches and soreness.
When we take a broad-spectrum CBD product, those cannabinoids do not attach to or directly interact with CB1 or CB2. Instead, it is believed that the orally-dosed cannabinoids indirectly affect/influence signaling through CB1 and CB2, while also increasing levels of endocannabinoids and/or preventing them from being broken down, allowing them to have a greater effect on the body.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Taking a broad-spectrum cannabinoid product supplies the body with numerous cannabinoids —headed up by CBD—that provide their own benefits for many aspects of health. This also improves the functionality of the body’s cannabinoid receptors, permitting optimal amounts of endocannabinoids to be produced and helping extend their beneficial “life span.”
1. De Laurentis, Andrea; Araujo, Hugo A.; and Rettori, Valeria. Role of the EndocannabinoidSystemintheNeuroendocrineResponsestoInflammation. Current Pharmaceutical Design. (2014); 20(29): 4697-706.
2. Alger, B.E. Getting High on the Endocannabinoid System. Cerebrum: the Dana Forum on Brain Science. 2013 Nov-Dec; 2013:14.
3. Maccarrone, M; Bab, I; Bíró, T; et al. Endocannabinoid signaling at the periphery: 50 years after THC. Trends Pharmacol Science. 2015 May; 36(5):277-296. doi: 10.1016/j.tips.2015.02.008.