Cannabis consists of over 500 different chemical substances; over 140 of these substances comprise cannabinoids. Cannabinoids refer to a group of substances found within the cannabis plant. They regulate how cells communicate - how they send, receive, and process messages. Similar to opioids, cannabinoids are known to affect interacting with specific receptors found within different regions of the central nervous system.
Endocannabinoids (ECS) refer to a complex cell-signalling system, also called 'endogenous' cannabinoids. These are molecules produced by the body, similar to cannabinoids.
The name endocannabinoid comes from 'endo' which is short for 'endogenous'; this refers to what is produced naturally inside the body, while 'Cannabinoid' comes from 'cannabis'.
The ECS comprises of three main parts:
- Receptors in the nervous system and around the body that endocannabinoids and cannabinoids bond with
- Enzymes that help to break down endocannabinoids and cannabinoids
The ECS is a vast system of chemical messengers and receptors that help control most of the crucial body systems - such as sleep, emotional processing, memory, appetite, inflammation, reproduction and fertility, stress, temperature, learning to the skin, and nerve function. THC and CBD are compounds that can bind to the body's cannabinoid receptors and impact learning, memory, motor, and other immune functions.
The ECS is a natural part of the body, and it also plays a crucial role. Currently, medical experts believe that the primary function of the ECS is maintaining homeostasis. The ECS consists of cannabinoid receptors (CB1R, CB2R), they have identified two key endocannabinoids:
- 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG)
- Anandamide (AEA)
CB1 receptors are primarily located in the brain and central nervous system. They regulate brain function, and CB2 receptors are most prominent in the peripheral organs, especially in the cells associated with the immune and gastrointestinal systems. CBD binds to both CB1 and CB2 receptors. These endocannabinoids help keep internal functions stable.
The endocannabinoid system allows CBD to help treat a wide range of symptoms. It serves distinct functions in overall health and wellbeing and how it interacts through several biological pathways. Studies indicate that they produce their therapeutic effects by activating multiple pathways at once.
Currently, there is little understanding surrounding the ECS and its full capacities, but research has revealed that the body produces endocannabinoids as needed. Some say that it works by preventing endocannabinoids from being broken down, enabling them to affect the body. In contrast, others believe that CBD may bind to a receptor that is yet to be discovered.
As medical experts continue to understand the ECS and its role in the body, this could help with new and improved suggestions and treatments for several health conditions.