What is The Endocannabinoid System (ECS)?

Did You Know the Human Body Has an Entire System of Receptors That are Designed to Attach to Cannabinoids?

Ahh yes, The Endocannabinoid system. Have you heard of it before? Maybe you have, maybe you haven’t. What we are here to tell you today is that this body system is one of the best you have never heard of.

The Endocannabinoid System, more commonly referred to as the ECS, was discovered in the 1980s. After years of studying the affects of cannabis and its compounds, scientists discovered a highway of cannabinoid receptors. This highway that travels throughout the entirety of the human body, was found to be responsible for interacting with all cannabinoids.

Photo From:https://www.farmapdx.com/the-ecs-at-a-glance/



Initially, this new body system was thought to be a small group of cells located within the brain of rats. Fortunately, after years of study, that small group turned out to be an entire system of receptors found in nearly every animal on Earth. What makes up this body system you ask? Well, it’s made up of two main nueroreceptors; Cannabinoid Receptor 1 (CB1) and Cannabinoid Receptor 2 (CB2). Common cannabinoids like CBD and THC latch on to these receptors in order to produce a wide array of effects on the human body.

Without cannabinoids, the body would be unable to function properly. After all, if cannabinoids weren’t meant to be ingested, we wouldn’t have an entire body system dedicated to the compounds.

What If I Never Used Cannabis Products Before?

Anandamide Structure

You may be thinking “I have never smoked or ate anything from cannabis… how could this system work if I never consume any cannabinoids?” The most fascinating part about this is system is that the human body creates its OWN cannabinoids to latch on to the CB1 and CB2 receptors. These types of cannabinoids are called endocannabinoids. The two most well known endocannabinoids are called Anandamide and 2-AG. Anandamide has clear links to enhance our happiness. There have been countless studies connecting higher levels of Anandamide in humans to increased happiness. Even the unique track and field term ‘Runner’s High‘ has been linked to be the result of rising Anandamide levels during exercise. We get into explaining why Anandamide is so important in the next section.

How Does The Endocannabinoid System Work?

Similar to a lock and key, cannabinoids and the CB1/CB2 receptors are the perfect match. Cannabinoids are the keys and the receptors are the locks. When cannabinoids are introduced to the body, they act as a chemical signal communicating to the brain and body what processes need to start and stop. The cannabinoids which latch onto the CB1 receptors mainly affect the central nervous system (this includes the brain and the spinal cord), while the cannabinoids which latch onto the CB2 receptors interact with the immune system along with the rest of the peripheral nervous system.

Along with receptors and cannabinoids, there are enzymes that play a critical role in the ECS as well. In our bodies, it is important to get rid of anything in excess. When cannabinoids are introduced to the body and all of the receptors are used up, there are excess cannabinoids that need to be expelled by the body. Enzymes then come around to break down the excess cannabinoids in order to dispose of them. One of the most well known enzymes is named FAAH (Fatty acid amide hydrolase). FAAH is responsible for breaking down leftover… You guessed it, Anandamide! This is extremely important to know for the next section below.

What Does CBD Have To Do With The Endocannabinoid System?

CBD has a handful of impacts on the human body, but one of the most interesting is that it is capable of interfering with FAAH’s ability to break down Anandamide. A general rule of thumb is this: the more Anandamide in the body, the more positive your mood. [Study]

Recently, a team at Stony Brook University studied the affects of CBD in conjunction with Anandamide and FAAH. They found that CBD functions as an Anandamide reuptake (something that allows the body to absorb more anandamide) and breakdown inhibitor (inhibiting FAAH’s ability to break down Anandamide and expel it from the body). These two effects raise the levels of Anandamide within the brain and body which as we know is linked to happiness.


In Conclusion

The Endocannabinoid System is worth paying attention to. Although the system was discovered only 30 years ago, there is an extensive amount of research that has already gone into it. Just like any other part of the body a healthy ECS is important! As a matter of fact, it’s important to take care of your body every way that you can. We even suggest researching more about the Endocannabinoid System on your own so you can expand your knowledge. We know this post only scratches the surface, but even the smallest amount of information can contribute to the betterment of one’s self.


Sources

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Bloom Club. “Endocannabinoid System: How THC Affects the Brain and the Body.”
Medium.com, 5 Apr. 2018, medium.com/@bloomcityclub/
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Connolly, Maureen, and Margot Slade. “The United States of Stress 2018.” Edited
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Elmes, MW, et al. Fatty acid-binding proteins (FABPs) are intracellular carriers
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A Personal Retrospective: Elevating Anandamide (AEA) by Targeting Fatty Acid
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