Anybody who has heard of CBD will likely have heard of the endocannabinoid system, or ECS. However, complicated terminology might prevent many users from fully understanding what it is.
The ECS is extremely important, both for the body in general and for adequate functioning of the CBD compound. This article explains everything you need to know about the endocannabinoid system, and whether it could genuinely form a molecular bridge between the body and mind.
What Is the Endocannabinoid System?
The endocannabinoid system, aka ECS, is a network of cannabinoid receptors and neurotransmitters in the human body. All mammals have an ECS, but this guide focuses on the human endocannabinoid system and why it’s vital for understanding CBD.
The ECS supports homeostasis, which means that it keeps the body in balance. It regulates a considerable number of bodily functions, including things like sleep, mood, and temperature. With so many roles in the body, the ECS is crucial to our overall health.
It works through a network of receptors that interact with specialized neurotransmitters called endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids are similar to the cannabinoids found in plants (which are called phytocannabinoids), but the body produces them naturally, hence the term ‘endo’ (meaning internal).
When a change occurs, either within the body or externally, endocannabinoids are produced. They interact with cannabinoid receptors in various ways, triggering a chain reaction of effects that adapt the body to suit the new environment. Once the job is done, enzymes break down the endocannabinoids to ensure that they don’t overaccumulate.
What Does the Endocannabinoid System Do?
Cannabinoid receptors play a role in a vast range of physiological functions. In fact, they are present in almost every aspect of the body – including the central nervous system (CNS) and all major organ systems.
The simplified role of the ECS is that it maintains internal balance, or homeostasis, within the body. Research is ongoing to determine precisely what role cannabinoid receptors play in various functions. We do know however that the ECS plays a role in:
- Metabolism and appetite
- Mood and stress
- Liver function
- Inflammation and pain
- Learning and memory
- Motor control
- Skin health
- Nerve function
As you can see, it’s clear that the ECS has an enormous role in terms of establishing, monitoring, and maintaining human health. This explains why, in part, there has been much modern research on phytocannabinoids like CBD and THC, which can have a massive influence on ECS activity.
Could the Endocannabinoid System Be the Bridge Between Body and Mind?
Science is only just discovering the endocannabinoid system, but this blossoming field is undoubtedly fascinating. One article in The Scientist by Dr. Nick DiPatrizio describes how the ECS could be a “bridge” between the body and mind.
Armed with the knowledge that the ECS played a role in the appetite of rats, DiPatrizio set out to discover why – and how – this occurred. He eventually realized that he was searching for signals in the brain – not the body. He wrote: “It has been known for some time that the brain can modulate the gut. With endocannabinoids, it appears the gut can also modify the brain.”
It may be the case that there are two primary types of cannabinoid receptors, each with different responsibilities. While CB1 receptors regulate processes in the central nervous system and brain, CB2 receptors appear to control peripheral operations in organ systems and our immune system.
With its ability to interact so intimately with both the body and the brain, the ECS is no doubt an extraordinary physiological system that warrants further research and study.
CBD’s Relationship with the ECS
One reason the ECS has gained prominence recently is its potential to interact with CBD and other cannabinoids. Cannabinoids, even those from plants, can impact the body’s cannabinoid receptors – though research is still unfolding to determine how.
So far, studies seem to indicate that THC actually binds to CB1 receptors, galvanizing psychotropic effects. CBD, however, appears to work quite differently. Rather than binding directly with cannabinoid receptors, it appears the compound prevents enzymes from breaking down natural endocannabinoids. As a result, endocannabinoids stay in the body longer, helping to maintain homeostasis.
Regardless of how it works precisely, it appears that CBD could have a positive influence on the endocannabinoid system, and on human health as a whole. This could be one reason that it has become a popular general wellness supplement, as its interactions with the ECS appear to trigger a wide-reaching range of effects.
The above information raises a question: if having endocannabinoids around for longer is beneficial, then why does the body create enzymes to destroy them? The answer is complex, but one piece of the puzzle could be endocannabinoid deficiency. In short, this refers to the body not producing enough cannabinoids to be able to carry out natural processes of homeostasis.
A 2016 review by Dr. Ethan Russo suggested that having a lack of endocannabinoids could lead to a wide range of ailments. The list includes migraines, fibromyalgia, IBS, and more. If this is true, then clinical endocannabinoid deficiency could be a serious problem.
It is true that endocannabinoid deficiency is an understudied field right now, which makes it impossible to know for sure whether it’s the culprit for a vast range of symptoms. If it is, then using quality cannabinoid supplements – like full-spectrum CBD oils – could be a viable way to help.
Final Thoughts on CBD and the ECS
The endocannabinoid system is a very interesting area of research, though it is still fairly new. Studies thus far indicate that this system is involved in an extensive range of bodily functions, making it absolutely vital to human health.
It is not entirely clear how the ECS interacts with each of its specific functions, nor is it known what role phytocannabinoids like CBD play. However, novel studies have indicated that CBD could have a positive effect ont the endocannabinoid system’s capacity to carry out homeostasis.
Furthermore, as the popularity of CBD grows, more and more doctors and scientists are tuning in to its range of therapeutic benefits. If you’re interested in learning more about how to incorporate top-quality CBD products into your daily routine, be sure to shop our range of industry-leading Premium Jane products.