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What is the Endocannabinoid System?

The endocannabinoid system(ECS) is an intricate biological system that is expressed throughout the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system via receptors.  It stretches throughout the entire body of every mammal and is responsible for one of the most important aspects of the body; homeostasis.

The endocannabinoid system is involved in a wide variety of processes, including pain, memory, mood, appetite, stress, sleep, metabolism, immune function, and reproductive function.  Cannabinoid receptors that are in our own bodies communicate the needs of certain organs throughout the system in order to help maintain homeostasis.

What is Homeostasis?

Homeostasis a state that the body reaches when it achieves normal balance. Your internal temperature, your heartbeat, the rate at which your cells divide, all of these have to do with homeostasis.

The endocannabinoid system plays a huge role in keeping the body’s well-being in balance. If one tiny part of the biological system that keeps us alive gets off balance, there can be big problems as a result.  A stable internal environment is one of the key indicators of a healthy human body, and the ECS is responsible for the maintenance of this.

How does the ECS function?

The ECS is a complex, cell-signaling system that was identified in the 1990s by a group of research scientists that were exploring THC, a known cannabinoid.  While experts still do not fully understand the ECS, we have learned that it plays a role in the regulation of functions and processes like sleep, mood, appetite, memory, reproduction, and fertility. 

The ECS is extensive and is active in your body whether or not you use cannabis or CBD.

The ECS involves three principal components; endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes.

The ECS controls many aspects of the human body. The health of your bones is influenced by it. Your sleep cycle. Your reproductive capabilities. Your skin, your heart, your mood. Every system in your body needs the ECS to function correctly, leading many researchers to believe the ECS is the most important aspect of the human body.

The ECS functions primarily through endocannabinoids, which lend it its name. These endocannabinoids are molecularly similar to compounds like THC and CBD, which can be found in cannabis plants. However, these occur naturally within the body and are necessary for your body to operate.

For instance, one of these endocannabinoids is Anandamide. This is a neurotransmitter, which is responsible for several different functions in the human body. In the brain, it helps maintain memory, motivation, and happiness. In other parts of the body, it regulates fertility, body temperature, even appetite. It’s a flagship example of how flexible endocannabinoids are within our body, and how necessary they are to keep us healthy.

The ECS also controls healing. Whenever damage is done to the body, the ECS can be observed acting at increased levels. It is theorized that receptors reacting to the ECS control inflammation, scabbing, and the reknitting of bone and tendons.

How do THC and CBD interact with the ECS?

Considering their molecular similarity, it’s understandable that the combination of CBD and ECS is responsible for the “high” we get when ingesting cannabis products. But, the two most significant cannabinoids, THC and CBD, interact with the ECS in interesting and distinct ways.

THC binds with the receptors that the ECS typically controls. These receptors send signals to the brain, which produce the most well-known effects of marijuana therein. Since these receptors are spread throughout the entire body, this explains the wide-range of effects that THC can cause. The “munchies” are just a result of THC binding to receptors within the digestive system, increasing appetite, for instance.

CBD, however, interacts in a completely different fashion with the ECS. It binds with completely different receptors and can be noted to having mostly positive effects on the human body. These include a reduction in stress, an increase in relaxation, and a lowered appetite. Importantly, CBD does not react psychoactive with the brain, as THC does, and in fact, can counteract many of the effects of THC in large enough doses.

For these reasons, it’s believed by some that CBD is a compound that can increase wellness in the human body, and interacts with the ECS in overall positive fashions.