In this article we will discuss in details about the endocannabinoid system and cannabis. Since the legalization of the cannabis in many countries which resulted in derived products containing THC and CBD, the term endocannabinoid has become very frequent. We will explain you in layman terms the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and its relationship with cannabis.
The cannabis plant contain around 480 compounds, about 66 of them are termed as cannabinoids among which THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) are the most known. THC is main psychoactive element which give high effect and sought after by many cannabis consumers. Whereas CBD is non psychoactive and instead have therapeutic benefits.
The link between endocannabinoid system and cannabis
In fact the endocannabinoid system (ECS) was termed after the cannabis sative plant and one of its main cannabinoid which is THC. The ECS is made up of endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes. Moreover, it has a vital role in regulating fundamental processes in our body which helps to maintain an optimum biological balance. It is interesting to note that ECS is active in your body even if you have not consumed cannabis.
It was first discovered by Lumír Hanuš, a Czech analytical chemist working in Israel and who was collaborating with an American pharmacologist named William Devane. They found a naturally occurring compound in the human brain which they called anandamide- synonym to joy and bliss in Sanskrit. The outstanding fact was that the anandamide which was a molecule produced by the human body had the same properties as the natural cannabinoid THC found in a cannabis plant.
Both had the capabilities to interact with receptors (CB1 & CB2) on the surface of cells found in several parts of the central and peripheral nervous system. And this is how the anandamide was termed as the first endogenous cannabinoid (produced by the body) and was later known as endocannabinoid. Up to now scientists have identified two endocannabinoids; anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG).
Three main reasons why the endocannabinoid system is important for your body:
1. It impacts on stress and mood
Researches have demonstrated that it contributes to regulate the secretion of hormones linked to reproductive and stress response functions. It initiates the physiological and emotional response to acute stress conditions and on a longer period help the body to adapt to emotions like anxiety and fear. Moreover, a healthy ECS is crucial in helping humans to denote an enjoyable level of arousal in contrast to an excessive and unpleasant level.
Some scientist claims that endocannabinoid system also impact how the brain imprints memories from stressful and traumatic events. ECS also has a general influence on our emotional response and behaviors as it modulate the release of elements like serotonin, dopamine, cortisol and noradrenaline.
2. It benefits the Digestive System
The CB1 and CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoids helps to protect the gut by influencing the response to inflammations. The ECS also regulates the contracting movement of the gut (gut motility) which help the food moves along the digestive tracts so that the nutrients are absorbed. When the receptors are stimulated, it helps to reduce nausea and stomach acid.
Endocannabinoids moreover regulates the two-way communication between the gut and the brain. Reactions in the brain caused by stress and pain can affect the function of your gastrointestinal tract. In the other way when your gut have inflammations or infections the ECS communicate it back to your brain. Hence, ECS has a key role in maintaining your bowel health.
3. ECS influences the appetite and body metabolism
The CB1 receptors of the endocannabinoids influence appetite, body metabolism and hence body weight. When the CB1 receptors are stimulated it triggers your sense of smell, food craving behavior and energy balance. Moreover, it has been noted that animals and humans which are overweight tend to have malfunctioning endocannabinoids system. This cause overeating and energy imbalance.
Interaction between endocannabinoid system and cannabis
When a person smoke cannabis, the ECS is inundated with the THC compound that bind to the receptors across your brain and body. This interfere with your body endocannabinoids in doing their job of regulating communication between neurons and maintaining proper biological balance.
The effects of THC on the endocannabinoid system are diverse as the endocannabinoids receptors are present in many parts of the body and the brain. It can slow the person’s reaction time, cause short-term memory loss, make him feel hungry and anxious. Hence, all this contribute in affecting the person’s judgement.
Another important effects is that when THC bind to the receptors in the parts of the brain it provides a feeling of well-being and happiness; which is in fact the high effect for which cannabis is well-known.
However excess consumption of THC in different forms ( smoking, tincture, oils etc.) have to be avoided as it can impair the functioning of the endocannabinoid system in parts of the brain. This can lead to problems like memory loss, mental health and addiction.
On the other hand, CBD which is the other dominant compound of cannabis can bind to both CB1 and CB2 endocannabinoid receptors. Though there are no concrete researches yet, scientists claim that the way it binds to the receptors are different from how THC compound does. CBD apparently helps to prevent the ECS to broke down, however it has been proven to provide good effects on the body as relieving pain, nausea and calming anxiety.
Conclusion on endocannabinoid system and cannabis
The endocannabinoid system play a fundamental role in our body, and somewhere it emphasizes the importance cannabis can have in the medical field. We have showed you the effects cannabis on the ECS system and hope that now you have a better idea of what it is, how it works and how they are interrelated.
I hope that you enjoyed this article and learn a bit more about cannabis and its medical aspects. If you have personal experiences and point of views we will be glad that you share it with us.
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