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The Role of the Endocannabinoid System in the Human Body

The Role of the Endocannabinoid System in the Human Body

The endocannabinoid system or ECS, is a relatively new concept or system in our body. It has been found to be responsible for running different functions and processes that regulate the body and maintain homeostasis. The endocannabinoid system plays a very vital role in keeping everything in balance. 

Think of your body as a car. It may be beautiful and shiny on the outside but if the internal parts are not working properly, it won’t run smoothly.

Just like maintaining a balance with family, work, friends, and other responsibilities, our bodies need balance to get the output that we need to tackle everyday issues.

History of the ECS

Human’s thirst for knowledge paved the way in the discovery of ECS.

In the early 20th century, scientists wondered why people that take cannabis exhibit the symptoms that they do. Scientists successfully isolated CBN. Then by the 1940s, they were able to isolate THC and CBD from cannabis. Raphael Mechoulam successfully synthesized both compounds in the 1960s. Since then, we now have knowledge of over 100 different cannabinoids.

Back then, scientists were really interested in the psychoactive effects of cannabis. And in the 1980s, when a study found that CBD can work against epilepsy, they started to wonder how these chemicals affect our body. 

Allyn Howlett’s in-vitro analysis of cannabinoids in the 80’s pondered the possibility of cannabinoid receptors. This led to the discovery of CB1 and CB2 receptors in the early 90’s.

Raphael Mechoulam posited the idea of endocannabinoids because of the existence of cannabinoid receptors. He then discovered the endocannabinoid anandamide in 1993 and the 2-arachidonoylglycerol, or 2-AG soon after.

Endocannabinoid Receptors

Endocannabinoid receptors are found throughout the body and are embedded in cell membranes. From your brain cells to other tissues’ cells, they are everywhere. With the help of endocannabinoids, the receptors carry information throughout the body that signals where it’s needed. 

There are 2 well-known receptors in the endocannabinoid system: CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are mostly found in the central nervous system while CB2 receptors are found in the peripheral nervous system and other parts of the body. 

Endocannabinoids and Cannabinoids

Endocannabinoids act as a key while the receptors act as a lock. They bind to the receptors to carry out information providing the specific benefit needed. There are 2 known endocannabinoids: anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). These are molecules made by our body to pair with the receptors and carry out its function. These help keep the internal functions of our body running in perfect condition. However, scientists are still studying to figure out the typical or normal levels since the body produces them as needed. That’s where cannabinoids come into the picture.

There are more than a hundred cannabinoids known, produced by animals and plants. Scientists are very eager to learn more about the relationship between cannabinoids and the effects on the human body.

Cannabis is known to have more than a hundred cannabinoids. The most famous cannabinoids are delta-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, cannabidiol or CBD, cannabigerol or CBG, cannabinol or CBN, among others. These phytocannabinoids bind with our internal receptors to help maintain our body’s homeostasis.

Enzymes

After the endocannabinoids carry out their function, they need to be broken down. That’s where enzymes come into play. There are 2 main responsible enzymes: fatty acid amide hydrolase which breaks down AEA, and monoacylglycerol acid lipase which breaks down 2-AG.

Studies are underway to better understand the Endocannabinoid System. At the basic level, the ECS is known to regulate our body’s internal clock helping to maintain quality sleep, a good mood, and lessen anxiety. Also, cannabinoid receptors are very present in areas of the brain responsible for memory, emotions, and metabolism. This makes them an important part of our body’s overall wellness and basic functionality.

As we learned, the ECS is a vital part of our body. It is now being theorized that different health conditions are related to the deficiency of the Endocannabinoid System. 

Roles of the ECS

Although studies are being conducted to learn how the ECS affect our system, here are some of its vital functions:

Metabolism

Pain Response

Immunity

Thermoregulation

Sleep

Reproduction

Memory

Stress Management

Motor Control

Cognition

All these functions are necessary to maintain the balance and harmony in our body. 

ECS Deficiency

A lot of scientists believe that our ECS plays a more vital role than initially anticipated. Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD) is a theory that imbalances in our ECS can cause the development of different ailments.

Studies have discovered that deficiencies of the ECS can create an imbalance that can lead to minor conditions like stress and headaches to more serious conditions like arthritis, epilepsy, obesity, glaucoma, cancer and so much more. 

If the CECD is proven, this will definitely affect how our medical practitioners approach in treating different conditions but more studies are needed.

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