What is the Endocannabinoid System and What does the ECS do?

Knowing CBD oil promotes balance, the eagerness to study more about the working of CBD increases. Thus, we need to discover the functioning of the Endocannabinoid system in CBD’s benefit.

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CBD oil has been gaining popularity as a wellness product and is being used everywhere (all around the world). But are you aware of its working mechanism in our body?

The beneficial effects of Cannabidiol or CBD (a naturally occurring cannabinoid) from Hemp or other cannabis plants get stimulated on interaction with the body’s Endocannabinoid System. Once CBD products are in use, the phytocannabinoids (cannabinoids obtained from plants) present in CBD oil get absorbed by the body.

The interaction among cells in regulating homeostasis (ability to maintain a comparatively stable internal state that endures despite changes in the world outside) in our body depends on the endocannabinoid system (also referred to as the ECS or the EC system). This system is an opener to boosting overall health and wellness. Moreover, its role in the benefits of CBD has a lot to disclose.

Discovery of the Endocannabinoid System

Though cannabis plant extracts were in use for several purposes until the early 20th century, it faced a ban in 1937 and lost hold for fear of abuse of its psychoactive properties. Thus, impacting the thought of the endocannabinoid system and its role in the body. The labeling of Marijuana as illicit for around 50 years also left an impact on Hemp. Furthermore, this added to the difficulty in the study of cannabinoids as well as the endocannabinoid system. The first cannabis-derived cannabinoid (named cannabinol/CBN) got recognition in 1895. Several cannabinoids followed along with CBD that came to existence in 1940. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) was isolated and identified in 1964.

These breakthroughs and lots of effort on exploring more cannabinoids, their properties as well as their inherent natural benefits, Raphael Mechoulam (a renowned cannabinoid researcher) along with his colleagues, discovered the endocannabinoid system somewhere in 1990. This was possible after they recognized two major endocannabinoids (anandamide and 2- arachidonoylglycerol or 2-AG) that were naturally produced by the body. Next came the discovery of the cannabinoid receptor by Matsuda’s team, and ever since then scientists have been exploring more and more on the endocannabinoid system and naturally occurring cannabinoids. Furthermore, they’re also learning about the ways regarding how using cannabis alters this balance.

What is the Endocannabinoid System?

The endocannabinoid system comprises of these three unified mechanisms:

  • Enzymes create and destroy cannabinoids
  • Receptor sites (proteins found on the cells surface) receive cannabinoids
  • Endocannabinoids themselves (cannabinoid-like compounds self-produced by the body)

These integrated mechanisms of the endocannabinoid system help communicate with the body and regulate biological responses. Our body regulates such responses to maintain regulation of the stability and constancy within the human body.

Some experts also questioned does the body self-produces natural equivalents to other compounds such as phytocannabinoids, like THC and CBD, present in the cannabis plant?

Yes! There are two prominent analogs to THC and CBD – endocannabinoids anandamide and 2-AG. These two key endocannabinoids help internal functions of the body run smoothly. Understanding the functioning of creating individual cannabinoids, the option to deconstruct the purpose of the endocannabinoid system is also essential. Enzymes break down the endocannabinoids once they have performed their function.

Researches state ECS are in link with processes such as:

  • Metabolism
  • Chronic Pain
  • Appetite and digestion system
  • Motor control
  • Liver function
  • Cardiovascular system function
  • Muscle formation
  • Reproductive System
  • Nerve Function
  • Mood
  • Sleep, and more.

Endocannabinoids as a Response to Imbalance

The Endocannabinoid system is prominent as your other body system and their functioning. These functions contribute to maintaining the stability of internal organs. They use the body’s regulatory functions and control how randomly communicating signals are sent. Your body produces endocannabinoids as needed and accordingly control physiological processes.

How Does the Endocannabinoid System Work?

Whenever the body experiences instability or imbalance in the functioning of the body, the endocannabinoid system activates and responds accordingly. The system synthesizes endocannabinoids that work as neurotransmitters.

As and when the task of creating endocannabinoid neurotransmitters is complete, the specialized cannabinoid receptors pick them up from receptor sites and transmit information to kick-start a response. Further, the biological responses help the body get back to smooth functioning and achieve homeostasis.

The endocannabinoid system’s receptor is found in a wide range of physiological regions. CB1 and CB2 receptor variants respond differently to numerous cannabinoids. Some cells can even carry both forms of receptors.

As stated above, the system produces two major endocannabinoids, namely– 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) and Anandamide (AEA).

2-AG initiates a physiological response when combined with receptors, both CB1 and CB2 receptors. In simple terms, it connects and fits well with both forms of receptors to activate the system and further stimulate a physiological response.

Anandamide partially connects with both receptors. It doesn’t fit well and fails to trigger a powerful physiological response as compared to 2-AG.

Once the body function starts functioning smoothly, the enzymes come into action. The metabolic enzymes, break down the endocannabinoids to stop passing any further signals. Enzymes eliminate the creation of endocannabinoids by degrading and turning off the molecular signs.

Fatty acid amide hydrolase and monoacylglycerol acid lipase are two main enzymes responsible for this. Fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) eliminates Anandamide, and monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL) breaks down 2-AG.

How Do Cannabis Derived Cannabinoids Work with the Endocannabinoid System?

Scientists have researched the potential role the cannabis-derived cannabinoids like CBD, THC, CBN can play in supporting the endocannabinoid system functioning.

The study and research conclude a strong relationship exists between the endocannabinoid system and CBD. Cannabinoids found in CBD oil behave similarly to endocannabinoids. The Cannabinoids interact with receptors and stimulate various physiological responses to maintain the body’s homeostasis.

THC works similarly to 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) as it fits well and activates receptors to stimulate a chemical response. Though, the study also reveals that THC tends to favor CB1 receptors as it fits very well inside them. While, when it communicates with CB2 receptors, it doesn’t produce such a strong physiological response.

CBD has a low affinity for both receptors, which is why it acts as an indirect antagonist of agonists. In simple terms, CBD prevents other chemical messengers, such as THC from binding to receptors by producing chemicals blocking the receptors.

As small doses of phytocannabinoids can help our body create natural endocannabinoids and their receptors, it would be possible to support and use cannabinoids regularly.  Research is still being conducted, but several studies have shown positive effects and great potential in using cannabinoids for the benefit of the patient’s health.