Understanding and Working with the Endocannabinoid System
While we know that people have been therapeutically using cannabis for centuries, it was not until recent decades that we began to understand how the plant worked with our bodies to produce medicinal results. Research on the plant’s relationship with our bodies is what resulted in the discovery of a physiological system within us that plays a crucial role in regulating our internal processes and mental state. The endocannabinoid system is increasingly being realized as a key component of our health and wellness that promotes homeostasis within our many functioning processes and systems.
The Discovery Process
The scientific journey toward the understanding and application of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) began in 1895, when three researchers were able to isolate and identify cannabinol (CBN), a plant-derived cannabinoid known for its anticonvulsant and anti-inflammatory properties. Four decades later, its structure was finally mapped. A few years later, in 1940, the compound cannabidiol (CBD) was identified. It took another two decades to define the chemical structure of CBD (1963), and another year to isolate and identify THC (1964).
The ability to isolate these cannabinoids was the first step that would lead to the discovery of the endocannabinoid system. By 1988, the first cannabinoid receptor was found in the brain of a rat. Scientists then used a synthetic form of THC to treat severe nausea and wasting syndrome and map cannabinoid receptors in the brain. Through this process, they discovered the receptors were located primarily in the regions responsible for mental and physiological processing: controlling emotions, higher cognition, memory and motor coordination. This discovery unlocked the ideas that cannabinoids played a larger part in our physiology than previously thought, and that organisms must produce their own cannabinoids.
In 1990, scientists at the National Institute of Mental Health defined the DNA sequence of the THC-sensitive receptors in the rat’s brain. This sequence would soon be known as the CB1 receptor. In 1993, a second cannabinoid receptor was found. Dubbed CB2, this receptor was widely seen in the gut, spleen, liver, heart, kidneys, blood vessels, lymph cells and reproductive organs.
During the same span, scientists discovered two naturally produced cannabinoids: Anandamide (aka the Bliss Molecule) in 1992 and 2-AG in 1995.
All of this was discovered without giving the system that produced Anandamide, 2-AG and the receptors that interacted with cannabinoids a real name. Thus, in homage to the plant that played the role in its discovery, the Endocannabinoid System was named.
The Endocannabinoid System Defined
The Endocannabinoid System is made of several interlocking mechanisms that, when working in harmony, result in a healthy immune, digestive and nervous system, among other bodily functions. Its mechanisms include:
As a system, the combined components of the ECS regulate body processes and functions. Endocannabinoids and cannabinoids interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors to help the body achieve homeostasis, or balance. Just as the receptors are found in different areas of the body, they perform roles that facilitate equilibrium and proper function within those locations.
CB1 receptors are found mainly in the central nervous system. CB2 receptors are found mostly on cells within the immune system. These receptors aren’t necessarily found only in one area of the body, but have primary locales. Further, some cells within the body contain both receptors.
Understanding the Endocannabinoid System
Research indicates that the ECS works to balance the body’s immune and central nervous systems, and that your body produces endocannabinoids in order to trigger essential body functions and patterns that result in such balance. When the ECS performs in harmony, it regulates all the basic functions and patterns of our body including appetite, immune function, inflammation, memory, metabolism, mood, pain and sleep. It also manages neuro-protection and development as well as reproduction and digestion. In all, it is a driving force of our everyday expressions and experiences, intrinsically linked to our health and happiness.
While the body naturally produces the cannabinoids necessary to promote equilibrium within our physiology, like any system, it can become deficient and/or weak. When we do not produce the molecules necessary to facilitate homeostasis within our ECS, we can supplement them with external options to facilitate strength building and balance.
Supplementing the Endocannabinoid System with CBD
Cannabis stalks and flowers produce phytocannabinoids, such as CBD, THC, CBG, and more. These phytocannabinoids interact with the ECS in the same manner as endocannabinoids, binding with and affecting CB1 and CB2 receptors to produce a myriad of effects. When introduced to the body, cannabis-derived cannabinoids (phytocannabinoids), work in conjunction with each other and the body’s ECS to produce different results that can include relaxation, digestive and hormonal balance, pain cessation and seizure control, just to name a few.
As research has shown, cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the most beneficial cannabinoids for the human body, mainly because of its relationship with CB2 receptors. CB2 receptors are more often found on immune cells, in the gastrointestinal tract, reproductive organs and in the peripheral nervous system. In all, these receptors regulate sleep, appetite and digestion, blood sugar regulation, mood, motor control, immune function, reproduction and fertility, pleasure and reward, pain, memory and temperature regulation. When these systems work in balance and in harmony with each other, whole body health and wellness is realized.
Introducing CBD to Your ECS
Just as CBD is one of the most beneficial compounds found within cannabis, full-spectrum CBD oil is the most beneficial way to consume it. Full-spectrum oil is also referred to as broad-spectrum orwhole hemp oil. The term refers to the complete oil extracted from the leaves and flowers of hemp strains wherein the cannabinoids and terpenes are in high concentrations.
Consuming full-spectrum cannabis oil results in an ‘Entourage Effect,’ meaning the interdependent elements of the oil work alongside each other and with the Endocannabinoid System to produce high yielding results. For example, the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD are greater when it is consumed with complementary cannabinoids and terpenes found within the cannabis plant. This is because the cannabinoids work in conjunction with one another to increase bioavailability and processing.
noteCBD only uses broad-spectrum phytocannabinoid-rich hemp oil in its products to ensure optimal delivery and results within the Endocannabinoid System. Daily consumption of noteCBD capsules and tinctures thus works with the body’s ECS to treat inflammation and bolster its strength overall, promoting equilibrium within our physiological systems and whole body health and wellness. As each segment of the Endocannabinoid System finds equilibrium, the entire body begins to feel the results.
As research on the inner workings of the Endocannabinoid System and its relationship with cannabinoids continues, we learn more about ways to supplement and rebalance the body’s cannabinoid levels. More and more, the prevalence of medicinal cannabis and other cannabinoid-based medicines increases, thanks to the ever-widening truths of the therapeutic effects of supplementing the body’s ECS.