What is the Endocannabinoid System?
There is no doubt about it. The cannabinoids found within cannabis have profound effects on our bodies. These interactions are facilitated by an internal system all mammals, birds, reptiles and fish have known as the Endocannabinoid System (ECS).
The Endocannabinoid System is a complex network of receptors that are spread throughout almost every tissue of the human body. The primary purpose of the ECS is to maintain homeostasis, a state of healthy balance within the body, despite external influences from our surrounding environments.
The ECS is thought to regulate a host of vital biological functions. These functions include memory, appetite, metabolism, stress response, female reproduction, immune system, sleep, as well as social behaviour and anxiety, to name a few! So it's safe to say our ECS's play a massive part in our overall wellbeing, both physically and mentally.
How does the ECS work?
Fun fact! Amazingly, the only other types of natural cannabinoids that we currently know of (besides those found in cannabis plants) are produced within our very own bodies! These naturally occurring cannabinoids are known as AEA and 2-AG.
So as previously mentioned the ECS is a network of receptors known as CB1 and...yep you guessed it...CB2!
These receptors bind to the AEA and 2-AG cannabinoids that our bodies naturally produce. When the levels of AEA and 2-AG are balanced, the ECS can run efficiently. Biology!
When the ECS is not balanced correctly, it can lead to a disorder known as Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CECD).
What is Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CECD)?
CECD is believed to be a condition relating directly to the ECS where the body is lacking in endocannabinoid production. Another factor could be missing or defective receptors. One of the leading cannabinoid researchers, Dr Ethan Russo 1st proposed the concept of CECD in a study published in 2004.
Some threats to our internal balance are hard to avoid. Stress from work, family, and all of life's daily demands can weigh heavily on our equilibrium. For example, increased pressure overstimulates CB1 receptors in the brain, causing it to compensate by lowering the CB1 receptors there.
CBD's effect on the ECS
Worried about CECD now? Don't be. The good news is these receptors are also able to bond to exogenous (externally originating) cannabinoids (like CBD). Further research is currently being conducted, however, the evidence from medical studies thus far indicates supplementing with exogenous cannabinoids like CBD from oils or gummies can significantly benefit in restoring balance. Great news!
Once the balance is restored, the ECS then can dispatch two enzymes called FAAH and MAGL. These enzymes are released to break down the surplus cannabinoids preventing them from overcorrecting.
Until very recently, there was minimal understanding of the endocannabinoid system. That has fortunately changed, and the research that's been conducted has had positive results which is encouraging a mass of new research and interest within medical cannabis circles. Watch this space!