Cannabidiol (CBD) is an increasingly used food supplement. It is becoming popular the world over, and as more information is released about this compound, consumers are becoming intrigued by the endocannabinoid system. This term is often thrown around on the websites of CBD brands, but is it just fancy terminology to sell to the consumer?
As it turns out, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is extremely important. This network of cannabinoid receptors might just be vital to our survival. Furthermore, the ECS can work with CBD for potentially beneficial effects on our health.
Today, we will investigate this prolific system to find out just how useful it can be for CBD consumers.
What Is the Endocannabinoid System?
The endocannabinoid system is a vital bodily system responsible for maintaining a wealth of physiological functions. At a basic level, the ECS consists of cannabinoid receptors scattered throughout the human body.
Within the ECS, there are also molecules called endocannabinoids. The ‘endo’ means internal, hinting to the fact that the body produces these molecules by itself. Endocannabinoids, including anandamide, are made whenever the body needs them.
Even though you are unaware of these processes, the endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors are continually interacting. Here’s how it works. The body detects a change either internally or in the external environment, and it produces the required endocannabinoids for the job. These endocannabinoids travel around the body and bind to the corresponding cannabinoid receptor, fitting together like a lock and key. The process of them binding triggers various responses around the body, which allow it to adapt.
Once the endocannabinoids have done their job, enzymes appear to break them down so that they don’t remain in the body longer than necessary. It’s a very efficient system that works to regulate almost everything we do. So, what is the ECS responsible for?
What Is the Endocannabinoid System Responsible for?
Cannabinoid receptors are present in pretty much every part of the body. Scientists have identified two primary receptors: CB1 and CB2. The CB1 receptors are found mainly in the brain and central nervous system (CNS), while the CB2 receptors appear more in organs, tissues, and the immune system.
To simplify the role of the endocannabinoid system: It maintains homeostasis. Homeostasis refers to a state of balance in the body, ensuring that we always keep the right temperature, etcetera.
But saying that the ECS merely maintains homeostasis downplays the vast number of things it appears to do in the body. The ECS is intricately connected to a massive range of different functions, including:
- Metabolism and appetite
- Mood and stress
- Liver function
- Inflammation and pain
- Learning and memory
- Sleep cycle
- Motor control
- Skin and nerve function
This isn’t even an exhaustive list. Research has shown the ECS to be involved in almost all areas of the body. Initially, scientists thought that the ECS might be limited to the brain since it was discovered during research of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC. However, the discovery of CB2 receptors in various bodily tissues disproved this.
The ECS has a lot of responsibility, so it’s vital to keep this system healthy.
The Endocannabinoid System: A Bridge Between Body and Mind
Scientists are only just beginning to understand the endocannabinoid system. We know that endocannabinoid receptors can be found almost everywhere in the body, but it’s unclear how science can utilize these receptors to create new, more efficient pharmaceuticals, for example.
Research into the ECS is, nevertheless, exciting. In an article for The Scientist, Dr. Nick DiPatrizio described how the ECS might be a bridge between the body and the mind. Dr. DiPatrizio knew that endocannabinoids were responsible for controlling the appetite of rats, but he was utterly bewildered by how this was taking place. After a little help from his mentor, DiPatrizio realized that he had been looking for signals in the brain, not the body. The article reads that “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.”
Furthermore, an article by Dr. Dustin Sulak for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) describes the relationship between body and mind in the ECS. Dr. Sulak notes that cannabinoids alter human behavior and bodily function, emphasizing the enormous role of the ECS in maintaining both mental and physical health.
Certainly, findings like these are exciting. They force us to rethink everything we know about brain signaling.
How Does CBD Affect the ECS?
One of the primary reasons that the general public is interested in the ECS is due to the way it can interact with CBD. The endocannabinoid system and CBD have an exciting relationship, and the ECS is the only reason CBD can have an effect on us at all.
Scientists aren’t precisely sure how CBD interacts with the cannabinoid system. When it comes to THC, we know that it binds to CB1 receptors directly and overstimulates them, causing a high. Experts also know that CBD binds directly to neither the CB1 receptor nor the CB2 receptor.
There are a few possibilities. Some scientists believe that CBD prevents the endocannabinoids from being broken down, leading to increased endocannabinoid levels in the body. Since they are there for longer, the endocannabinoids can work to maintain homeostasis. A few researchers believe that CBD could bind to a cannabinoid receptor that hasn’t been discovered yet.
Regardless of how exactly it works, CBD is thought to have a positive influence on the ECS. If it does, in fact, increase the number of endocannabinoids in the body, then it can support healthy endocannabinoid system function, keeping the body in homeostasis. In other words, taking CBD could support general health and wellbeing.
Another reason why CBD might be beneficial is clinical endocannabinoid deficiency. Some researchers think that an ECS dysfunction in which the body doesn’t produce enough endocannabinoids could be to blame for a considerable number of illnesses.
In 2016, a comprehensive review was published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, which found that endocannabinoid deficiency could be responsible for ailments such as migraines, fibromyalgia, IBS, and more.
If this were true, the discovery of clinical endocannabinoid deficiency might lead to a better understanding of the causes of these conditions. In turn, we may start to see more effective treatments.
For now, the general population can consume CBD oil food supplements as a means of supporting a healthy endocannabinoid system. Since this system is essential in keeping the body stable, it is vital to keep the ECS up and running. Scientists aren’t exactly sure about what role CBD could play, but it appears to have a positive impact on the ECS no matter what the exact mechanisms are.