The Endocannabinoid System and endocannabinoids were discovered as a result of studying phytocannabinoids in cannabis. Researchers learned that there were cannabinoids already being made in the body that were interacting with the same receptors that phytocannabinoids (THC and CBD) were interacting with. The discovery of the endocannabinoid system has progressed our understanding of health and diseases. It has implications for just about all areas of medical science and helps to explain how and why CBD is such a versatile compound. CBD interacts with our bodies in a variety of ways.
One way is that they impact us by mimicking and augmenting the effect of the compounds in our bodies called "endogenous cannabinoids". These compounds get their name based on their striking similarity to the compounds found in the cannabis plant and are part of the regulatory system called the Endocannabinoid System(ECS). Understanding your endocannabinoid system is actually the key to understanding how CBD may be able to impact your life. What Is the Endocannabinoid System?
To answer that question, we will have to start with breaking down the word "endocannabinoid" and then delve into the uncovered mystery of it. The prefix "endo" means "within" and "cannabinoid" is "any of a group of closely related compounds which include cannabinol and the active constituents of cannabis". Put the two together and you get "endocannabinoid"; a group of closely related compounds formed within. In other words, a group of compounds produced naturally inside.
Therefore, the "Endocannabinoid System" is a major system in the body that mostly consists of "endocannabinoids"(closely related compounds), their receptors, and a number of different types of metabolic and regulatory enzymes that have a part in the workings of the system.
The ECS said to be the "master system", is unique in its primary function and plays important roles in your body well beyond the process it's named for. Unlike other systems, which focus on specific processes within your body, such as your digestive system, the ECS works to keep all the other systems functioning healthily. To put things into perspective, the main goal of the ECS is healthy homeostasis; creating balance; help the body regulate itself at an optimal level regardless of what is going on around it.
First and foremost, the role of the endocannabinoid system is to maintain homeostasis in the body. The ECS is also considered an adaptogenic system, which means it plays a role in how our body responds to conditions and situations. It communicates directly with parts of the body like the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract. Essentially, your ECS is a key part of your body’s overall health and is found in all different parts of your body.
Why the ECS is Crucial for Homeostasis
As previously stated, homeostasis is the maintenance of a constant internal environment. It is keeping the body in unstressed conditions and always in flux; process of which balance is created in our bodies. Your body works continuously to monitor important levels and functions in your body. These efforts to maintain balance are necessary.
Automatic control systems throughout our bodies are constantly making adjustments to maintain ideal levels of vital conditions, such as oxygen levels, hydration, and internal temperature. Is our internal temperature too high or too low? Is the heart beating to slow or too fast? Are our hormone levels what they should be? Do you need to exercise or rest? Is there too much of something building up in our cells or in our bloodstream?
When something is amiss outside the normal range, our bodies activate the ECS and signals the appropriate response to help correct it. So the next time you are too hot and you begin to sweat, don't "sweat" it. This is your ECS attempting to cool you down. We sweat when our internal temperatures get too high and shiver to produce heat when temperatures get too low. When your stomach begins to grumble that is simply your ECS reminding you to eat because your body is running low on fuel.
The ECS is able to regulate these functions through its communication with the nervous system, digestive system, and immune system by way of the cannabinoid receptors which is one of the three main components of the Endocannabinoid System. The other two components being endocannabinoids and metabolic enzymes. Your ECS occurs throughout your whole body and is part of your body’s natural function. Endocannabinoids (and their receptors) can be found in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and cells throughout your body.
The Three Major Components of the ECS
There are many key parts to the ECS which allow it to work. Three main components as previously discussed are Cannabinoid Receptors, Endocannabinoids, and Metabolic Enzymes.
Receptors are message receivers. Messages come in the form of chemical messengers binding to the receptor. These messages produce an effect within the body. There are different kinds of receptors. However, the two main players are the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Each receptor responds to different cannabinoids, but some cannabinoids can interact with both. Each of them has their own role to play in the endocannabinoid system, and each receptor is vital to homeostasis. The distribution of these two receptors within the body and brain explains why cannabinoids have certain effects.
The CB1 receptors are primarily located on nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord, but they are also found in some peripheral organs and tissues such as the spleen, white blood cells, endocrine gland and parts of the reproductive, gastrointestinal and urinary tracts. They are concentrated in brain regions associated with the behaviors they influence such as memory processing, pain regulation, motor control, regulating your moods, emotions, bodily movement, appetite, and much more.
CB2 receptors are found mostly in your immune system, but also throughout your whole body. CB2 receptors are also be found in major organs like your heart, liver, kidneys, blood vessels, bones, and reproductive organs, and they are responsible for a variety of functions. When we think of pain and inflammation due to an ECS imbalance, you’re generally thinking of your CB2 receptors.
These are cannabinoids produced naturally in your body. One of which is anandamide (AEA). Anandamide got its name due to its unique effect on the mind and body. It is said to have a blissful effect. High levels of AEA can reduce pain. This is what your body uses when you are experiencing pain. However, sometimes your natural chemistry isn’t enough. This is why many people supplement with CBD as it elevates anandamide which is already present in your brain. The other endocannabinoid is 2-AG. 2-AG is found at higher concentrations in the brain, while anandamide is found at higher concentrations in other areas of the body. Both are capable of binding to CB1 and CB2 receptors, but differ in how likely they are to bind to and activate each receptor. Endocannabinoids are neurotransmitters. They are only produced when the body signals that they are needed, and their presence is temporary. These chemicals are abundant in the brain and play a role in everything from appetite and depression to fertility and pain management. When they are activated, they stop excessive activity of the body's many systems.
FAAH (fatty acid amide hydrolase) and MAGL (monoacylglycerol lipase) are enzymes involved in the metabolism of cannabinoids and endocannabinoids. They break down endocannabinoids after they are released. Endocannabinoid Tone
Endocannabinoid tone refers to the general health status of a person's endocannabinoid system. When a person has a low endocannabinoid tone, they are deficient in endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoid tone has a lot to do with various lifestyle factors like how much you exercise or how healthy your gut microbiome (gut flora) is. Even though your endocannabinoid system performs dozens of different tasks, it ultimately has one singular goal which is to make sure that every system in your body is functioning efficiently, healthily, and in tune with each other.
Your body activates the ECS with precision so that it affects only what it needs to. Therefore, it is safe, to sum up, the Endocannabinoid System as the "most important physiological system involved in establishing and maintaining human health". The endocannabinoid system and CBD are truly an unbeatable natural match.
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