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The Endocannabinoid System

Estimated reading time: 3 min

What is the endocannabinoid system (ECS)?

We talk a lot about cannabinoids at EthicaCBD. These naturally occurring compounds form the structure of the cannabis plant, and each individual cannabinoid is reported to have its own unique benefits. But how do they interact with your body? And why are we so keen to champion the potential benefits of this particular part of the plant? A large part of the answer is that we actually have a specific system within our body specially designed to interact, manage and regulate the cannabinoids that we consume. This is called the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

So how did we come to have a system in our body’s named after a compound found in the cannabis plant?

The simple answer is that the cannabinoid extracts were actually discovered before the internal endocannabinoid system. With ‘endo’ being short for ‘endogenous’, a term used for a process that happens naturally within your body, endocannabinoid can be defined as the interaction between cannabis type compounds that exist naturally inside us.

What is the role of the endocannabinoid system?

The endocannabinoid system plays a major role in achieving homeostasis: your optimum state of functioning. It ensures that stability exists within the body, and if there is a danger of instability, it is the role of the endocannabinoid system to instruct the cannabinoid receptors to make the necessary adjustments.

What are the three parts of the endocannabinoid system? 

The endocannabinoid system is believed to consist of three main parts.

1. The all-important receptors

Buried within our tissues we are thought to have two different types of cannabinoid receptors, these are:

CB1 | located within the nerves of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system)

CB2 | located in the nerves of extremities, digestive system and within the immune system (peripheral nervous system)

2. Endogenous cannabinoids or endocannabinoids (also known as eCBs)

These eCBs are released on request by the body’s response system to deal with changing conditions within the body. It is the job of eCBs to regulate many of the body’s impulses and functions. The system is a finely balanced network of hormones and nerve endings, all crucial components in maintaining homeostasis, and ultimately, staying fit and healthy.

3. Enzymes 

A variety of endocannabinoid metabolic enzymes that include (but are not limited to) fatty acid amide hydrolase and monoacylglycerol lipase. When the endocannabinoids have served their purpose, the enzymes in the ECS begin to break them down to avoid excessive build-up. 

How does CBD react with the endocannabinoid system?

New research is regularly coming to light highlighting the interaction between CBD and the endocannabinoid system. Whilst its exact impact is still difficult to measure, endocannabinoids have been shown to activate receptors in the body, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the ECS as a whole. Experts believe that the endocannabinoid system influences some of the body's most important functions: including sleep, mood, appetite, and memory.

Another avenue currently being explored is whether CBD binds to a third, as yet unidentified, receptor inside the body, further improving the ECS function and allowing the body more control over homeostasis.

Clearly intricate interactions occur between CBD and the ECS receptors. What we do know is that endocannabinoids complement the body’s internal functions and help to ensure everything runs smoothly. And due to the fact that cannabinoid receptors exist throughout the body, the ECS can remedy imbalances in a variety of bodily systems with an impressively high level of accuracy.

Who discovered the endocannabinoid system? 

The biggest breakthrough in the discovery of the endocannabinoid system emerged in 1988 when American scientists discovered receptor sites in a rat's brain that become activated by the introduction of THC. Scientists had located the CB1 receptor which opened the floodgates for research into the biological processes surrounding cannabinoid interactions. Many years of discoveries would follow, with each development impacting every aspect of medical science. 

Cannabinoids in plants

It’s no surprise that hemp is rich in cannabinoids. But research is showing that many other plants possess cannabinoids, and as a result, also interact with the human endocannabinoid system. Inquiry into this is still in the early stages but plants such as sunflowers, echinacea, cacao, and the tea plant, are believed to have naturally high levels of cannabinoids.

What does this mean for users of CBD?

Whilst we still know relatively little about the inner workings of the endocannabinoid system, at EthicaCBD we believe that introducing a daily CBD routine might help to boost and compliment your body’s quest for natural balance. And attempting to understand the role of the human endocannabinoid system is an important part of our continued mission with this natural extract. EthicaCBD wants to take its consumers on a journey of CBD discovery. This introduction to the endocannabinoid system is just one small part of the EthicaCBD knowledge hub, helping you to understand more about the world of CBD. 

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