At Quanna, our mission is to help our customers understand the effects and benefits of CBD. Fundamental to this is CBD’s interaction with the endocannabinoid system, a significant communication network that runs throughout the human body. So what exactly is the endocannabinoid system and how can you best support it?
The endocannabinoid system was discovered relatively recently in the early 90s when scientists determined that the brain has two receptors, CB1 (located centrally in the brain) & CB2 (located peripherally throughout the nervous & immune systems, as well as other functionally important locations such as the heart, pancreas, and stomach), that respond to so-called phytocannabinoids, chemical elements found in cannabis plants. These cannabinoids number over 100 and most prominently include CBD and THC.
Aside from their presence in hemp plants, cannabinoids also occur naturally in the human body. These were discovered after phytocannabinoids and named endocannabinoids, with the prefix ‘endo’ meaning ‘internal’ or ‘within’. A number of these neurotransmitters have now been discovered, such as anandamide, named after the Sanskrit word 'ānanda' meaning ‘bliss’ or ‘happiness’, interestingly also found in small quantities in chocolate, and 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). The interaction of these endocannabinoids with the cannabinoid receptors, along with the enzymes that synthesize, release, and degrade the endocannabinoids make up the endocannabinoid system.
Why are endocannabinoids important?
Fundamental to the body’s continuous healthy functioning is the concept of homeostasis. Homeostasis is the body’s tendency towards a largely stable equilibrium, and endocannabinoids play a key part in various physiological processes necessary for this state to be achieved. These processes include pleasure, pain, sleep, appetite, mood, memory, immune function, fertility, pregnancy, and pre/post-natal development. Importantly, a deficiency in endocannabinoids has been shown to be linked to migraines, fibromyalgia, IBSmigraines, fibromyalgia, IBS, and other treatment-resistant disorders. Balanced endocannabinoid levels are clearly important for good health and, given the inextricable link between the endocannabinoid system and hemp, it is not unsurprising that the potential medicinal effects of the plant are being researched so industriously.
What effect do phytocannabinoids have on the endocannabinoid system?
As you will probably remember from GCSE chemistry, messages are generally sent around the body when chemicals called neurotransmitters are released from a neuron, travel across a synapse, and attach to receptors located on a nearby neuron. The endocannabinoid system acts differently, however, as endocannabinoids are created from fat cells already present in the neuron. This means that cannabinoids can control how messages are sent, received, and processed.
THC can have a wide range of effects on the endocannabinoid system since cannabinoid receptors are located throughout the body. This can manifest in memory disruption, slowed reaction times as well as a change in mood, leading to the ‘high’ generally associated with cannabis use.
Unlike THC, however, CBD does not bind to the CB1 receptor. Instead, it modifies the receptor’s capacity to bind to endocannabinoids as well as enhancing natural levels of endocannabinoids. As a result, the effects are not as acutely noticeable.
How can I support my endocannabinoid system?
Given the endocannabinoid system’s inextricable link to the process mentioned above, keeping them balanced is important. Getting enough sleep every night and managing stress levels are key to this. Exercise is also important, as it releases the aforementioned anandamide into the body. Furthermore, a healthy diet, particularly one replete with healthy fats, can contribute to a balanced endocannabinoid system as it can increase the expression of cannabinoid receptors in the body.