Endocannabinoid System

What is the endocannabinoid system and how does it work?

Inside all of us, there is a set of receptors that make the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

The ECS does many things, but one of its key responsibilities is maintaining homeostasis in the body.

Homeostasis is another word for the body’s state of chemical balance, which can be challenged by stressors such as worry, anxiety, and pain.

How does it work?

When homeostasis is disturbed, certain actions are set in motion by the ECS to restore balance. The ECS is comprised of three components: enzymes, endocannabinoids, and receptors.

  • Endocannabinoids are responsible for transmitting messages.

  • And the receptors translate and pass on this information to your cells.

  • The enzymes, depending on the situation, can create or dissolve parts of the system.

Firstly an endocannabinoid will be created, which will then bind to the necessary cell (transmitting its message via the receptors, which are found all throughout the body). When the job is done, and the message has been successfully carried, enzymes will break down the endocannabinoid.

enzymes, endocannabinoids, receptors

So what exactly are these receptors? Well, there are two main types: CB1 and CB2.

CB1 receptors are responsible for regulating anxiety, fear, appetite, and energy.

CB2 receptors are responsible for regulating immune and inflammatory responses.

There are also different types of endocannabinoids. These are the two main types: anandamide and 2-AG.

Anandamide -  which is also called ‘the bliss molecule’, provides blissful effects and predominantly binds to the CB1 receptor.

2-AG - (2-Arachidonoylglycerol) acts to support immune functions. This endocannabinoid binds to both CB1 and CB2 receptors.

The ‘endo’ in ‘endocannabinoid’ comes from the word ‘endogenous’. This means that the body produces them naturally.

Meanwhile, cannabinoids that are extracted from plants, namely the cannabis plant, are called phytocannabinoids. 

There are two main types of phytocannabinoid which we know about today:

THC - (tetrahydrocannabinol) similar to anandamide, THC is also known to have ‘blissful’ effects. However, this is a much more intense version, some may say ‘supercharged’. While this phytocannabinoid can provide intense bliss, the mind-altering elements can also have negative effects such as anxiety.

CBD - (cannabidiol) intense research surrounds this phytocannabinoid and the ways in which it functions. It’s believed to alter the ways that receptors interact with all cannabinoids, which explains why the effects are so far-reaching; from mental to physical. CBD is non-psychoactive.

For many years research has been slow in the area of phytocannabinoids and the ECS due to the stigma which surrounded cannabis. However, in the past decade, mainstream scientists and researchers have become increasingly cognisant of the potential health benefits. The work and studies on CBD, the ECS, and cannabinoids has never been as developmental and evolving as it is today.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4851925/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3371734/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6929011/

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05 October 2020