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What is the Endocannabinoid System?

It seems like cannabis is being recommended for just about everything these days. It can help you sleep, boost your mood, and ease aches and pains. How can one plant work in so many different ways? The search for this answer led scientists to a major discovery of a previously unknown system, an important component of health and balance in humans and animals: the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

Scientists are just beginning to uncover everything the ECS does for our bodies to keep us healthy, but what we know so far is impressive. In this article, we’ll go over the basics of the endocannabinoid system and everything it does for your body.

What Is the Endocannabinoid System?

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The endocannabinoid system is made up of three main components:

  • Endocannabinoids (cannabinoid-like compounds that are produced naturally by the human body)
  • Enzymes that create and destroy cannabinoids
  • Cell receptors that receive cannabinoids

Endocannabinoids are the molecules that act in a similar way to phytocannabinoids (plant-derived cannabinoids) like THC. Both endo- and phytocannabinoids interact with cannabinoid receptors, known as CB1 and CB2. These receptors are found throughout the body in the brain, connective tissues, organs, immune cells, and glands.

Even though the endocannabinoid system performs different tasks in each tissue, the goal is always to maintain homeostasis. It’s a bridge between the body and the mind, and it works to maintain a stable internal environment during the fluctuations your systems experience.

How Does the Endocannabinoid System Work?

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The body produces endocannabinoids in response to the needs of the physiological systems that regulate processes of the body and the mind. The two major endocannabinoids produced in the body are Anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG).

When something happens that throws-off homeostasis, like illness or injury, the endocannabinoid system activates and responds by creating endocannabinoids. They are picked up by cannabinoid receptors to transmit information that activates a physiological response. By binding to receptors, endocannabinoids trigger the release of chemicals that affect things like immune response, appetite, temperature regulations, pain sensations, and much more.

Cannabis and the Endocannabinoid System

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When the body’s endocannabinoid system is depleted, plant compounds can work as substitutes to help supplement and promote balance in the body. One of the best ways to substitute a lack of endocannabinoids is to introduce plant cannabinoids — the amazing compounds that are unique to the cannabis plant.

The most popular cannabinoid is delta-9 THC. It has a powerful action on the endocannabinoid system and provides the well-known some of the well-known effects of cannabis. While THC is the most studied cannabinoid to date, there are dozens of cannabinoids with positive health benefits that scientists are beginning to uncover. Currently gaining the most popularity is the non-intoxicating CBD, which can provide a slew of health benefits without the intoxicating effects of THC.

Cannabinoids aren’t the only way cannabis helps your endocannabinoid system; terpenes can also offer a boost to the balancing power of the ECS. Cannabis is full of a variety of terpenes, which also exist in many common herbs, vegetables, and fruits. Terpenes can bind to cannabinoid receptors and affect the receptor’s chemical output, which influences the effects of cannabinoids.

Final Thoughts

The regular intake of cannabis may help supplement your natural endocannabinoid supply and help you maintain overall health and wellness. It can also deliver targeted symptom relief for a variety of conditions. If you’d like to learn more about what cannabis can do for you, we’d love to help. Our knowledgeable staff is here to answer all your questions and recommend products that are right for you.