Endocannabinoid System: What Is The Endocannabinoid System?

The Endocannabinoid system is a newly discovered biological system that helps to manage an array of functions in a body. It was discovered in the early 1990s by researchers while exploring tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and experts have been learning about this complex cell-signaling system since then. (1) 

Components of Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

Living between the inherited mutations, outside impacts, and all the complex cell signals, how does our body make sure to remain in homeostasis? Well, that is because of the Endocannabinoid system. ECS consists of a broad matrix of chemical signals and cellular receptors that are packed in our brains and body.

The three main components of the Endocannabinoid System are:

  1. Endocannabinoids
  2. Enzymes
  3. Receptors (2) 

1. Endocannabinoids

Endogenous cannabinoids or endocannabinoids are lipid-based neurotransmitters present within the body, which send chemical signals between the nerve cells.

Endocannabinoids are cannabinoids that are the same as the cannabinoids (compounds) found in the cannabis plants (also known as marijuana, or weed). But these cannabinoids are found within the body. You don’t need to use cannabis to have ECS active in your body, endocannabinoids are present and working in your body either way.

Endogenous cannabinoids aids with various bodily functions and experts have identified two main types of cannabinoids to date, i.e.: AEA (anandamide), and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). More endocannabinoids are present in your body, but their roles are not distinguished yet.

2. Cannabinoid Receptors

Cannabinoid receptors exist on the exterior of cells throughout the body, in the central nervous system, and the peripheral nervous system. Endocannabinoids bind or connect themselves to the cannabinoid receptors, and signal the endocannabinoid system to react in response to those cues.

The central nervous system comprises the brain and spinal cord, while the peripheral nervous system consists of the nerves that lie other than the central nervous system. The CBD receptors are present in either of the nervous systems, and the endocannabinoids attached to them generate responses to keep the body at homeostasis. The responses created by the endocannabinoids may vary due to the location of the receptor in the body.

There are two main types of receptors, i.e. CB1 and CB2. Further research is needed to suggest the availability of the third receptor, but the research is not conclusive yet (3).

CB1 usually lies in the central nervous system, and it beats all the other types of neurotransmitters present in the brain. If the system of a body, such as hunger, sleep, or alertness, needs to be altered, the receptors work by providing quick feedback.

CB2 usually lies in the immune cells and tissues, and the peripheral nervous system. It is responsible for regulating intestinal contraction, inflammation, and bowel conditions subject to inflammation.(4) (5) 

3. Enzymes

When the endocannabinoids generate the required responses, the enzymes manage the breakdown of those endocannabinoids. The two enzymes are
Fatty acid amide hydrolase, that is responsible for breaking down AEA
Monoacylglycerol acid lipase, which breaks down 2-AG

How does the Endocannabinoids system work?

Now that we have an understanding of endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes, let’s have a look at how the system works.

Our body automatically generates molecules that are called endocannabinoids, which are present in various tissues and cells in the body. The endocannabinoids attach themselves to the cannabinoid receptors throughout our body’s central and peripheral nervous systems. When the endocannabinoids bind to receptors, which are also located densely in our body, they become active.

According to researchers, when a system goes out of track in the body, the endocannabinoids bind themselves to the receptors to help rectify the problem in the system. However, the same physiological mechanism needs to be studied further, to better understand what triggers the connection of endocannabinoids and the receptors.

The ECS works precisely, without altering any other function of the body. Once the endocannabinoids are successful in correcting the problem in any of your body’s systems, the enzymes in the body break down those endocannabinoids. This prevents the endocannabinoids from over-rectifying the problem.

The endocannabinoid system works to ensure the proper functioning of the body. For example, if the temperature of the body goes up or down than the normal range, the ECS works to maintain the temperature at homeostasis. The ECS works for an array of cognitive and physiological processes. According to the research, ECS regulates the functions of:

  1. Chronic pain
  2. Inflammation
  3. Sleep
  4. Appetite
  5. Motor control
  6. Muscle formation
  7. Cardiovascular system
  8. Liver
  9. Stress
  10. Digestion
  11. Metabolism
  12. Reproductive system
  13. Mood
  14. Learning and Memory

If an outside force, such as an injury, affects our body’s normal functioning, The ECS immediately responds to keep the body in homeostasis. (6) (7) 

Cannabidiol (CBD) Therapeutic uses

People are using cannabis plants for medical reasons, such as for the release of pain and cramps, etc. Research shows that this plant is being used for medical purposes since 5000 years ago. The two main cannabinoids found in cannabis are THC and cannabidiol (CBD).

THC gives you the “high”, and when it gets into your body, it interacts with the ECS to connect with the receptors (both the CB1 and CB2 receptors). This allows THC to affect your mind and body. It can have some desirable effects on the functioning of your body, such as, it can relieve your body of any pain that occurs due to an outside force. But in some cases, the effects can also be undesirable, such as paranoia or anxiety. As far as CBD is concerned, further research is needed to ensure which receptor it binds to. A study conducted in 2016 discussed the impact of CBD on joint inflammation (in rats), and the study showed positive results without any side effects, in terms of relief in pain and swelling in rats.(8) 

Hemp Active Phytocannabinoids and Omega supplements work towards the accurate functioning of the body. The hemp plant contains less than 0.3% of THC. According to a study, the ingestion of hemp oil extract has shown positive results for sleep, stress, and recognized life pleasure. And polyunsaturated fatty acids are essential for supporting the proper functioning of the endocannabinoid system. To buy the hemp supplement, visit our website.(9) 

Bottom line

The endocannabinoid system is critical for supporting the proper functioning of the body. It works for maintaining homeostasis of several functions, such as sleep, memory and learning, appetite, alertness, etc. Further research is needed to better understand the existence of the components of this biological system.

References

1. Alger BE. Getting High on the Endocannabinoid System. Cerebrum [Internet]. 2013 [cited 2021 Nov 21];2013. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3997295/
2. Hui-Chen Lu KM. An introduction to the endogenous cannabinoid system. Biol Psychiatry. 2016 Apr 1;79(7):516.
3. Yang H, Zhou J, Lehmann C. GPR55 – a putative “type 3” cannabinoid receptor in inflammation. J Basic Clin Physiol Pharmacol. 2016 May 1;27(3):297–302.
4. Wu J. Cannabis, cannabinoid receptors, and endocannabinoid system: yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2019 Jan 22;40(3):297–9.
5. Reggio PH. Endocannabinoid Binding to the Cannabinoid Receptors: What Is Known and What Remains Unknown. Curr Med Chem. 2010;17(14):1468.
6. Shenglong Zou UK. Cannabinoid Receptors and the Endocannabinoid System: Signaling and Function in the Central Nervous System. Int J Mol Sci [Internet]. 2018 Mar [cited 2021 Nov 21];19(3). Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5877694/
7. Website [Internet]. Available from: https://www.jyi.org/2018-june/2018/6/1/the-endocannabinoid-system-our-universal-regulator
8. Hammell DC, Zhang LP, Ma F, Abshire SM, McIlwrath SL, Stinchcomb AL, et al. Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis. Eur J Pain. 2016 Jul;20(6):936.
9. CBD Supplement [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2021 Nov 21]