What Is the Endocannabinoid System?

Because marijuana has been mostly illegal for so long, there is still an air of mystery around it. How does it make you high? How does it help with so many different types of medical problems? We hear a lot about cannabinoids, namely tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), but what is the bigger picture for these two famous components of marijuana? And how do they connect to the endocannabinoid system, another enigma that was recently revealed?


Tip of the marijuana iceberg


We’re just beginning to unravel the mysteries of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and its importance to overall wellness and balance in our bodies.

The ECS constantly maintains balance at a cellular level. It’s called the endocannabinoid system because it was discovered while researchers tried to find how cannabis works. The ECS is present all through the human body in all types of tissues. This is why cannabis can help with the brain, with organ disorders, intestinal disease, musculoskeletal problems, inflammatory and immune issues.


This is just the beginning of our journey to learn about the ECS. And now that marijuana has become more widely accepted across the country, we will also learn more about THC and CBD. Once the federal government reschedules marijuana, we’ll be able to do tests and research on a large scale. Greater knowledge will lead to more innovations and applications, which will improve the lives and well-being of so many people – bringing better health and longer lives.


How Was the Endocannabinoid System Discovered?


Researchers started looking at cannabis to determine how it worked and why it had so many medical applications across so many bodily systems and functions. In 1990, the National Institute of Mental Health announced that a researcher figured out the mapping of the DNA sequence that encodes a cannabinoid receptor in the brain. Another cannabinoid named CB2 was also identified. CB2 is present in the immune system and peripheral nervous system.


Researchers soon found other endocannabinoids, and a previously unknown molecular signaling system that regulates a wide range of biological functions. It was named the endocannabinoid system (ECS).


What is the endocannabinoid system? The ECS works to maintain a stable environment in the body despite fluctuations in the external world. When the ECS detects an imbalance, the body synthesizes endocannabinoids. Then, they interact with cannabinoid receptors, which stimulate a chemical response. This works to bring the body back into balance and help achieve homeostasis when all your body’s systems are in balance and working well.


CB1 and CB2 Receptors – What Do They Do?


The two primary cannabinoid receptors are CB1 and CB2. Of course, there are other cannabinoid receptors, but CB1 and CB2 were among the first discovered and have been studied the most.


CB1 receptors interact with THC to cause a high, and they are one of the most abundant receptor types in the brain.

The immune system is the main location of CB2 receptors, although both CB1 and CB2 receptors are found throughout the body.


CB1 and CB2 receptors’ jobs are to sit on the surface of a cell and monitor what’s happening outside the cell. Then they send information about changes to the inside of the cell, spurring the appropriate cellular response.


Your body is making cannabinoids all the time -- your body knows when and how to make them in order to keep you healthy.


How Is Cannabis the Key Between the ECS and Homeostasis (AKA Perfect Physical Balance)?


We knew that THC triggered happiness in our brains, but we didn’t know why. Marijuana had always been regarded as a dangerous drug and so was never studied until recently.


Now medical marijuana is widely accepted and has been legalized in most states across the country. As a result, we finally have a chance to look more deeply at cannabis and its components. We can finally discover how cannabinoids like CBD work with our endocannabinoid system and why marijuana is beneficial for so many different health conditions.

Most of us know about the benefits of CBD in a general way, but now there’s a trove of scientific knowledge about cannabinoids that will only become more comprehensive. Soon scientists will have a greater understanding of how cannabinoids can target a variety of health conditions.


As we learn more about how these special receptors work, the more we will finely tune treatments to hone in on specific health conditions.


More and more people will be asking -- what is the endocannabinoid system? We now know that the ECS is located throughout the body and interacts with all the body’s systems. So it makes sense that bringing systems back into balance will help correct many disorders and illnesses.


Wondrous System, Wonder Plant


Every day it seems we hear more news about the federal government’s plans to decriminalize or even legalize marijuana. It’s exciting to think how much will change as the true nature of this wonder plant becomes more widely researched and understood.

The mysteries are no longer quite so mysterious. These developments are very hopeful because with a better understanding of the ECS, the more we will improve general wellness and make people’s lives better and more comfortable.

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