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Decoding The Endocannabinoid System And Its Functions

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Medical professionals and healthcare experts have done lots of studies and research on the extensive therapeutic uses of Medical Cannabis. They have found out that its chemical compounds known as cannabinoids have immense pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties. 

Hence, they can aid in treating various diseases, from chronic pain, spasticity, fatigue, anxiety, insomnia, arthritis, and beyond. But what makes these cannabinoids work so effectively in the first place? It might be shocking, but the answer lies in our bodies.

Our bodies have a dedicated biological system made to respond to cannabinoids and produce therapeutic effects. And that is the endocannabinoid system. 

Enter the Fundamentals

The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) exists in the form of neuromodulatory receptors. These are designed to bind to the cannabinoids in the body. This system is responsible for regulating the nervous system, the brain, and various other essential organs. A highly complex network of these receptors is spread throughout the human body’s entire central and peripheral nervous system.

The Components 

There are three vital components of the ECS, namely:

  1. Cannabinoid Receptors

Similar to any biological system, ECS has a network of receptors. Without these cannabinoid receptors, the endocannabinoids won’t have anything to bind themselves to. Only when they bind with these receptors, they trigger a biological response.

There are two vital cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2. The former regulates homeostasis, sleep, pain response, and appetite. At the same time, the latter is responsible for regulating the immune system.

  1. Endocannabinoids

Endocannabinoids are the organic molecules that bind to the cannabinoid receptors and activate them. Furthermore, these are produced within (“endo”) the human body. Plant-based cannabinoids (or phytocannabinoids) are natural cannabinoids derived from plants like cannabis, creating similar effects to endocannabinoids.

The endocannabinoids are essential in maintaining homeostasis, i.e., physical, chemical, and energy balance in the body. The two significant endocannabinoids are:

  • Anandamide: Anandamide is derived from the Sanskrit word “ananda”, meaning bliss. It is so because it positively impacts mood, and hence, is the body’s own anti-depressant.
  • 2-AG: It is hugely abundant in the body and connected to regulating the immune system.
  1. Metabolic Enzymes

These are organic compounds playing a crucial role in regulating metabolism and homeostasis maintenance. They break down the endocannabinoids in the system once they are used. There are two key such enzymes, FAAH and MAGL, which break down anandamide and 2-AG, respectively. 

Why Is It Needed?

The ECS plays a vital role in maintaining homeostasis. It uses certain tools to help regulate the body’s balance. Those tools are cannabinoids, which act as counterbalances. To support homeostasis, our body releases endocannabinoids when needed, in the right amount, and breaks them down after their function is carried out.

Suppose an external force like an injury, pain, or fever causes the body to lose its stability; it is the ECS that helps it return to its ideal working state. Study associates this system with various processes in the body, like:

  • Metabolism
  • Immune responses
  • Appetite
  • Inflammation
  • Pain
  • Sleep 
  • Memory and Learning
  • Mood 
  • Stress and Anxiety
  • Nervous system function, etc.

How Do THC And CBD Interact With The Endocannabinoid System?

The cannabinoids from cannabis-based medication interact with the receptors like a lock and key, the latter being the lock and the former being the key. When the cannabinoid molecule ‘key’ attaches itself to the receptor ‘lock’ on the cell wall, it triggers a reaction. Hence, inducing effects on the brain and body and leading to desired health benefits.

There are over 100 such cannabinoids that scientists isolated from the cannabis plants. These are naturally occurring and are called phytocannabinoids.

Cannabinoids, when ingested, can support the endocannabinoid system in case our body’s homeostasis is disrupted. It might be due to an imbalance in our endocannabinoids or due to clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CED).

One of the two major cannabinoids in cannabis is THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), which is psychoactive in nature. When consumed, it binds with the receptors in the body. It is partly more powerful than CBD because it can bind to both the CB1 and CB2 receptors.

It then results in stimulating appetite, inducing sleep, reducing pain, and various other health benefits

Another major cannabinoid in cannabis is CBD (Cannabidiol). It is not psychoactive, unlike THC. Its main function is to prevent the endocannabinoids from being broken down. Because of this, they get to show more of their effect on the body.

Cannabis medicines have various medical uses. But today, numerous medical experts and Ayurveda doctors are attracted by its ability to affect absolute levels of the endocannabinoids in the brain. 

Furthermore, it also inhibits the metabolic enzyme FAAH. By prohibiting the FAAH enzyme from breaking it down, CBD increases the Anandamide levels in the system. This is why CBD is an effective medication for treating anxiety and other related mental health problems. 

Summary 

The ECS is a very crucial biological system in the body. It regulates the body’s various specific processes, ranging from pain and anxiety to metabolism and immunity. Moreover, cannabis medicines rely on this system and its receptors to show their therapeutic effects. 

Moreover, this system is present and functions throughout our body’s nervous and immune systems. That is the reason why cannabinoids can aid in treating such a wide variety of ailments.

To know more about how you can leverage cannabis medicines in India for treating your ailments and get the best online Ayurvedic consultation, reach out to Hempstreet Medicare.

References

https://www.formulatehealth.com/blog/understanding-the-endocannabinoid-system

https://www.healthline.com/health/endocannabinoid-system#takeaway

https://www.leafly.com/news/science-tech/what-is-the-endocannabinoid-system

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