Cannabinoid receptors, found in our endocannabinoid systems (found inside each and every one of us), were once thought to exist only within the brain. However, more recent studies have shown that such cannabinoids exist throughout our bodies too.
The endocannabinoid system is made up of neurons, endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors, and
is involved in a variety of physiological processes including appetite, pain-sensation, memory, and mood. Neuro-chemicals called agonists "plug" into neural receptors, causing small chain reactions to occur. Referring to the ECS, these receptors are called CB1 (Cannabinoid receptor 1) and CB2 (Cannabinoid receptor 2). The ECS is activated by cannabinoids. There are cannabinoids naturally produced by the body that are known as endocannabinoids, and cannabinoids found in the plant, hemp, which are known as phytocannabinoids. It's important to know that CB1 and CB2 receptors are only able to be activated by cannabinoids, not any other type of agonist -- this is known as the "key and lock" analogy with the cannabinoids being the "keys" and the receptors, "locks."
[Phyto] = prefix meaning a plant or plants
[Endo] = prefix meaning within or inside
*Phytocannabinoids, also called classic
cannabinoids, come from plants.
*Endocannabinoids come from inside the body.
As you may imagine, such popularity means that cannabinoids have a significant impact on health. Continue reading to find out 4 fun facts on the endocannabinoid system.
Cannabinoid receptors are the most abundant of neuro-modulatory receptors to be found within the body.
They are found on numerous sites in the human body. So many actually, the total number of endocannabinoid receptors in the body is believed to be greater than all other neuro-modulatory receptors found in the body COMBINED -- including receptors for the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine.
All creatures, both with and without a backbone, have an endocannabinoid system (that means your pets too)!
Certain cannabis products are proving highly successful when used on pets, plus, have the potential to treat an essentially unlimited number of species. Actually, research shows that there are a few species that don’t have an ECS -- including sea sponges, nematode worms and anemones (because their evolution diverged so long ago). The earliest life-form known to have cannabinoid receptors is the sea-squirt. Did you know that this tube-shaped creature evolved over 600 million years ago and vomits up its internal organs as a self-defense move? There is even a type of slime mold that “possesses a rudimentary endocannabinoid system”! Seeing as though the ECS is so ancient, so crucial and so common among life, surely it was discovered long ago, right? Well, reality is that the ECS was only confirmed in the form that we know it today (CB1 and CB2 receptors, triggered by endocannabinoids) in the early-mid nineties!
The ECS regulates the body’s systems to maintain homoeostasis: the state of balance necessary for healthy function.
Homeostasis refers to the processes living things use to remain internally stable and survive. The human body maintains steady temperatures and levels of things like salt, fat, oxygen, sugar, and water to support optimal function. For example, when the body is overheated, it sweats to cool itself down. If it needs to instead retain heat, the body then stops sweating and reduces blood circulation to your skin. Homeostasis can also refer to mental or psychological stability.
In lay terms, it keeps your internal systems in a stable condition that is necessary for survival and general well-being.
Our bodies constantly make endocannabinoids to interact with their ECS, ensuring homoeostasis continues. If not enough endocannabinoids are created, it is thought that Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency may occur.
Yes, there is such a thing as Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency and it may be a root cause of certain diseases.
When the ECS is functioning properly, all of our various body systems are maintained in a state of active equilibrium, or homeostasis. But what happens when the ECS is damaged or not working properly?
While our body is very good at producing endocannabinoids, there are various individuals whose levels are not ideal and in return, may suffer. Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency, or CECD, is implicated in a spectrum of diseases associated with hypersensitivity to pain or stimulus such as migraines, fibromyalgia, and IBS. It is believed that by supplementing the body with naturally occurring cannabinoids from plants, AKA phytocannabinoids, we can correct this deficiency, relieve the symptoms, and restore health.
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Diet and exercise BOOSTS the ECS!
It has been found that prolonged aerobic exercise increases levels of anandamide, the “feel good” endocannabinoid. Diet is also very useful in fueling your system. By increasing intake of the essential fatty acid, omega-3, one can help support endocannabinoid brain signaling. Fish oil, hemp, and flaxseed are all very rich in omega-3's and supplement your ECS as well as other systems in the body.
There is still so much to know about our endocannabinoid system and how cannabinoids like CBD and others are offering relief and precaution to those who use it. Even speaking with some doctors about the ECS can be frustrating since the majority are not trained on it. This is beginning to change as time passes, but for now it is certainly helpful to come prepared with good information about the ECS when speaking with a medical professional.
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