After decades of research, it has been established that cannabinoids have multiple effects on the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). The beginning of the study of effects on the ECS dates back all the way to the early 1990s when researchers were exploring THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
What Is The Endocannabinoid System (ECS)
The ECS plays a major role as it is one of the systems within your body that tells your cells what to do and since your body is made up of cells.
The ECS is made up of three components in its entirety:
Endogenous cannabinoids or more often referred to as endocannabinoids are produced by your body. They are essentially cannabinoids but they’re just made by your body.
There are two key endocannabinoids that have been discovered so far:
- Anandamide (AEA)
- 2-Arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG)
Your body takes care of their production and produces on an as-needed basis in order to ensure your body is running smoothly and properly.
Endocannabinoids receptors are receptors that allow endocannabinoids to bind to them in order to produce a reaction and these receptors are distributed throughout your body
Two main endocannabinoids receptors exists within your body:
- CB1 receptors (which are usually in the central nervous system of the body)
- CB2 receptors (which are usually in the peripheral nervous system of the body)
Endocannabinoids can bind to either receptor to produce a reaction, the difference is that each receptor produces a different reaction. Endocannabinoids binding to a CB1 receptor would produce a reaction in order to relieve physical pain. Endocannabinoids binding to a CB2 receptor would produce a reaction to signal the brain that the body is experiencing some sort of inflammation.
After the endocannabinoids have done their jobs, enzymes such as fatty acid amide hydrolase and monoglyceral acid lipase would then break down AEA and 2-AG respectively, so that the receptors can once again be able to bind to future endocannabinoids as needed.
What does it do?
Currently, researchers do not know the full functions of the ECS yet but studies have shown that the ECS plays a role in regulating:
- appetite and digestion
- chronic pain
- inflammation and other immune system responses
- learning and memory
- motor control
- cardiovascular system function
- muscle formation
- bone remodeling and growth
- liver function
- reproductive system function
- skin and nerve function
The leading theory is that The Endocannabinoid System is in charge of maintaining homeostasis of the body or the balance of the internal environment of the body such as your blood pressure and many others. So, researchers think that whenever the balance is disrupted, the ECS helps bring it back to homeostasis.
What is CBD and THC?
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) are two of the main cannabinoids present within marijuana and they bind to the body’s endocannabinoid receptors to replicate the effects. Basically, they are both the same thing but with different effects due to a slight difference in their chemical arrangement.
Let’s start with delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or better known as THC. It is the compound found in cannabis that produces the “high” effect that users get when they take cannabis.
Now Cannabidiol or CBD is the other compound found in cannabis, it is essentially the same thing as THC except it does not produce that “high” effect that users would get with THC.
The properties of CBD make it perfect for therapeutic use as it does not impair essential motor functions such as coordination, and since it does not produce the “high” effect, it is less likely to cause an addiction to the drug.
How do THC and CBD affect the The Endocannabinoid System?
THC binds with the body’s endocannabinoid receptors the same way as the body’s own endocannabinoids. It is able to do this because THC has a similar chemical makeup as endocannabinoid.
It is commonly thought the binding of THC with the endocannabinoid receptors overflows the ECS with cannabinoids, increasing the intensity of the reaction. It’s through this reaction between the THC and the ECS that produces the “high” feeling when users take marijuana.
THC helps with the following:
- muscle spasticity
- low appetite
CBD has the same chemical makeup as THC but CBD operates differently from THC. CBD doesn’t bind to any of the known endocannabinoid receptors but it still produces therapeutic effects.
Currently, it is theorised that CBD binds with an endocannabinoid receptor that has not been discovered yet.
CBD help with the following :
- psychosis or mental disorders
- inflammatory bowel disease
For more information regarding CBD and how it helps with medical conditions, click here.
Currently, there is still much to learn and discover about the endocannabinoid system due to its relatively recent discovery. But, one thing researchers do know is that the ECS helps us with various functions as said before.
To know more about the medicinal CBD as a treatment element, click here. At AltMed, through our podcasts, we bring to you inspiring stories from the frontiers of our rapidly-changing industry. Each week we further the discussion around natural and alternative medicinal solutions. Subscribe now!