What is the Endocannabinoid System?

What is the Endocannabinoid System?

If you’ve ever done any research into cannabis, then you may have heard of something called the endocannabinoid system, or ECS for short. Essentially, the ECS is a complex system of neurotransmitters and enzymes located throughout our bodies.

Scientific research into the ECS is still in infancy. In fact, it wasn’t even discovered until 1992, when researchers in Jerusalem stumbled upon this intricate cell signaling system. We’ve learned a lot about the ECS in the short time since we’ve known about its existence, but there are still many unanswered questions regarding how all its potential functions operate. The possibilities are incredibly exciting, but first, let’s take a look at what we already know.

What Does the Endocannabinoid System Do?

The chief purpose of the ECS, as we understand it, is to help our bodies maintain homeostasis or a state of balance. So far, experts have determined that the endocannabinoids system plays a role in regulating:

  • sleep patterns 
  • appetite 
  • mood 
  • memory encoding 
  • reproduction 

There is some evidence that the endocannabinoid system may assist major roles such as bone growth, muscle formation, and cardiovascular function.

How Does the Endocannabinoid System Work?

So how does this one system manage to modulate so many bodily functions? Well, it starts with endocannabinoids. What are endocannabinoids? Your body naturally produces molecules that are similar to the cannabinoids we find in cannabis, like CBD and THC. The key endocannabinoids that researchers have identified are anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). 

Our bodies use these endocannabinoids, sort of like carrier pigeons, to transmit messages to keep their functions running smoothly. They work by binding to and stimulating different molecules called endocannabinoid receptors. There are two key types of receptors that we currently know about – CB1 receptors, which are located mostly in the central nervous system, and CB2 receptors, which are primarily found in the peripheral nervous system. So if the body needs to send a signal to the nervous system, it will create endocannabinoids that will bind to CB1 receptors.

Once those endocannabinoids have successfully served their purpose by carrying instructions to the endocannabinoid receptors, they need to get broken down. That’s where the enzymes come into play. The body uses the fatty acid amide hydrolase to breakdown AEA, and uses monoacylglycerol acid lipase to break down 2-AG. 

The Endocannabinoid System and CBD & THC 

So far, we’ve only talked about how our own naturally occurring endocannabinoids operate within the ECS, but what about external cannabinoids like the kinds we find in cannabis? What kinds of effects can CBD, for example, have on the ECS?

When we consume THC, the THC molecules bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors in our body, essentially mimicking the way endocannabinoids bind to those receptors. 

However, when we consume CBD like you would if you were inhaling the CBD-rich hemp flower found in our Stems, the CBD doesn’t actually bind to the cannabinoid receptors. Instead, CBD molecules take up space in the receptors without activating them, which prevents endocannabinoids from binding.

Some researchers speculate that this difference is why THC produces an intoxicating “high,” and CBD doesn’t. It is also likely the reason that consuming CBD with THC can temper the psychedelic effects of THC.

Endocannabinoid System Deficiency

We’ve covered the fact the ECS plays an essential role in regulating body systems, but what can happen when that balance is thrown out of whack? 

One study from 2016 suggests that issues with a person’s endocannabinoid system and endocannabinoid production can lead to certain underlying conditions. These include fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and migraines. What’s interesting about these three conditions, in particular, is that not only are they incredibly difficult to treat, but they often accompany one another. If it does turn out that these disorders are caused by an endocannabinoid deficiency, it could mean new avenues of treatment for those who are currently suffering from chronic illness.

Benefits of CBD on the Endocannabinoid System

A combination of anecdotal evidence, as well as scientific research, find that introducing CBD into the ECS can have a whole slew of therapeutic effects that range from mood stabilization to pain management. 

There are many ways to get CBD into your body, like tinctures and oils, but due to their low bioavailability, most of the CBD doesn’t get absorbed by the body and ends up just going to waste.

That’s why we developed the Elon, a revolutionary new CBD delivery device that not only allows for more CBD to be absorbed than with tinctures, it’s also incredibly easy to use! Order an Elon Starter Kit today, and discover the sublime benefits of CBD.