Just like our well-being thrives on healthy connections with others, our body thrives on healthy connections within itself. The system responsible for maintaining the healthy relationships amongst our organs, tissues, cells and the body’s various regulatory systems, such as the nervous system and immune system is the endocannabinoid system.
What does endocannabinoid mean?
The term “endocannabinoid” can be broken down into two parts. “Endo” means “inside” and it refers to the system’s reactions inside the body. “Cannabinoid” refers to a specific group of compounds that can be found in plants, animals, and in humans. The primary cannabinoid found inside the human body is called anandamide. The reactions these endocannabinoids have inside the body is known as the endocannabinoid system.
How does the endocannabinoid system (ECS) work?
The ECS is a network of enzymes and receptors that produce and respond to cannabinoids in the body to maintain homeostasis. Homeostasis is the body’s ability to achieve stability and equilibrium despite external conditions. This balance not only consists of physiological functions but consists of emotional functions as well. For example, the ECS will tell your body to eat when it needs to eat and sleep when it needs to sleep. On a broader scale, a malfunctioning ECS can contribute to conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and insomnia.
There are two main types of receptors acting with the ECS: cannabinoid 1 (CB 1) and cannabinoid 2 (CB 2). Both receptors receive three different types of cannabinoids, including:
- Endocannabinoids: the cannabinoids made within our body, like anandamide.
- Phytocannabinoids: cannabinoids found in plants, like hemp and marijuana.
- Synthetic cannabinoids: human-made cannabinoids, usually produced in a lab.
CB 1 is mostly found in the brain and has a significant reception to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the cannabinoid found in marijuana, which is why a high is produced from marijuana consumption. Scientists believe the ECS has such a significant impact on the body because of CB 1’s extensive presence in the brain. CB 1 can also be found in the liver, lungs, pancreas and reproductive organs.
CB 2 is mostly found within the immune system, which is how cannabis can cause therapeutic effects in the body. CB 2 receptors can also be found in the lungs, liver, spleen, bone, and muscle.
What role do cannabinoids, such as hemp oil, play in the ECS?
By providing the body with more cannabinoids, such as the cannabinol found in hemp oil, the ECS is able to function more efficiently. The immune system and neurotransmitters are both fueled by the cannabinoids’ presence and the ECS’s stabilizing reactions on the body.