CBD and The Endocannabinoid System
To comprehend the fundamentals of CBD and its health benefits, it is necessary to first understand the importance of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), also known as the ECS. We all have an ECS system, just as we all have a heart and a brain. This article explains why this molecular system is crucial to our wellbeing.
What is the ECS and what exactly does it do?
The endocannabinoid system is an intricate network of receptors found throughout the brain and body which uses enzymes, proteins and various other components to pass signals to and from one another and is responsible for regulating and balancing many processes in the body.
Endocannabinoids behave differently from other neurotransmitters which wait around until needed, by contrast, endocannabinoids are formed on demand, when and where required to play a role in immune response, communication between cells, appetite and metabolism, memory, and much more, enabling us to adapt to changes in our environment, exhibit motor functions, and react to changes in our world and within our bodies.
The Discovery of ECS
The ECS evolved over 500 million years ago so its been around for a long time! However, the discovery of neurological receptors came about in the early 1970s. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until the late 1980s that a study at St. Louis University School of Medicine found that these transmitters reacted positively to compounds found in cannabis. Deemed ‘cannabinoid receptors’, further research revealed that these neurotransmitters were responsible for many of our basic functions. In addition, it was found that these receptors (technically referred to as CB1 and CB2 receptors), are the single most prolific receptors within the human brain.
In the 1990s, scientific research into the relationship between cannabis and the endocannabinoid system expanded on a global level. Lisa Matsuda at the National Institute of Mental Health carried out a pioneering study which not only found a way to clone the receptors, but also proved that THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) is activated through plant metabolites coming in contact with the cannabinoid receptors in the brain.
Phyto-cannabinoids vs. Endocannabinoids
Phytocannabinoids are classified as the many plant metabolites found in cannabis, which have an attraction to microscopic ECS transmitters within the brain and body.
As technical and long-winded as these terms are, the relationship between phyto-cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system is simple. Both of these can be thought of as having a reaction to the other, though researchers are not sure exactly how they are attracted to each other. Amazingly, this seemingly simple rapport encourages communication between our abundant neurotransmitters, which is absolutely imperative to many of our day-to-day functions.
CBD and how It affects the endocannabinoid system
Though both CBD and THC affect the ECS system differently, as one is psychotropic and the other is not, both are activated within the body in much the same way. Chemical compounds found in cannabis and within cannabidiol cannot be narrowed to one or even a few which assist in the functions of the ECS either. In fact, cannabis contains many elements that are beneficial to the endocannabinoid system, some that have yet to be discovered.
Through various studies, the plant-based properties found in cannabis have shown a tendency to influence ECS functions in a structure-to-activity kind of way. In other words, studies revolving around the molecular relationship between the endocannabinoid system and cannabis has revealed that properties within cannabis plants have therapeutic effects on our biological transmitters, even without causing a high. CBD simply contains other compounds aside from minute traces of THC, that aid in the functions of the endocannabinoid system.
The attraction that occurs between endocannabinoid receptors and cannabis compounds is believed to occur through a fluidization process like homeostasis, yet it is not fully understood. This fluid attachment to biological components in the body thus provides a “bridge” so to speak for signals to be sent and received, in the form of bio enzymes, proteins, and other molecular components.
Studies are still being continued on the relationship of CBD and cannabis to better understand its molecular processes, but the scientific world is opening its eyes to the prominent relationships between our minds and bodies, and how their communications affect our health.