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The Endocannabinoid System:
Everything You Need to Know
To understand how CBD works and comprehend the benefits it can deliver, it is crucial to have an understanding of the link between the Endocannabinoid System and Phytocannabinoids.
For many years the claims of beneficial effects from cannabinoids were debated and denied without any strong basis of scientific knowledge. Then in 1988 the endocannabinoid receptors CB1 were first found in the brain of a rat, and later in other animals. They were found predominantly in the brain and nervous system, as well as in peripheral organs and tissues. Researchers discovered that these receptors had an affinity with the cannabinoid, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). These receptors were found concentrated in parts of the brain responsible for mental and physiological processes such as memory, high cognition, emotion, and motor coordination. Five years later, in 1993, a second endocannabinoid receptor CB2 was identified. These receptors were distributed throughout the immune system and peripheral tissues of the body and exhibited the same reaction to THC as the first receptor.
It was not until 1995 that both CB1 and CB2 receptors were found in humans. As technology advanced, researchers were able to further analyse the close interrelationship between the cannabinoid receptors within our body (referred to as “Endocannabinoids“) and the cannabinoid receptors in Cannabis compounds like CBD and THC (referred to as “Phytocannabinoids“). as The discovery of this previously unknown synergistic system between Phytocannabinoids and Endocannabinoids indicated that the human body is designed to interact with cannabinoids.
Phytocannabinoids are cannabinoids that occur naturally in the cannabis plant’s viscous resin. Due to the terpenes in the resin, it is also responsible for the characteristic smell of cannabis. There are more than 480 different compounds in the cannabis plant, but only around 66 have been identified as cannabinoids. The most well known of these are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), and cannabinol (CBN).
Of these, THC is the main psychoactive component in the plant. This compound reduces pain perception in the brain and is also neuroprotective. Cannabidiol (CBD) is not psychoactive and is effective at relieving convulsions or seizures, anxiety, nausea, and inflammatory changes.
The Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system (ECS ), is a biological system found in the human body that regulates a variety of physiological cognitive processes. The endocannabinoid system has been studied using genetic and pharmacological methods. These studies have revealed that cannabinoids act as neuromodulators for a variety of processes, including the areas of pregnancy, pre- and post-natal development, pain recognition, memory, and emotional reactions.
It is comprised of three main areas:
These are the endogenous arachidonate-based lipids, anandamide (N-arachidonoylethanolamide, AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). They are the receptors for the cannabinoids. The concentrations of some endocannabinoids are seen to rise during physical activity and may contribute to the feeling of wellbeing felt afterward.
These synthesize and degrade the endocannabinoids, like fatty acid amide hydrolase or monoacylglycerol lipase.
CB1 and CB2 and two G protein-coupled receptors are found in both the central and peripheral nervous systems.
These receptors interact exclusively with phytocannabinoids like CBD and THC.
CBD and the Endocannabinoid System
Endocannabinoids are present throughout numerous functions of the body, to help facilitate the maintenance of those functions and the health level within the body. If that level decreased it appears that they would only maintain the existing health level and may not be capable to prevent it from decreasing further. Over time, the health level could decrease little by little, slowly becoming a bigger health problem. Research has revealed that when CBD bonds with the CB1 or CB2 receptors, it alters and/or improves the capabilities of that receptor, thereby improving the functionality of the receptor.
Studies suggest that cannabinoids are a finite resource, and the deficiency of cannabinoids can result in headaches, irritability, and other health issues. If the body suffers from cannabinoid deficiency, administering CBD can help equalize the deficiency. By bonding with our body’s CB1 and CB2 receptors, CBD not only helps to maintain vital health functions―it helps to restore the homeostasis, or balance, within the body. Cannabis compounds like CBD and THC have a symbiotic relationship with the Endocannabinoid System. This is the root of its many health benefits.
The Benefits of CBD
Because in the UK CBD is sold as a food supplement we cannot claim that it has medicinal value. Nevertheless, there are hundreds of case studies supporting CBD as an effective treatment for dozens of conditions. The following few examples show how CBD may help these by restoring the balance within the body.
Stress and Anxiety often occurs as a result of a response to a situation perceived as risky, dangerous, or unwanted. An unbalance of hormones or excessive messages within the brain will increase cortisol levels, causing a feeling of being stressed. CBD combats stress by regulating how the brain responds to stress signals and maintaining the correct cortisol levels.
Inflammation can be characterized as a part of your body becoming swollen and hot, often times being very painful. Ranging in severity, inflammation is linked to conditions like arthritis, bacterial infections, and autoimmune disorders. CBD combats inflammation by suppressing inflammatory response and pathways, stimulating the production of regulatory cells, and managing pain perception.
Seizures are triggered by erratic electrical activity in the brain, causing the body to shake violently. CBD has proven to greatly reduce seizures in patients suffering from Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gaustad Syndrome, two very severe forms of epilepsy. CBD reduces seizures by slowing down excitatory nerve activity and subduing the brain’s reaction to the intensified signals that cause the brain to overload.