In school, you probably learned about each of the systems that make up the human body including the circulatory, respiratory, urinary, reproductive, integumentary, skeletal, muscular, nervous, endocrine, lymphatic and digestive systems. But, you probably never learned about the Endocannabinoid system!
In fact, the Endocannabinoid system still is not taught in formal education. Unless you are a scientist or work with medical cannabis, you probably would never hear about this system. However, the Endocannabinoid system is one of the most important physiologic systems involved in maintaining homeostasis in our body.
If you are educating yourself on CBD oil, you have probably run into information regarding the Endocannabinoid system, but not know exactly what it is or what it does. So, here is all you need to know about the Endocannabinoid system.
Related: What is CBD Oil?
When was the Endocannabinoid System Discovered?
Actually, the Endocannabinoid System is not a new discovery. We have known about this system for the last 25 years. I guess in human terms, that isn’t that long, but it is long enough to start learning about it in school.
The Endocannabinoid system was originally discovered by Dr. L.A. Matsuda in the 1990s. He was the first to describe the structure and the functional expression of a specific cannabinoid receptor when they were trying to figure out how THC affects the body. As they delve into THC, it was discovered that we had a remarkably complex network of cannabinoid receptors that were in cells in the central and peripheral nervous system.
Studies have further continued as we are still not completely certain the depth of the Endocannabinoid system.
What is the Endocannabinoid System?
Within all of our bodies, we have an endocannabinoid system. This system is very complex and is found throughout all of our nervous system and brain.
We do not know everything there is to know about the Endocannabinoid system, but what we do know is that it helps fine tune almost all of our vital physiological functions. In simple terms, it promotes homeostasis in our body and affects everything from sleep, appetite, pain, inflammation, memory, mood, and so much more. It ensures our major body systems are all working together properly.
Within this system, we have found receptors for cannabinoids.
Our body actually creates its own cannabinoid compounds that bind to these receptors. So, what are cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are a diverse class of chemical compounds found in our human body and in cannabis plants. Cannabinoids found in cannabis plants are called phytocannabinoids. Among the 500 cannabinoids we know of, there are more than 100 phytocannabinoids found in the cannabis plant.
Two of the most well-known phytocannabinoids are Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). Other key phytocannabinoids include the following:
- Cannabigerolic (CBG)
- Cannabichromene (CBC)
- Cannabinol (CBN)
- Cannabidiol (CBL)
Endocannabinoids found in the body include:
- 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG)
When our bodies are exposed to cannabinoids, they bind to receptors in our endocannabinoid system. There are two main cannabinoid receptors in this system: CB1 and CB2.
The CB1 receptors are found in our brain (hypothalamus, hippocampus, and amygdala), the nervous system, the intestines, connective tissue, gonads, and other glands throughout the body. These means that when this receptor is activated by a cannabinoid, it can have effects throughout the body which include:
- Relieving depression
- Lowering blood pressure
- Decreasing intestinal problems
- Increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (vital to learning, working memory, and higher thinking).
- Lowering anxiety
- Reducing fear
As CB1 receptors work on the brain and nervous system, CB2 receptors are found throughout the body in the spleen, tonsils, thymus, immune cells, monocytes, macrophages, B and T cells, and microglia.
When cannabinoids activate CB2 receptors, they can quite literally affect every type of human disease including cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, neurodegenerative, psychiatric, and autoimmune diseases. It can even play into kidney function, bone and skin health, pain, and even cancer.
Facts About the Endocannabinoid System
As you can tell, cannabinoids play a huge role in the homeostasis of our bodies which is why CBD has been studied so in depth. We are finding that the cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant are actually really beneficial to our entire body.
Here are 7 facts about the Endocannabinoid system you should know:
- All animals have an Endocannabinoid system. We aren’t special; all vertebrates and invertebrates have this system.
- Endocannabinoid receptors are the most abundant receptors in our body. The total number of Endocannabinoid receptors is greater than all other neuromodulatory receptors combined including serotonin and dopamine transmitters.
- It plays a role in many diseases. Everything from degenerative disorders to cancer has shown changes in endocannabinoid levels and greater receptor expression.
- Deficiency in cannabinoids may be the cause of some diseases. When the body isn’t in homeostasis, it can cause a lot of problems. In fact, scientists have found that conditions such as migraines, fibromyalgia, and IBS are caused by a dysfunctional Endocannabinoid system.
- Natural cannabinoids in hemp have therapeutic effects. Hemp and marijuana have been used for thousands of years to treat headaches, epilepsy, arthritis, pain, depression, and nausea.
- Exercise and diet boost your Endocannabinoid system. Aerobic exercise increases levels of the natural cannabinoid, anandamide in your body. Diets high in omega 3, healthy seeds, or hemp increase endocannabinoid brain signaling.
- Doctors know little about this system. Because our Endocannabinoid system has only been studied substantially in the last 25 years, doctors know very little about it. But, this is changing due to the increase in the legalization of CBD for recreational use.
How Can I Boost My System
As you can tell, cannabinoids play a huge role in just about everything in your body. If you are not getting or making enough cannabinoids, your body could be out of balance or equilibrium.