Endocannabinoids: The Brain and Bodys Marijuana and Beyond


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Each of us comes with an endocannabinoid system ECS , which does much more than simply express the way we experience the intoxicating or psychoactive properties of cannabis. The ECS keeps our bodies regulated, helping us to maintain balance, or homeostasis. Because of the need for inner balance, the ECS plays an integral role in survival by maintaining homeostasis in fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals, including humans. Pain, stress, appetite, energy, cardiovascular function, reward perception, reproduction, and sleep are only a few of the processes in which the ECS is involved.

The ECS is made up of three main components : cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids, and the enzymes that break them down. There are even cannabinoid receptors in our skin. The body naturally produces endocannabinoids, the two most prevalent being: anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol 2-AG.


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CB1 receptors affect motor and cognitive function, whereas CB2 receptors play a more critical role in neuroprotection and neuroinflammation. For instance, the flush experienced when eating chili peppers is a TRPV response. CB1 receptors can be found largely in the central nervous system, where they regulate a wide variety of brain functions. There, the receptors regulate the release of other neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate.

1. Introduction

Think of the neurotransmitters as children at a crosswalk after school: The ECS acts as a crossing guard, allowing them to cross in tightly controlled intervals and numbers. However, it has also been shown that non-psychoactive phytocannabinoids from other plants, and even other compounds like terpenes and flavonoids, are picked up by receptors in our endocannabinoid systems Gertsch et al, Because small doses of phytocannabinoids can encourage the body to create more naturally occurring endocannabinoids and their receptors, it may be possible to bolster the sensitivity of our native systems with regular cannabinoid supplements Pacher et al, Overall, significant research must still be done to better understand the impact of the endocannabinoid system on our overall health and how supplementing our natural endocannabinoid production with plant-based cannabinoids may play a significant therapeutic role in our health.

However, extensive early studies show great potential for using this vital system to the benefit of patient health. Alger, B. Getting High on the Endocannabinoid System. Gaoni, Y. Journal of the American Chemical Society , 86 8 , Gertsch, J. Phytocannabinoids beyond the Cannabis plant — do they exist? British Journal of Pharmacology , 3 , — Kaur, R. Endocannabinoid system: A multi-facet therapeutic target.

Current Clinical Pharmacology , 11 2 , Kogan, N. Cannabinoids in health and disease.


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  • Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience , 9 4 , — Lee, M. The Discovery of the endocannabinoid system. Mandal, A. News Medical. Mechoulam, R.

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    A historical overview of chemical research on cannabinoids. Chemistry and Physics of Lipids , , National Cancer Institute. Cannabis and cannabinoids. Pacher, P.

    Endocannabinoids The Brain and Body's Marijuana and Beyond

    Pharmacological Reviews , 58 3 , — Modulating the endocannabinoid system in human health and disease: successes and failures. Pandey, R. Endocannabinoids and immune regulation.

    If an EC system is dysregulated, communication between the brain and body can struggle and functions can become imbalanced. Of the more than cannabinoids in cannabis, the two most predominate are tetrahydrocannabinol THC and cannabidiol CBD.

    While the two major cannabinoids share a similar chemical makeup, THC and CBD interact with cannabinoid receptors completely differently and subsequently elicit different natural effects. THC is the cannabinoid people think of when they think of marijuana. CBD does not cause any intoxicating effects. This is because it does not bind directly with CB1 marijuana cannabinoid receptors in the brain. With hemp-derived CBD oil products hot in demand, a common question is how do cannabinoid receptors and CBD tie in with each other?

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    CBD, or cannabidiol, is a cannabis-derived phytocannabinoid found in both marijuana and hemp plants, but is most abundant in hemp. The first thing to note is that there is no such thing as CBD receptors, specifically. However, CBD does not directly interact with them. Instead, CBD interacts indirectly with the cannabinoid receptors. CBD causes chemical changes by blocking cannabinoid receptors in the body.

    It sits imperfectly inside the cannabinoid receptors, not activating them and yet preventing any other cannabinoids or chemical messengers from binding to them. CBD also works to increase the amount of Anandamide in the body.

    Marijuana (cannabis): Facts, effects, and hazards

    It does this by removing fatty acid amide hydrolase FAAH , the enzyme responsible for breaking down and degrading Anandamide. The naturally balancing reactions that come from cannabinoid receptors and CBD acting on each other are why CBD oil products have become so attractive as a supplement to support health and well-being.

    CBD enthusiasts also appreciate that they can experience the benefits of plant-derived cannabinoids and not get high. Because CBD blocks CB1 receptors, not only will it not cause any intoxicating effects but it suppresses the euphoric properties of cannabinoids like THC.

    Balancing (and Imbalancing) Your Endocannabinoid System

    When derived from hemp, CBD oil products are federally legal in the United States and available to buy online. There is more to learn about how cannabinoids like CBD can be used to encourage balance and wellness through the endocannabinoid system on our education page. This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using our website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our a Privacy Policy.

    Understanding Your Cannabinoid Receptors. CBD Oil Education. August 18, By: Kim Nunley. Here we explore these specialized receptors, answering many of the questions you likely have, including: What are cannabinoid receptors?

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