Do you know what newbie cannabis users, medical marijuana patients, passionate cannabis growers, dedicated ganja entrepreneurs, cannabisseurs, weed enthusiasts, marijuana advocates and those who do not actually consume cannabis for whatever reason have in common The incredible link, or the golden thread, between all the people who choose to or not to medicate and/or entertain through cannabis, is the endogenous cannabinoid system, also referred to as endocannabinoid system, and commonly abbreviated as ECS.
Above all, your endogenous cannabinoid system consists of cannabinoid receptors scattered throughout the body, capable of sending vital signals that can be literally transmuted from head to toe.
Regardless of whether you allow the active compounds produced by the cannabis plant, such as THC, CBD, and many other cannabinoids and terpenes, to interact with your endocannabinoid system or not, the fact that you do possess an active ECS is the only thing that really matters when trying to understand better what this absolutely unparalleled body system is in charge of.
Your ECS is in charge of a whole array of crucial processes that make up for living a healthy and fulfilling life. Our bodies are able to naturally produce unique compounds known as endocannabinoids(or endogenous cannabinoids) that are known to interact with the ECS, such as anandamide. However, there is no other plant or animal on the planet to have been found to produce so many different and powerful cannabinoids possessing the amazing ability to interact with people’s endogenous cannabinoid system like the cannabis plant.
What is the ECS (Endocannabinoid System)
The endogenous cannabinoid system, interchangeably referred to as the endocannabinoid system, or shortly the ECS, is a biological system found in mammals. This system is composed of endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors.
Before we delve deeper into the secrets of the ECS, we need to highlight how painfully well we understand that the process of diving into the scientific world of cannabis often tends to feel like a pretty perplexing scenario, even if you happen to be a well-versed cannabis user. After all, consuming cannabis is one thing but daring to find out more about the science behind cannabis is a very, very different (and sometimes kind of a difficult) experience.
But the thing is, if you truly and sincerely love the green medication, understanding the endocannabinoid system becomes a must, for much like getting to know better a beloved friend, we need to dig deeper than what meets the eye at the very first side.
Nonetheless, if you happen to have a low tolerance to marijuana, or even if you have never before experienced the effects of cannabis, getting to know more about the ECS is one of most beautiful ways to understand more about what this system has to do with helping us maintain a healthy and wealthy life in every meaningful way, as well as what is the role cannabis plays in stimulating the endocannabinoid system. Thus, you can establish a solid foundation about active cannabinoids’ possible effects and pathways, so that you can realize for yourself how to possibly best benefit from the ancient herb.
Firstly, with the genuine intention to make the science behind the endogenous cannabinoid system as easy and pleasurable to digest as possible, let’s outline several crucial terms used to describe the function of the ECS.
1. Endogenous Cannabinoids (aka Endocannabinoids)
Endogenous cannabinoids also referred to as endocannabinoids, are retrograde neurotransmitters that are lipid-based. Most importantly, these are endogenous neurotransmitters, meaning that they originate within the endocannabinoid system itself.
Two types of endogenous cannabinoids that have been discovered so far include N-arachidonoylethanolamide, AEA (anandamide) and 2 – AG 2-arachidonoylglycerol.
Quintessentially, endocannabinoids work as physiological ligands to cannabinoid receptors, thus, forming a complex with biomolecules to serve various biological purposes. All endocannabinoids are eicosanoids, a term which refers to signaling molecules made by the non-enzymatic or enzymatic oxidation of polyunsaturated fatty acids (aka PUFAs).
The pain-modulating properties of endogenous cannabinoids have been extensively studied within recent decades, and even though much more research is needed before we are able to fully grasp the invaluable role of these natural cannabinoids produced within the human body, it was all the way back in a 1999 study when pain modulation and the release of anandamide have been reviewed in-depth.
The issue with endogenous cannabinoids and the proper function of the ECS is that this type of natural cannabinoids produced within the human body is only produced “on demand.” With this in mind, whenever there are certain negative issues hitting us, such as big and/or continuous levels of stress, depressive behaviors, going through a severe health problem, lack of sleep, inflammation, etc., the ECS may fail to produce the needed amount of endocannabinoids, or in other words, it may have a hard time self-regulating itself, thus, failing to regulate some of the most important functions, like restful sleep, inflammation management, hormonal balance, and many more, in return. And this is where phytocannabinoids can step in to help the ECS become excellently functioning once again.
2. Phytocannabinoids (aka Active Cannabinoids or Plant Cannabinoids)
When discussing the endogenous cannabinoid system, the active cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant are commonly referred to as phytocannabinoids(“phyto” implying the meaning of “relating to plants” or “of plants”).
THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD (Cannabidiol), CBG (Cannabigerol), CBN (Cannabinol), and CBC (Cannabichromene) are some of the major active cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant that is known to interact with the ECS. However, it is important to note that there are over 113 active cannabinoids that have been identified within the cannabis plant as of now. As you can see for yourself, we are still at the very start of understanding better the mesmerizing world of the cannabis plant from a biochemistry point of view.
One of the most highly respected cannabis pioneers and experts who is the first person to have managed to isolate several of the most famous and abundant active cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, is Dr. Mechoulam, who has just recently released a 2019 sum op on the current stage of the knowledge of cannabinoids and the ECS that we have been able to accumulate so far.
According to Dr. Mechoulam, a large number of compounds that are anandamide-like endogenous fatty acid amides have been also discovered, and these compounds are believed to be of major importance when it comes to the treatment of various disease, and nonetheless, the maintenance of various biological functions.
Most importantly, these amazing bits of endogenous cannabinoid system-related, scientific-based insights further highlight that what we know about the ECS as of now is only a very limited portion of the astonishing properties of this system. Also, this is a clear signal for cannabis enthusiasts to keep their minds wide open and hungry for new information regarding active cannabinoids and the ECS at all times, for loads of new knowledge is bound to hit us within the foreseeable future.
Video by: Medicinal Genomics – Research on Cannabinoids Over the Decades and What’s to Come – Raphael Mechoulam
3. Cannabinoid Receptor Proteins (CB1 and CB2 Receptors)
Neither phytocannabinoids nor endocannabinoids would be able to interact with the ECS if it is not for the existence of cannabinoid receptor proteins.Cannabinoid receptor proteins are expressed throughout the peripheral nervous system and the central nervous system, including the brain.
The first cannabinoid receptor to have been cloned in 1990 is the CB1 receptor.The CB2 receptor was cloned soon afterwards, in 2013.
CB1 receptors are found (predominantly) in the nervous system, as well as in the brain and in peripheral tissues and organs, such as the endocrine system organs and organs that produce hormonal responses, like the pancreas. The CB1 receptors are suggested to be the main molecular target that the endocannabinoidanandamide and the phytocannabinoid THC, bind to.
It is in the immune cells where CB2 receptors are especially concentrated. The anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis are associated with the cannabinoids’ effects on activating CB2 receptors, as this is when these receptors become most active, hence, strongly increase their vital role in combating inflammation which is believed to be the main cause for a very wide percent of human disease.
Interestingly, 2-AG endocannabinoid has been discovered to be active not merely on one of the cannabinoid receptors but on both of them, similarly to the phytocannabinoid CBD, which is exactly why CBD and 2-AG are intricately related to pain management, immune system functions, and appetite regulation.
The truth is, we could possibly keep discussing the enchanting pathways through which endocannabinoid and phytocannabinoids stimulate the ECS for at least a week.
But regardless of how deep we could delve in the scientific merits of the ECS, there is always one crucial aspect that tends to remain in the shadows of our rather hollow human understanding of the cannabis plant. And what remains hard to understand from the mere scientific-based introduction to the ECS is the Mystery of Life.
We dare to think of ourselves as some the most highly advanced generations but we have forgotten many immortal truths that our ancestors used to cherish and keep alive. One of these always relevant, never getting out of datetruths is that there is an invisible intelligence penetrating through every living creature on the Planet, starting and ending from one infinite source we barely get to see, smell, speak with, touch, or know by name, yet we can feel and experienceit.It is the cannabis experience, or the feel you get after consuming the green medication, which is the very flame that has kept the cannabis culture alive despite the numerous attempts to forever extinguish the love and respect for cannabis through anti-marijuana propaganda and lies.
So, next time you are about to submerge yourself into the cannabis experience in a relaxing and comfortable environment, we encourage you to close your eyes and to feel how the myriad of active compounds in the ancient cannabis plant communicate with your body and mind from head to toe.
Video by: Fundación CANNA – Cannabis and the endocannabinoid system – English
What are the Functions of the Endocannabinoid System
Without delving too deep into the scientific part of the pathways through which phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids stimulate the proper regulation of the ECS, below you will find a neat list of the vital functions maintained by your body’s endocannabinoid system.
1. ECS and Memory
Note that the effects of endocannabinoidson the multiple brain network pathways involved in both memory and learning tend to vary. Based on the amounts and types of active cannabinoids, the ECS is believed to play a key role in the extinction of old memories, which can be especially beneficial for the treatment of fear, stress, and past trauma-induced ailments for the destruction of painful, unnecessary memories. However, higher amounts of THC can, indeed, also cause an individual to not be able to store information in the brain long-term, but then again, this widely varies from one individual to another and is intricately related to the types of cannabis strains and cannabis products consumed.
For those who want to make sure cannabis will not affect memory adversely but only positively in a connotation to clearing away unnecessary memories or information stored in the brain, it is best to stick with growing cannabis organically, as well as to stick with strains that possess moderate levels of THC and/or high levels of CBD, such as CB Dream, Cali Kush, and Dwarf Low Flyer, to name a few.
The ECS is also discovered to play a key role in other brain-related functions, such as hippocampal neurogenesis, as well as induction on both short-term and long-term synaptic depression.
2. ECS and Stress Management
Even though stress is a vital, adaptive response to outer stimuli, which is needed for any organism to respond to and cope with stressors, persistent secretion of glucocorticoids in response to stress stimuli, can be very harmful to humans’ health and well-being.
The ECS has the ability to restrain the negative impact of stress, at least when it functions properly. The ECS is also capable of mediating aggression and is also a key player in regulating anxiety.
Some cannabis strains can work better in alleviating stress and anxiety but still, the anti-anxiety and anti-stress properties of cannabis are highly subjective, and they vary from one individual to another. For some people, a Sativa or Sativa-dominant strain may be extremely helpful in eliminating both stress and fatigue, however, it may work quite the opposite effects with another person. Generally, hybrid varieties, such as Bubblegum, Juicy Fruit, and Blue Diesel, possessing a balanced ratio of Sativa to Indica genetics are believed to offer the best of both worlds. CBD-rich strains like Auto Critical CBD are heading the list of anti-anxiety cannabis varieties. Indica and Indica-dominant strains work best in mediating aggression, although all different strains of weed should actually work quite well on that note.
3. The ECS, Energy Balance, Metabolism, and Appetite
The average cannabis user is pretty much well-familiar with the food-seeking effects induced by the herb, aka the munchies. Weed has become one of the best, all-natural treatments for anorexia sufferers, as well as cancer sufferers trying to gain weight and boost appetite after the draining chemo- and radiotherapy sessions. Strains that possess higher levels of THC are generally considered better-suited when it comes to boosting appetite.
However, it hasn’t been until recently when more about the metabolism-stimulating, as well as the weight management properties of cannabinoids’ effects on the ECS have been introduced. Strains high in THCV (a lesser-known active cannabinoid that is typically found only in trace amounts in most strains) can actually suppress appetite. One strain that is high in THCV is Jamaica’s landrace cannabis variety Lamb’s Bread. Indeed, the ECS is believed to also have a cardiovascular role, which is related to the modulation of insulin sensitivity, energy storage, and nonetheless, nutrient transport.
4. ECS and Proper Immune Function
All the way back to 1974, a team of researchers was hired by the DEA to investigate and prove the immune system-damaging effects of cannabis, and in particular, of THC. However, instead of finding evidence on the negative effects of cannabis on the immune system, researchers actually discovered that THC has the ability to stimulate the proper function of the immune system. While these findings caused the DEA to shut the experiment, recent evidence suggests that one of the many functions of endocannabinoids is to work as both neuromodulators and immunomodulators.
The ECS and the effect of active cannabinoids on cannabinoid receptors is believed to be closely related with an autoprotective role played by the immune system to treat and relieve muscle spasms (including skeletal muscle spasms), and inflammation, keeping in mind that both inflammation and muscle spasms can be especially hard to treat effectively in multiple sclerosis sufferers, and not only.
5. ECS and Restful Sleep
When an increase of cannabinoid signaling reaches a peak in the central nervous system, the central nervous system directly promotes sleep-inducing effects, which marks one of the most cherished functions related to the ECS. Sure, there are tons of reasons why one could choose to medicate with, entertain through or grow cannabis, but cannabinoids’ ability to promote deep and restful sleep definitely tops the list, just like a recent 2019 study proved.
According to the study conducted by Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the University of Miami experts, the number one reason that makes the majority of people opt for cannabis is pretty boring: they simply want to get some good sleep!
Both THC rich and CBD rich cannabis strains are related with being able to stimulate the ECS to promote restful sleep since both of these cannabinoids are known to be partners in crime when it comes to beating insomnia.
6. Pain and Inflammation Management
Probably one of the most evident benefits of cannabis use are the ones demonstrated through the interaction of active cannabinoids with the ECS to fight off pain. Of course, these effects of cannabis would have not been possible in the absence of a cannabinoid system, and in particular, of cannabinoid receptors to bind to. However, a rising number of studies keep proving the pain and inflammation management functions of the ECS, further boosting the growing interest in studying the exact pathways through which cannabinoids can help millions of people across the globe to treat pain and inflammation all naturally and efficiently.
For managing chronic inflammation, CBD rich cannabis flowers or full-spectrum CBD products make the best choice, and the same goes to chronic pain management. However, when it comes to strong, immediate pain relief, THC rich cannabis flowers and full-spectrum THC products are known to provide the most reliable effects upon consumption.
Other vital functions maintained thanks to your body’s endocannabinoid system include thermoregulation and fertility. The ability of the ECS to act on temperature-sensing is closely related in terms of activating TRPV1 channels to the way the active compounds found in chili activate the same channels (and, by the way, these active compounds tend to extremely resemble endocannabinoids!).
When it comes to ECS’ functions on female fertility, it is important to note that women with low levels of anandamide could potentially increase the likelihood for pregnancy through intentionally stimulating the ECS by consuming cannabis, but cannabis consumption, especially if habitual or in excess rates, can get to decrease the likelihood of pregnancy of women with high levels of anandamide.
Your Endogenous Cannabinoid System (ECS): Final Notes
The best way to describe the invaluable functions played by your endogenous cannabinoid system is to try to picture this system as the very link between your body and mind. Many of the most essential, crucial processes that happen in our bodies, and that need to be first and foremost activated by the brain before the signals are sent throughout the body and before these signals possibly hit right on target, are all maintained thanks to the ECS.
But how come did mankind managed to survive and function for so many years without having any idea of the existence of the endocannabinoid system Well, the answer might actually surprise you: we made it because our bodies will always do everything possible to survive! Yet, as it is clear to see, we didn’t really make it without sacrificing our health and well-being, because in the absence of understanding and acknowledging the endocannabinoid system, we have been faced with the ravages of diseases that seem to be impossible or very, very hard to treat, such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, opioid addictions, hormonal disorders, infertility, and so much more. From a spiritual point of view, not being able to understand the endocannabinoid system has deprived us of the opportunity to expand the conscious mind and to cure the subconscious mind.
Even though we cannot turn back time and prevent the ban on cannabis that has deprived us of centuries of cannabis research, we can do so much nowadays. Medical cannabis users should look for ways to know their green medication better, and, respectively, recreational marijuana users should look for ways to get to know their favorite weapon for entertainment better.Remember, bud buddies, that cannabis is as ancient as the world itself. But since we are no longer limited to the ancient ways, we have the amazing opportunity to write cannabis history together! Your endogenous cannabinoid system explained in a nutshell This is the humble system that helps you feel just the way you need to feel, or in other words, it helps to keep you medicated, all naturally.