Today, we’ll have an Endocannabinoid System 101 crash course, and how our bodies process cannabinoid compounds like cannabidiol or CBD with receptors and enzymes. While we think that we know enough about how our bodies work, the amount of emerging scientific research begs to differ.
They show that there are internal systems in our bodies that have so much untapped potential once modulated, and among these names is the Endocannabinoid System. (ECS).
In fact, studies back in 2008 discuss the ECS and how it is a viable focus for Pharmacotherapy. Such a study is in support of cannabinoid medications as an alternative remedy to the needs of patients that current methods of treatment cannot yet address entirely. With that, a new medical approach is to keep the system balanced in order to achieve the goal of therapeutic relief.
What is Endocannabinoid System?
As defined by the National Institutes for Health, the Endocannabinoid System or ECS is part of the Central Nervous System (CNS) but is more neuro-modulatory. This means that it is primarily concerned with the dynamic of your brain neurons and how it affects both your physiology and psychology. This system comprises three core components: cannabinoid receptors, endogenous cannabinoids, and enzymes.
Cannabinoid receptors are in charge of sending signals into the system, with CB1 as the most abundant in your CNS and CB2 which can be found in your nervous and immune system.
The system also includes endogenous cannabinoids or lipids that help your body balance out other systems. These bind to a particular receptor that specifically needs an immediate response. For example, if there are neurons that alert the system due to pain, endocannabinoids will bind to the CBD1 receptors to provide relief to that part of the nervous system.
There are two main endocannabinoids:
• Anandamide (AEA), which regulates appetite, pleasure, and motivation.
• 2-Arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG), which mainly helps maintain internal functions.
These are catalysts that break down and process the endocannabinoids once the required function is finished. With that, the enzymes of the ECS include amide hydrolase, a fatty acid that can break down AEA, and the monoacylglycerol acid lipase which is capable of breaking down 2-AG.
In other words, this is a system that aids in cell communication, immune response, memory, metabolism, sleep, appetite, and many more.
CB1 & CB2: What Are These Receptors?
The ECS is a system of endocannabinoid receptors, and they all help in making sure that the body maintains balance or homeostasis. Generally, cannabinoid receptors are in charge of keeping watch on your body’s condition as it settles on the surface of your cells. They span the cell wall, process the stimuli they receive, and then transmit this information to the ECS. So, the appropriate cellular communication allows for the execution of processes in the body.
As mentioned before, we have two main cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2. However, other receptors engage and aid in the processes. Namely, these are the transient receptor potential channels or the TRP and the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors or the PPARs.
This type is most abundant in the nervous system. These are receptors that respond to THC, facilitating the psychoactive processes in the brain. These receptors also induce hunger and the instinct to feed. In addition to that, they’re also found in the liver, kidneys, and lungs.
These are located outside of the nervous system and are generally circulatory and in continual movement throughout your body. Mainly, they’re part of your immune system and work to stimulate and enhance its functions. They’re is also located in some neurons and in hematopoietic cells which are bone marrow stem cells that produce blood cells. While CB1 receptors populate the brain dominantly, the CB2 receptors can also attach themselves to dopamine neurons.
In addition to this, cannabinoids activate these receptors which will then elicit a response from proteins to induce intracellular processes. Like a switch, these processes will aim to achieve homeostasis. This also means that the ECS will deal with any inflammation or irregularities that threaten the balance of your internal functions. This is how the benefits of CBD come into play.
How ECS Promotes Homeostasis
Homeostasis is your body’s ideal balanced state. It is the primary goal of the Endocannabinoid System, and it is this internal stability that keeps us healthy. This is the reason why receptors are in different parts of our body. They detect any stimuli indicating that something is wrong. To recap, the ECS regulates the following functions:
• Appetite, digestion, and metabolism
• Immune system
• Mood, sensation, and your brain’s “reward system”
• Temperature regulation and motor controls
• Sleep, memory, and fertility
What happens when in your body is this:
ECS detects when something is wrong, so it activates. Then, it will work to maintain balance without affecting other systems like your appetite or your sleep. The goal is to achieve homeostasis, and when done so, enzymes will then work to break down these endocannabinoids. This is so they are disabled from launching to overdrive and harming your body.
How Does CBD Interact With The Endocannabinoid System
You may be wondering how CBD or other cannabinoids from hemp or marijuana factor into the process of the ECS. Now, we will discuss this, but not before working on the terminology.
It is not coincidental that the endocannabinoid system has the word “cannabinoid” in it. Endocannabinoid is a shortened version of endogenous cannabinoid. That said, “endogenous” means “naturally produced inside the body.” So it is indicative of how our bodies produce substances with similar properties and effects to the ones produced in cannabis plants.
Now, when we consume compounds like cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), these cannabinoids take the place of the endocannabinoids that our bodies naturally produce. These compounds attach to receptors accordingly, and this initiates the process. We are already aware that when THC attaches to the CB1 receptor, it will result in the patient or the user experiencing the “high”.
This shows that if CBD binds to the CB1 receptor, there will be an increase in neuron dynamic and brain activity. On the other hand, if CBD attaches to the CB2 receptor, the body will then have a better immune system defense and response. It will most likely also lead to an increase in appetite and a reduced pain sensation.
This means that in the case that the ECS system is no longer as effective in achieving homeostasis, we have a substitute or an alternative. You see, when we grow older, our body functions don’t work as well as they should, and this shows that our systems aren’t as well.
This is where we start to acquire chronic conditions and inflammatory illnesses, non-communicable diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autoimmune diseases, and many more. Our cell receptors may be able to process the stimuli and send information, but the response is not as immediate.
Another claim on the benefits of CBD and how it affects the ECS is that it doesn’t just bind itself to the receptors, but it also prohibits the enzymes from breaking down the endocannabinoids that the body naturally produces. This offers so much promise, especially to people who experience endocannabinoid deficiency.
What is an Endocannabinoid Deficiency?
Also called Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CED), this is the inability of the ECS to produce the required endocannabinoid levels to support the needs of the nervous and immune system. This is very similar to neurotransmitter deficiencies in concept. An example of this is the neurotransmitters’ failure to produce enough serotonin in the brain, which can eventually lead to Depression. In a similar light, the failure of CB1 receptors can affect brain health, while the failure of CB2 receptors can derail the immune system.
A study that supports this is a 2016 paper that Dr. Russo published with the National Institutes of Health. In his study, he cited an instance where patients with migraines and fibromyalgia showed inadequate amounts of the endocannabinoid anandamide or AEA in their cerebrospinal fluid.
The theory concluded in this study showed that a decrease in ECS activity will result in a lowered threshold for pain, and this can easily affect mood, sleep, and appetite. With that, cannabinoid treatments like CBD oils can be administered alongside an improved healthy lifestyle to improve the health of the patients.
Benefits of CBD on Human Body
The steadily rising demand for CBD oil in the market is more for medical, and therapeutic purposes, instead of recreation. This means that our patients are becoming more vocal about their health needs, and that modern pharmaceuticals just don’t cut it anymore.
CBD for Mental Health
In this study about using Cannabidiol as a treatment for anxiety disorders, it shows that CBD is a natural anxiolytic substance and it can be incredibly helpful even for those with a social anxiety disorder (SAD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and panic disorder (PD).
CBD is better than other mental health medications because the side effects are milder. It doesn’t help that some meds cause urinary incontinence, hormonal imbalances, uncontrollable mood changes, or irritability. Instead, the cannabinoid taps into the ECS and not only promote relaxation but also boosts the immune system to prevent the mental health patient from getting sick on their way to recovery.
In addition to all these, CBD users generally report experiencing improved sleep quality, a higher pain threshold, and better appetite – all of which are essential to their health and well-being.
CBD for Non-communicable Diseases or NCDs
NCDs are a particular challenge to modern treatment, with auto-immune diseases being highly unpredictable, and with others remaining virtually incurable. The medical field of palliative care has focused on alleviating the symptoms of these diseases. However, these types of medication can produce undesirable side effects and can get too expensive – not to mention unavailable to many facilities.
It is in this case that CBD presents a viable alternative treatment, especially to the elderly. This cannabinoid greatly contributes to the functions of the nervous system as well as the immune system. The ECS of these patients can process CBD and this will allow their bodies to target anything that causes the body chronic pains or internal inflammations. Also, the effects of CBD are relatively faster, especially if it is administered sublingually and through the respiratory system.
According to the aforementioned study, it shows that a decrease in ECS activity or reduced production of endocannabinoids can affect the patient’s pain threshold. It is also for this reason that CBD is also a great medical alternative for both therapeutic and palliative care.
CBD for Daily Life
Then again, CBD is not just beneficial for the sick and the elderly. Let us not forget how this cannabinoid can benefit us on a daily basis. Our ECS may still be healthy and functional, but CBD can be helpful during extreme and trying times. Still, we should make a conscious effort to make sure that our ECS functions properly to avoid any deficiencies. Here are tips that we’ve garnered from ECS expert, Dr. Russo.
• Keep your gut healthy. A strong gut microbiome contributes to the regulatory capacities of the ECS.
• Move your body. Remember that not only does exercise improve your overall health, but that a sedentary lifestyle can lead to the deterioration of your ECS.
• Genetics may play a role. You need to look out for your chronic illness in the family, even if ECS deficiencies are not necessarily passed from one generation to the next. This may be indicative of an eventual ECS decline, or that you may be sharing unhealthy habits as a unit.
• Avoid stress altogether. If you can, help your body achieve homeostasis through the cultivation of a sound mind. Also, get enough sleep.
With this much study and research to back the claim, it’s safe to say that cannabinoid treatments hold a lot of promise when it comes to pain alleviation and therapeutic relief. Not only do they make use of our Endocannabinoid System’s potential and capacity, but they also help patients with reduced side effects or harm to other internal organs.
Local state laws and Federal legislation may not welcome the claim with open arms, but they have legalized the use of CBD oil in many states. So, that’s a silver lining for this medical approach. More information about this matter is already online and this lets these patients know where they can get high-quality CBD that is evaluated for safety.
Over time, we can anticipate that the government’s support for CBD research and production will increase, which may result in a decrease in prices.
That being said, we hope that this simplified overview of Endocannabinoid System 101 is helpful to you. Remember to always do your research and consult a physician with adequate experience with cannabinoid medication. Be healthy and safe.