Intro to the Endocannabinoid System

by | Nov 9, 2023 | A High Class Blog, Research Studies

Did you know that the human body has not only a Central Nervous System, but also an Endocannabinoid System? Hello! This means that our bodies have receptors which respond to cannabinoids found in nature, like THC and CBD. Read on to find out more about this recently discovered system within the human body. 

Discovered only recently in the early 1990’s, the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is responsible for maintaining internal balance (homeostasis). It controls some of the body’s most important functions, like sleep, appetite, mood, pain, immune responses, and memory. Check out this scientific article for more information.

The Endocannabinoid System in Humans

Science (source: MedicalNewsToday) has found within this system:

  1. cannabinoid receptors
  2. endocannabinoids (natural, internal chemicals which bind with cannabinoid receptors)
  3. enzymes (produce new endocannabinoids and clear old ones from the system)

Dr. Ethan Russo believes that all humans have an underlying endocannabinoid tone. That is, we all have a general level of endocannabinoids and receptors present in our system, and a general level of endocannabinoid production and metabolism. The endocannabinoid system and its tone in individuals can be affected by factors such as diet, lifestyle, illness, injury and genetics.

Deficiencies in the endocannabinoid system can be found in some individuals, and may explain some of the most prominent, unexplainable illnesses today, such as IBS, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disrease, and many more. Although, more scientific research in these areas are needed to be confirmed.

Endocannabinoids: naturally created by the body.
Phytocannabinoids: cannanbinoids found in plants

Example of ECS in Action Using Enzymes

When you fall, you experience pain. Once its done, the pain is no longer necessary, so the Central Nervous System (CNS) recruits enzymes to slow down and stop the pain signals. These enzymes then create special molecules called endocannabinoids (primarily anandamine and 2-AG) to get the job done.

These enzymes promote appropriate inflammation at the site of injury which leads to pain relief. This usually happens in seconds, with the body producing endocannabinoids on demand, using them, and then rapidly breaking them down.

Anandamine: is known as the “bliss molecule.” It plays a key role in the regulation of mood, reward response, and emotion. Low levels have been linked to depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. Many presciption medications used to treat pain and depression may be associated with incresed levels of anandamine.

2-Ag (2-Arachidonoylglycerol): this molecule’s main function is to reduce inflammation while regulating other essential functions of the immune system. It has been involved in the regulation of mod, emotion, and pain perception while also playing a role in memory, reproductive health, and sleep cycle regulation.

Two Main Cannabinoid Receptors

CB1 receptors: found throughout the body with the highest concentrations in the brain and spinal cord, especially in the nerve endings. These receptors have been found in the hypothalamus which regulates metabolism, and in the amygdala which regulates emotions.

CB2 receptors: is most concentrated within the outside tissues of the immune system. It likely plays a role in the response to diseases, as the body often increases the availability of this receptor in injured tissues. When activated, CB2 reduces inflammation.

Scientists believe that these receptors are present in the human body mainly to maintain balance within our body (a.k.a. homeostasis). However, there’s always more to the story!

Here is the rundown as we know it for now:

Memory and Learning: CB1 receptors are highly concentrated in the regions of the brain associated with cognition and memory, and emotional behaviour. The short-term memory effects of THC are related to this function of ECS.

Appetite regulation: studies suggest modulating cannabinoid receptors is essential to regulating food intake and metabolizing macronutrients and fat.

Thermoregulation: endocannibinoids can lower internal temperature, as well as increase it to fight viruses.

Immune System: researchers believe endocannabinoid messengers can have both an inhibitory and a stimulating effect on the immune system by interacting with CB2 receptors.fSleep and sleep cycles: activation of CB1 receptors induces sleep.

Pain perception: endocannabinoids and their corresponding receptors are found in the pain circuits of the nervous system, from nerve endings of the peripheral nervous system, all the way to the brain and central nervous system.

More studies are needed to validate all this information but it’s a good start to understanding the Endocannbinoid System. Stay tuned for upcoming blog posts about the endocannabinoid system, endocannabinoid deficiencies, and how phytocannabinoids play a part.