What is the endocannabinoid system (ECS)?
In the 1990’s scientists discovered endocannabinoids, cannabis-like molecules (cannabinoids) produced natural by the human body. The primary function of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) appears to be maintaining homeostasis in the body. In other words, biological harmony regardless of changes in the external environment.
Research suggests that the endocannabinoid system is quite old estimating it to have existed for over 500 million years. That’s before the first dinosaurs first appeared on earth. In fact, all animals including vertebrates (mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish) and invertebrates (sea urchins, leeches, mussels, nematodes, and others) have been found to have endocannabinoid systems
Initially endocannabinoid receptors were thought to be only be present in nerves and the brain but research found that these receptors are found throughout the body including fat tissue, immune cells, skin, bone, pancreas, liver, kidney, heart, blood vessels, skeletal muscle, and even our gastrointestinal tract.
Experts now understand the our ECS is involved in a large amount of processes including sleep, pain, appetite, metabolism, immune, memory, mood, and reproduction. And the endocannabinoid system is active in your body even if you don’t use cannabis.
But How Does The ECS Work?
Because of its critical role in homeostasis, the ECS is found throughout the animal kingdom. Evolving a long time ago, the endocannabinoid systems three main components are:
Endocannabinoids, small molecules that activate cannabinoid receptors
Endocannabinoid receptors found on the surface of cells
Metabolic enzymes that break down endocannabinoids after they are used
Endocannabinoids are molecules made naturally by your body. They are similar to cannabinoids which are naturally occurring compounds found in the cannabis plant. The two most known cannabinoids being THC and CBD.
Experts have pinpointed the key eCBs that help maintain smooth running internal functions. Thee two endocannabinoids are produced by your body as needed and are called 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG) and anandamide (AEA).
On a sidenote, endocannabinoids (eCBs) appear to play a role in providing our body’s a reward, sometimes called ‘runner’s high’ by activating cannabinoid receptors during and after exercise.
Endocannabinoids bind to our endocannabinoid receptors, which are found throughout the body. This process lets the endocannabinoid system know that some action needs to be taken.
The two primary endocannabinoid receptors are CB1 receptors found mostly in the central nervous system and CB2 receptors found mostly in the peripheral nervous system including immune cells.
An endocannabinoid can bind to either receptor with the result depending largely on where the location of the receptor and endocannabinoid it binds to. An example may be binding to a CB2 receptor signally immune cells that your body is experiencing inflammation.
And last, but not least, metabolic enzymes are important for the break down of endocannabinoids after they have completed their processes. The two primary enzymes for this are fatty acid amide hydrolase (breaks down AEA) and monoacylglycerol acid lipase (breaks down 2-AG).
Functions And Processes Of The ECS
The endocannabinoid system is obviously complicated and what has been provided to you today is just scratching the surface. Scientists are still putting the pieces together to determine how all the moving parts work together.
Keep in mind discovery of this vastly important system was only stumbled upon 30 years ago. But research has associated the endocannabinoid system to the these processes and functions:
– chronic pain
– appetite and digestion
– immune system
– learning and memory
– motor control
– muscle formation
– cardiovascular system function
– bone remodeling and growth
– liver function
– skin and nerve function
– reproductive system function
Experts believe that maintaining homeostasis if the ultimate role of the ECS with the link between all of these functions and processes is that they contribute to our body’s internal balance.
How Does CBD (Cannabidiol) Work With The ECS?
Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t directly bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Many believe it instead works by preventing endocannabinoids from being broken down, or slowing down the process. Possibly allowing endocannabinoids to affect your body for a longer period of time. Other experts consider that CBD binds to a receptor that is yet to be discovered.
While the exact nature of cannabidiol and the ECS are still up for debate studies show that CBD has been helpful with many conditions including managing pain and inflammation, lowering stress and anxiety, along with helping with sleep, and minimizing seizures.
CBD is one of many powerful cannabinoids found in hemp known for helping to support our body and mind. Here at Healing Dragon CBD we do not intend to make unfounded medical claims about the health benefits of CBD. The FDA has not confirmed that CBD cures, treats, or prevents any diseases or conditions. Before reading this article please take a moment to read our full disclosure statement.