Without a doubt, the cannabinoids contained within cannabis have profound and far-reaching effects on the body. It is a subject that science has been particularly interested in, with wave after wave of new cannabinoid-based research being constantly published. These interactions between cannabinoids and the body are facilitated by one system that we all have – known as the endocannabinoid system. Getting to know the basics of this complicated and vital system can help shed light on the ways cannabinoids, such as CBD can affect us. So, let’s take a closer look!
Named after the plant that led to its discovery, the endocannabinoid system can be found throughout the entire body. It is connected to everything – organs, the brain, glands, the immune system, and even tissue. When activated, it affects each of these in different ways, but all towards one purpose – maintaining homeostasis. Homeostasis is the maintenance of a stable and healthy environment within the body, despite influences from the external environment. It makes the endocannabinoid system one of the most important systems in the establishment and maintenance of human health.
WHAT IS THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM?
To put it simply, the endocannabinoid system is a network of receptors that interact with the compounds in cannabis, as well as the body’s natural forms of cannabinoids. When these receptors are activated, they affect the area of the body activated in – often on a cellular level. Depending on where this is, it can have a myriad of effects, such as reducing inflammation, firing up the immune system, or reducing pain perception.
THE RECEPTORS OF THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM
Although complex, the endocannabinoid system is predominantly composed of two types of receptors, known as CB1 and CB2 receptors. They both interact with cannabinoids like CBD in various ways, having multiple effects, but all with the end game of promoting homeostasis. CB1 receptors are mainly found in the brain and nervous system, whereas CB2 receptors are more associated with the immune system.
In addition to interacting with cannabinoids like CBD, the body produces its own versions to interact with the system, known as endocannabinoids. Much like the compounds of cannabis and hemp, these interact with the system in various ways. One such is anandamide, a key player in the immune system.
THE EFFECTS OF THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM
As mentioned, the effects of the endocannabinoid system are widespread. It is currently thought to have a bearing on the following factors within the human body:
- Hippocampal neurogenesis
- The induction of Synaptic depression
- Appetite regulation
- Metabolism and energy balance
- Social behaviour and anxiety
- Stress response
- Immune system functionality
- Female reproduction
- The autonomic nervous system
- Multiple sclerosis
Until very recently, not much was really understood about the endocannabinoid system. However, the research that has been done is positive, and it is encouraging unprecedented levels of new research and interest. Understanding how this system within our bodies operates could give us insights into new and novel ways in which the above factors can be manipulated, opening up all kinds of possibilities for science and medicine. It is still early days, but things are looking good for endocannabinoid-based research.