The endocannabinoid system or ECS is a group of specialized lipids, their receptors, and the enzymes that produce and degrade them; it is found in the mammalian brain and is involved in numerous physiological processes, including appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory. It is also a key in maintaining homeostasis.
What is the Endocannabinoid System?
The endocannabinoid system or ECS refers to a group of endogenous cannabinoid receptors found in the mammalian brain, and throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems. Was that a bit too technical? Try picturing diminutive locks and keys; the cell receptors act like locks, and the agonists are the keys. When the two bind together, they send a message giving your cell-specific direction.
The ECS is known as “the body’s own cannabinoid system” and is involved in a variety of physiological processes, including appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory. It also ties into the motivation or reward for locomotor activity. This includes voluntary exercise and the “runner’s high.”
The Endocannabinoid System
According to Wikipedia, the endocannabinoid system is:
Two primary endocannabinoid receptors have been identified: CB1, first cloned in 1990; and CB2, cloned in 1993. CB1 receptors are found predominantly in the brain and nervous system, as well as in peripheral organs and tissues, and are the main molecular target of the endocannabinoid ligand (binding molecule), Anandamide, as well as its mimetic phytocannabinoid, THC. One other main endocannabinoid is 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) which is active at both cannabinoid receptors, along with its own mimetic phytocannabinoid, CBD. 2-AG and CBD are involved in the regulation of appetite, immune system functions and pain management
From a physiological perspective, just how significant is this system to us? According to NORML:
The endogenous cannabinoid system, named after the plant that led to its discovery, is perhaps the most important physiologic system involved in establishing and maintaining human health. Endocannabinoids and their receptors are found throughout the body: in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells. In each tissue, the cannabinoid system performs different tasks, but the goal is always the same: homeostasis, the maintenance of a stable internal environment despite fluctuations in the external environment.
Homeostasis is an important concept too, and while it may seem complex at first, it’s easy to understand with the Goldilocks analogy used by Leafly.
That classic fairy tale illustrated the idea that the best outcome often lies somewhere in the middle, between two extremes. We don’t want things too hot or too cold, but just right.
Homeostasis is the concept that most biological systems are actively regulated to maintain conditions within a narrow range. Our body doesn’t want its temperature to be too hot or too cold, blood sugar levels too high or too low, and so on. Conditions need to be just right for our cells to maintain optimum performance, and exquisite mechanisms have evolved to draw them back to the Goldilocks zone if they move out. The body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a vital molecular system for helping maintain homeostasis—it helps cells stay in their Goldilocks zone.
What happens when we can’t maintain homeostasis?
Keep in mind that “balance” is critical, as research has shown if we tip the scales too heavily in the direction of CB1 inhibition, there may be an associated decrease in fertility, with increased risk of depression, mood disturbance, and immunosuppression. An overabundance of CB1 signaling has been associated with increased psychoactivity, systemic inflammation, cardiovascular risk, diabetes, and obesity. In contrast, CB2 over-activation and dominance could lead to decreased immune function and diminished wound healing.
CBD and Inflammation
Putting this back into the context of TheraJoy, let’s consider pain caused by an inflammatory condition like inflammatory arthritis. Would you like to endure the pain of systemic inflammation and inflammatory arthritis simultaneously? I didn’t think so.
Inflammation is a natural protective reaction the immune system has in response to infection or physical damage. The purpose of inflammation is to remove pathogens (germs) or damaged tissue. The inflamed area is produced by fluid and immune cells moving into the area to do the dirty work and return things to their Goldilocks zone.
In general, endocannabinoids seem to suppress or limit the immune system’s inflammatory signals.
Being neither a doctor or professor, I don’t expect you to take my word at more than face value. However, I would urge you to consider the words of Professor Prakash Nagarkatti, Vice President for Research at the University of South Carolina. Professor Nagarkatti has been quoted saying “Most of our research demonstrates that endocannabinoids are produced upon activation of immune cells and may help regulate the immune response by acting as anti-inflammatory agents. Thus, interventions that manipulate the metabolism or production of endocannabinoids may serve as a novel treatment modality against a wide range of inflammatory disease.”
It’s clear that Professor Nagarkatti can see the anti-inflammatory value of CBD, and the more I learn, the more I find myself agreeing. If CBD can help you, then why are you coping with the dangerous side effects of pharmaceuticals? Try TheraJoy today.
Remember, always consult your doctor before you begin taking a supplement or make any changes to your existing medication and supplement routine. This blog post is not intended to be medical advice, but it is information you can use as a conversation-starter with your doctor at your next appointment.
* Please note, some of the quotations have been bolded to emphasize key points.