Cannabinoids and the Endocannabinoid System: A Match Made in Heaven

Cannabis CBD

Who would have thought that a plant once feared for being a ‘gateway drug’ – a myth that has actually been debunked by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) – could quite possibly be the missing piece in a complex puzzle called health

Cannabis is more than just a social ingredient for getting stoned. Our bodies are specially designed to utilize its chemical compounds, better known as ‘cannabinoids’. Thanks to an ever-growing smorgasbord of scientific evidence and research, the public’s perception on pot is changing (and quite rightly so.) 

Considering the fact that the human body is naturally equipped with an endocannabinoid system, A.K.A. the ‘ECS’, Mother Nature must have put the plant on Earth for a reason! It is this unique biological system that is responsible for achieving homeostasis. The lipid signaling system is made up of endogenous endocannabinoids, anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG).

scientific research

Recent advances in scientific research indicate that the ECS may have therapeutic benefits for the treatment of diseases that are currently treated inadequately with over the counter (OTC) prescription medications, such as opioids. In 2017, over 70,200 people died from opioid-related overdoses

Enter cannabinoids, which are emerging as a natural and non-addictive treatment option for an ever-growing list of medical conditions and ailments. 

What are cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are chemical compounds produced not only by the cannabis plant but also, by the human body. Lack of cannabinoid production causes dysfunctioning of the endocannabinoid system. Acknowledged as the largest receptor system spread throughout the human body, the ECS launches into action when the body needs protecting. 

When the balance of the body’s physiological functions falls out of sync due to a cannabinoid deficiency, an illness arises. This is where cannabinoids like CBD come in handy. Even though this information wasn’t available to humankind before technology swept across the globe, our ancient ancestors seemed to know a lot more back then than historians might have initially realized.

The Ancient Chinese used cannabinoids for medical purposes, as opposed to using them for their intoxicating effects. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the cannabis plant’s primary intoxicating cannabinoids responsible for inducing a ‘high’. CBD (cannabidiol) is its non-intoxicating cousin and has been widely researched for its efficacy in medical applications.

Even the United States stocked medical cannabis on pharmacy shelves before prohibition kicked into effect in 1937. Some years later in 1964, THC was isolated for the very first time by Israeli chemist Raphael Mechoulam. This wasn’t the first time a cannabinoid had been isolated, however. CBN was isolated by Wood, Sivey, and Esterfield way back in 1895. It is one of the hundreds of lesser-known cannabinoids derived from the cannabis plant.

What are endocannabinoids?

Now, let’s not get confused with cannabinoids. Endocannabinoids are the lipid-based retrograde neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors. They comprise the endocannabinoid system, which is the largest biological network inside the human body. 

The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) background.Vector illustration

Endocannabinoids also bind to cannabinoid receptor proteins scattered around the peripheral nervous system and the vertebrate central nervous system. When and why they are released depends on what imbalance has occurred inside the ECS.

The sole purpose of endocannabinoids is to help regulate a plethora of physiological functions including appetite, cardiovascular activity, fertility, gastrointestinal activity, hormones, inflammatory reactions, mood, memory, metabolism, motor control, pain perception, reproduction, sleep, and vision.

Do synthetic cannabinoids react with the ECS the same as natural cannabinoids?

With the rise in legal cannabis comes an increased demand for cannabinoid-based treatments and for those who may not be able to access natural treatments, synthetic alternatives prove appealing. However, synthetic cannabinoids are not favored by the ECS quite like the cannabis plant’s naturally-occurring chemical compounds are.

Natural is the way to go if you’re searching for CBD oils online to help regulate the ECS. Since it is non-intoxicating and does not lose its effectiveness over time, there’s no wonder why the Hemp Business Journal estimates that the CBD market will swell to $2.1 billion by 2020.

Synthetic cannabinoids may produce effects similar to those produced by CBD, THC and other cannabinoids, but they are pro-psychotic substances. What this means is that the risk of developing a mental health condition increases when someone with a family history of uses cannabis in its synthetic form. 

With that being said, make a safe choice when buying cannabinoids online by choosing a trusted resource that sells plant-derived cannabinoids. (Your endocannabinoid system will thank you later!)

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Bethan Rose

Bethan Rose is a cannabis advocate, writer and traveler with no permanent address. Currently based in South Brazil, she can usually be found curating cannabis content on her hammock.


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