Before the ’90s, the term ‘endocannabinoid system‘ wasn’t familiar to anyone; well, because such a thing wasn’t discovered until then!
Unless you work in the field of cannabis or have a keen interest in the drug, odds are high that you still don’t know much about the endocannabinoid system. Don’t worry! we have got you covered.
In this post, we’ll take you through the many aspects of the ECS that should set the basic foundation and clear your doubts, if any, regarding the same:
What really is the endocannabinoid system and what processes does it regulate?
The ECS is nothing but a network of protein receptors distributed throughout the body, from the brain and skin to the bones and connective tissues.
No receptor is complete without its counterpart — a stimulant — and thus the body produces ‘endocannabinoids’ that bind with the former and bring about balance, technically known as the homeostasis, in almost every metabolic process, including appetite, memory, pain perception, mood regulation, bone growth, muscle tone and movement, eye pressure, seizure activity, stress management, etc.
It isn’t limited to just human beings
The ECS, which was first discovered in rats, is, of course, not limited to just them or the humans. All vertebrates and invertebrates are known to have an endocannabinoid System. Sea-squirts are perhaps the most primitive animals known to feature cannabinoid receptors.
The ECS plays a part in many diseases
Researchers have seen that the endocannabinoid system is disrupted each time a person suffers from a disease, a fact which is quite expected since we know the primary purpose of the ECS is to maintain balance.
Notably, everything ranging from rheumatoid arthritis to cancer and neurodegenerative disorders has shown considerable changes in endocannabinoid levels and greater receptor expression. This basically implies that in order to treat (or ease the symptoms of) these conditions/diseases, the ECS may be a potential target for restoring balance in the body and ensuring good health.
The ECS holds the answer to why medical marijuana is a blessing
Ancient healers effectively used marijuana and hemp to treat a number of conditions like epilepsy, arthritis, headaches, nausea and depression. Although at the time there wasn’t an explanation that could tell how cannabis could treat so many conditions, now we have a definite answer in the form of ECS.
Cannabis is loaded with phytocannabinoids like cannabidiol (CBD), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBG (Cannabigerol), CBN (Cannabinol), etc. Science has shown that each phytocannabinoid interacts with the CB1, CB2 receptors in the body and ensures enhanced, continuous signaling. This implies that small, regular doses of naturally occurring cannabinoids (from cannabis) might act as a tonic to our most central physiologic healing mechanism.
Clinical Endocannabinoid System (ECS) Deficiency Syndrome may be the hidden cause behind some conditions
Scientists have established that patients with a certain set of symptoms or conditions, viz. migraines, fibromyalgia, IBS and hypersensitivity to pain may have a dysfunctional or damaged ECS. However, the traditional way of diagnosis and a lack of cannabis knowledge may force a doctor to make a vague or wrong diagnosis altogether. So, a patient’s ‘clinical endocannabinoid system deficiency syndrome’ may never be detected.
If detected, the ECS deficiency syndrome can easily be treated by supplementing the body with naturally occurring cannabinoids from cannabis.
Endocannabinoid receptors are the most abundant neuro-modulatory receptors
You may be a little surprised to know that the total number of endocannabinoid receptors in the body is greater than the sum of all other neuro-modulatory receptors, including receptors for neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin.
Diet and Exercise can enhance the ECS
Consuming foods rich in Omega-3 – fish, nuts, hemp or flax seeds — may enhance endocannabinoid brain signaling. Also, research has shown that adequate aerobic exercise a day increases the levels of ‘feel good’ endocannabinoid, Anandamide, in the body.
Like cannabinoids, do terpenes also interact with the ECS?
Before answering this common dilemma, let us first look at the meaning of the term ‘terpenes’. Terpenes is a large class of organic hydrocarbons; they are the part of a cannabis plant that provides cannabis its fragrant aroma.
The current research points to the fact that terpenes generally do not bind with the ECS but rather other parts of the physiology. However, science is full of exceptions and there’s one here as well.
A terpene named beta-caryophyllene, which is also found in black pepper, has been confirmed to bind with CB2 receptors. So, terpene beta-caryophyllene is, in a way, a cannabinoid.
Doctors aren’t trained at dealing with the ECS
As stated earlier, even the most modern-day doctors may have trouble telling you a lot on the endocannabinoid system. The landscape is slowly changing but the ECS still isn’t a hot topic among doctors and surgeons.
According to a 2013 survey conducted in the United States, only 13% of the medical schools in the country were teaching the ECS to future doctors.