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  • Nicolle Callier

What is the Endocannabinoid System?

It’s important to know and understand how cannabis interacts and engages with your body, especially if you’re a current consumer or interested in incorporating CBD into your wellness routine.


The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex system in the human body that plays a crucial role in regulating various physiological functions such as mood, appetite, sleep, pain, immune response, and inflammation. The ECS is composed of three key components: endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes.


Let’s first explain what endocannabinoids are. 


Endocannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds that are produced in the human body. The two primary endocannabinoids are anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). These endocannabinoids are similar in structure to the cannabinoids found in cannabis and CBD (cannabidiol).


The receptors of the ECS are found throughout the body and are called cannabinoid receptors. There are two main types of cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are mainly found in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), while CB2 receptors are predominantly located in the peripheral nervous system (immune cells, spleen, and other organs).


Cannabis and CBD interact with the ECS by binding to these CB1 and CB2 receptors, just like endocannabinoids produced naturally in the body would. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the primary psychoactive component of cannabis, and it binds strongly to CB1 receptors, leading to the euphoric "high" associated with cannabis use. CBD, on the other hand, does not bind strongly to either CB1 or CB2 receptors but rather interacts with them indirectly, resulting in various therapeutic effects.


The third and final component of the ECS is the enzymes responsible for breaking down endocannabinoids. The enzymes break down endocannabinoids after they have fulfilled their physiological function. This leads to increased levels of anandamide in the body, which is known to have neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects.


The effects of cannabis and CBD on the ECS are complex and depend on several factors, such as the concentration and ratio of cannabinoids, the route of administration, and individual differences in metabolism and genetics.


One of the most significant effects of cannabis on the ECS is the activation of the CB1 receptor in the brain, leading to the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. This mechanism is responsible for the euphoria, relaxation, and altered perception associated with cannabis use.


CBD, on the other hand, has a more subtle effect on the ECS, with various therapeutic benefits. CBD is known to interact with several non-cannabinoid receptors, including serotonin, adenosine, and vanilloid receptors, which may explain its potential effects on anxiety, depression, pain, and inflammation.


In conclusion, the endocannabinoid system is a complex system in the human body that plays a crucial role in regulating various physiological functions. Cannabis and CBD interact with the ECS by binding to cannabinoid receptors, leading to various therapeutic effects. However, more research is needed to fully understand the effects of cannabis and CBD on the ECS and to develop safe and effective therapies for various conditions.


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