Cannabinoids, a most fortunate discovery

The late twentieth century was a great time for cannabis—and everyone. In 1964, Israeli scientists discovered the cannabinoids in cannabis, namely THC, the high-producing component, and later, CBD, the non-psychoactive component. Lead scientist, Raphael Mechoulam, was able to isolate THC from the more than 80 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. Soon after, he found CBD–and the Endocannabinoid System (ECS).

Rats! Thank you for your sacrifice: CB1 and 2 are born

Over twenty years later, experiments on rats revealed cannabinoid receptors (chemical message receivers) in the brain, the first known as CB1. The most numerous neurotransmitter receptors in the brain, cannabinoid receptors help govern major physical and mental functions, such as memory and motor skills..

Further studies in the nineties confirmed that rats bred without the cannabinoid receptor CB1 were unable to feel the effects of THC, a phytocannabinoid (plant substance) that stimulates cannabinoid receptors. In other words, the absent receptors in the brain could not be activated by the THC. Thus, the plant’s THC components were only triggered when they connected with these cannabinoid receptors.

Following the discovery of CB1 receptors in the brain came CB2 in the other major organs (heart, kidneys, spleen, reproductive organs), gut, blood vessels, lymph cells, and bones. Currently, CB1 and CB2 are the only known cannabinoid receptors.

“Possibly the system with the most far-reaching effects throughout the body, the ECS participates in everything from maintaining healthy bones to preventing chronic illness, such as diabetes. The importance of its primary function—homeostasis–cannot be overstated.”

And then came the ECS

Nearly thirty years later, in 1992, the Endocannabinoid System was discovered when scientists, researching CBD this time, identified Anandamide, the “bliss molecule.” This endocannabinoid (endo meaning ‘internal’) naturally occurs both in humans and the cannabis plant. Anandamide, which means ‘bliss’ in Sanskrit, led them to the endocannabinoid system.

Three years later, Mechoulam’s team found the second known endocannabinoid, 2-arachidonoylglycerol or “2-AG.” It activates both CB1 and 2 receptors.

Though recently discovered, the ECS is believed to have existed even prior to man’s existence, in earlier mammalian life over 600 million years ago. Its primary purpose is to achieve homeostasis or stability among disparate but interdependent physiological and psychological processes.

So what’s in it for me?

nervous system-pixabay

The ECS modulates interactions (function, regulation and repair) in the various major systems of the body—neurological, cardiovascular, and digestive—regulating hormone secretions in response to stress, enzyme production to stabilize energy, tissue development, and glucose metabolism at the cellular level. It even affects fertility.

The ECS consists of endocannabinoids, endocannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), and enzymes that adjust the endocannabinoid levels to achieve balance. The medicinal benefits of CBD lie in “neuromodulatory lipids and receptors in the brain” that produce familiar human processes, conditions, and expressions, such as pain, memory, mood, appetite, sleep and more.

Possibly the system with the most far-reaching effects throughout the body, the ECS participates in everything from maintaining healthy bones to preventing chronic illness, such as diabetes. The importance of its primary function—homeostasis–cannot be overstated.

So what does all this mean for CBD—and me?

Exploring the ECS, Drs. Ralph Mechoulam and Ruth Gallily found CBD effectively reduced inflammation and anxiety. Since the endocannabinoids in the hemp plant interrelate and interact with endocannabinoids in humans and animals, CBD extracted from hemp aids the various body systems‘ functioning.

Each of these affected systems contains more or less of these endocannabinoids and receptors. For example, CB1 receptors predominate in the nervous and reproductive organs while CB2 is largely found in the spleen, tonsils and white bloods cells. Deficiency of these endocannabinoids or receptors affects major systems of the body.

Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Syndrome (CEDS), or low endocannabinoid levels, has been identified as the source of certain neurological disorders. CBD nourishes and optimizes the functioning of the ECS, alleviating symptoms of these disorders, as well as other internal or external environmental stressors, while boosting curative properties naturally occurring in the body.

Positive Mind, Positive LIfe

Acting upon the body’s organs, nervous system, and immune system, the ECS is the prime connection between the physical and mental, body and mind. But it also bridges the external environment with internal body regulation.

Cannabinoid administration changes behavior, opening a person to share, laugh, and create. It fosters open-mindedness, flexibility, and change—explaining how a state of mind, such as happiness, can promote health, just as negativity can foster disease. Outside stressors affecting the human systems (anxiety-producers and pollutants, for example) are also modulated by the ECS in bringing the body into homeostasis.

Any way you slice it, the ECS, even in its infancy, has opened doors to understanding how the cooperative we call the body operates within itself and with the outside world. Considering the recent discovery of the ECS, think of how much more health insights and applications are in store for the body-mind-environment connection!