Understanding the Endocannabinoid System

Understanding the Endocannabinoid System

The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) was discovered in 1988 when researchers found the first cannabinoid receptor in the brain of a rat. Throughout the 1990’s and beyond, researchers have been conducting one clinical study after another, excited to learn more. This post explores the ECS and how it functions in our bodies. 

While we don’t yet fully understand the ECS, researchers have found that it plays a significant role in regulating many important bodily functions and process, such as:  

  • Appetite
  • Digestion
  • Immune function
  • Inflammation
  • Mood
  • Sleep
  • Reproduction/fertility
  • Motor control
  • Temperature regulation
  • Memory
  • Pain
  • Pleasure/reward 

That’s quite a list! 

What is also important to note is that your body’s ECS exists and is active even if you don’t use cannabis. So how exactly does it work then? 

How The ECS Works 

According to Healthline, we know that it involves three key components: endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes. 

Endocannabinoids

Also called endogenous cannabinoids, they are like cannabinoids, but are produced by your body. Two key endocannabinoids have been discovered so far: 

  • Anandamide (AEA)
  • 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG)

We know these endocannabinoids keep your internal functions running as they should.

Receptors

The ECS receptors can be found throughout your body. The ECS receives a signal to take action when an endocannabinoid binds to a receptor. 

The two main endocannabinoid receptors are: 

  • CB1 receptors – mainly found in the central nervous system
  • CB2 receptors – mainly found in peripheral nervous system 

Enzymes

Finally, the enzymes’ job is to break down the endocannabinoids once they have completed their function. 

The two main enzymes for this are: 

  • Fatty acid amide hydrolase, which breaks down AEA (see above)
  • Monoacylglycerol acid lipase, which breaks down 2-AG (see above)

This is the basic process of how the ECS is understood to work, and it helps regulate all those important bodily functions listed at the beginning of this post. Amazing, right?! 

So how does CBD interact with the ECS? Glad you asked! Here is an example from verywellhealth.com: A known function of CBD in the brain is to prohibit the FAAH enzyme from breaking down anandamide (AEA – remember this compound from before?), so the anandamide can be more impactful. The clear consensus here is that CBD can help treat anxiety disorders

While more research on the ECS is still needed, it is obvious that it plays a significant role in regulating critical systems in our bodies. 

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