We did a quick poll about the endocannabinoid system (ECS) with our online community and over half (59%) weren’t aware of it, and 96% wanted to know more.
For us at APOTHEM, learning about this intricate system of neurotransmitters in our bodies was a lightbulb moment. It suddenly made sense that CBD makes us feel so good!
We’re taught in school about the eleven major organ systems in our bodies: the circulatory, respiratory, urinary, reproductive, integumentary (skin), skeletal, muscular, nervous, endocrine, lymphatic and digestive systems. If you’re wondering why the endocannabinoid system never came up, it was only discovered in the 90s so hasn’t made it into our schoolbooks just yet.
We’ll start with the basics…
Discovered by Israeli scientists studying the cannabis plant, the endocannabinoid system occurs throughout our bodies and is made up of three things: enzymes, endocannabinoids, and receptors at the end of our nerves. These occur in our skin, immune cells, bone, fat tissue, liver, pancreas, skeletal muscle, heart, blood vessels, kidney and gastrointestinal tract – pretty much everywhere! CB1 receptors are found mainly in the brain and nervous system and CB2 are found mainly in the immune system and in most of our major organs.
The scientists found that humans, and all organisms with a vertebra (mammals, fish, birds and reptiles), naturally produce molecules in our bodies that are very similar to the structure that occur within the cannabis plant. Hence the name: “Endo” – endogenous, which means it is produced naturally within the body - and “Cannabinoid” – cannabis-like.
Essentially, cannabis-like molecules naturally occur within us. They then attach to receptors at the end of each of our nerves, to receive these cannabis-like molecules. These receptors are perfectly designed to receive the molecules, like a lock and key. Nature works in wonderful ways.
So why is it there? What does it do?
The ECS is critical for human health. It plays a crucial role in regulating emotional, mental and physical status. Basically, it is responsible for maintaining homeostasis – which is when the body is at optimal functionality – complete equilibrium, or balance. Nearly all vital sensations that we feel on a daily basis are in some way regulated by the ECS.
The endocannabinoid system helps to regulate our bodily functions such as sleep, memory, appetite, pain and inflammations, mood and even reproduction.
Our body transmits endocannabinoids to help regulate all of these functions and bring them back into homeostasis. So you may be feeling overwhelmed, and to counteract this, your body would produce and transmit a molecule to try and bring you back into equilibrium.
Where does CBD come into this?
Molecules such CBD, CBG, CBN, THC etc. are phyto-cannabinoids, which are cannabinoids that naturally occur within the cannabis plant. These can mimic endocannabinoids, and our bodies don’t know the difference, thus supplementing with them can trick the body into restoring balance.
The receptors at the end of each nerve are the lock, and the cannabinoids are the key. Regardless of whether these are endo or phyto they fit in perfectly and unlock homeostasis.
Interestingly, mothers transmit endocannabinoids to their young through their breastmilk. The main two they transmit are ‘2-AG’ and ‘anandamide’ which is also called the bliss molecule. That explains the blissful sleepy babies after they’ve had their milk!
To sum it up really simply…
Our endocannabinoid system helps to bring balance into the human body and its functions, regulating sleep, memory, appetite, pain and inflammations and moods.
This is also why each person’s experience with CBD is so personal. Each story is unique because our bodies are all unique. Cannabinoids can have a varied effect on people as the endocannabinoid system helps regulate so many systems so it’s important to find your own balance of how to use CBD. We encourage people to start slow and build up to regular use, paying attention to how the body is responding to the balancing effects CBD has on them personally. We recommend consulting your doctor if you’re unsure whether CBD is right for you and if you’re taking any existing medications.
- Mackie K. Cannabinoid receptors: where they are and what they do. J Neuroendocrinol. 2008;20 Suppl 1:10-14. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2826.2008.01671.
- https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/9/9/686/htm#cite Aug 2019