The Endocannabinoid System: What Is Its Role?

Rohan Mathew

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All About the Endocannabinoid System

You may notice that the word endocannabinoid includes the word, cannabinoid. That’s because the endogenous cannabinoid system (otherwise known as ECS) is named after cannabis. The ECS is believed by researchers to be an important system in the human body that is involved in establishing and maintaining human health.

There are endocannabinoid receptors all over the human body and are located throughout the body in organs, glands, tissues, and even immune cells. Depending on the area in which these receptors reside, they have different tasks. However, the goal remains the same regardless: achieving homeostasis.

In the 1990s, researchers discovered the endocannabinoid system and realized its important role in regulating the body’s sleep, mood, appetite, memory, and reproduction processes. The endocannabinoid system is made from three components: the endocannabinoids, the receptors, and the enzymes. Did you know that everyone has an endocannabinoid system? This even includes those who are not using cannabis.

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Endocannabinoids are endogenous cannabinoid molecules that your body makes to serve your body’s functions. Unlike cannabinoids, endocannabinoids are made by your body. Researchers have discovered two types of endocannabinoids so far: anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). 

These endocannabinoid receptors are working all throughout the human body. The endocannabinoids connect to the receptors and alert the ECS to take action. The two main types of receptors are CB! (found in the body’s nervous system) and CB2 (found in the body’s peripheral nervous system). The endocannabinoids connect with either of these two receptors and the effects will vary depending on the location of each receptor. 

After the endocannabinoids have completed their “jobs,” enzymes in the body are then responsible for breaking down the endocannabinoids. The two most common enzymes that are responsible for breaking down the endocannabinoids are AEA and monoacylglycerol acid lipase. These two enzymes break down the 2-arachidonoylglycerol.

Can We Feel the ECS Working In Our Bodies? 

The endocannabinoid system worlds to maintain homeostasis within our bodies. This system allows our bodies to work the best and feel the best that they can. Similarly, our cardiovascular and digestive systems work to regulate themselves in order for us to function. Without these systems working, chances are we would not feel like ourselves.

Homeostasis works similarly to when our bodies get warm and produce sweat. When we engage in an intense physical activity our bodies will warm up and then produce sweat in order to try and cool the body down. Sweating is an automatic process that the body initiates. The endocannabinoid system has a similar method of functioning. 

The ECS plays a major role in the ways our body processes different responses including appetite, mood, sleep, memory, pain, pleasure, reproduction, inflammation, and more—just to name a few. 

Along with the ECS affecting our internal body, this system has also been believed to play a role in how our body responds to our surrounding environment including the way humans share, laugh, and be creative. Cannabinoids are also known to affect the way we think and move beyond the norm. According to research, these new ways of thinking and moving can promote healthy habits.

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The Entourage Effect 

Whether vaping or smoking cannabis, the body consumes many botanical compounds. These different compounds benefit the body differently than each other and also may alter when they are working with other compounds. This interaction is known as the entourage effect.

When CBD is consumed with other compounds from the cannabis plant, the entourage effect takes place. Many health and therapeutic benefits are shown when people consume the entire hemp plant rather than parts of it. The goal of CBD is to increase the body’s health, and consuming the entire plant gives the body the best chance of doing so. 

For example, if you’re in a social situation where there are people you don’t get along with well you will behave differently than if you were at a gathering with your family and friends. This is similar to how the entourage effect works and how your body, mood, and personality responds to these different situations.

All About Cannabinoids

While most cannabinoids are natural, they can also be synthetically made. Cannabinoid compounds can be found within the cannabis plant and CBD is one of the cannabinoids that can be found. Whether natural or man-made, a cannabinoid refers to any chemical compound that affects the endocannabinoid system. These compounds work to pass messages between the human body and the brain to signal various systems within the body to start working. 

All About Terpenes?

Have you ever tried CBD and wondered why it tasted the way it did? That is thanks to terpenes. Terpenes give plants a specific smell and taste. In our everyday lives, we are exposed to various terpenes that you might not even realize such as pinene (a pine scent), linalool (a lavender scent), and limonene (a citrus scent). If you live near trees, diffuse essential oils, or eat a lot of fruit then you most likely have experienced the effects of terpenes.

While these terpenes can be found in the ways listed above, they are also found in the cannabis plant, along with 100 other compounds.

Terpenes, when combined with CBD, can have other effects too. Some examples include an increase of awareness (with pinene) and the boosting of the mood (with limonene). However, there are several other effects that can occur when terpenes are combined with CBD.

The different cannabis terpenes listed above have benefits outside of CBD. However, when they are used in conjunction with CBD the entourage effect will occur. Even though the entourage effect has been around for years, research is still being conducted on terpenes and its effectiveness.

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