About the Endocannabinoid System
Maintaining a natural balance in your body.
Known as the body’s “master regulator”, the endocannabinoid system is responsible for maintaining homeostasis in the body, most notably the central and peripheral nervous system and the immune system.
CBD supports this vital role which has important positive effects on the body, including promoting homeostasis, reducing inflammation and decreasing pain perception.
Explore the Endocannabinoid System
The Endocannabinoid System
Your ECS is your body’s master regulator as it plays a critical role in maintaining homeostasis and it impacts most of the major systems in the body as cannabinoid receptors are located in the central and peripheral nervous systems, as well as the immune system.
The recently discovered endocannabinoid system doesn’t just respond to endocannabinoids produced by your body, but also external cannabinoids such as CBD. Research is currently pointing toward the ability of phytocannabinoids to reduce symptoms associated with conditions such as epilepsy, chronic inflammation, depression, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, anxiety, and opioid withdrawal.
By stimulating the endocannabinoid system, CBD helps support homeostasis in the body, reduces inflammation and decreases pain perception. But, before we get into the role of CBD, let’s take a quick step back at look at the endocannabinoid system.
How does the endocannabinoid system work?
Scientists first learnt about and started exploring, the outlines of the endocannabinoid system in the 1960s and 1970s while researching the effects of cannabis on the body. In the process of their research, a number of phytocannabinoids (“phyto” meaning “plant”) from the cannabis plant were isolated. By studying the effects of the phytocannabinoids, researchers discovered an intricate web of enzymes, receptors and pathways that manufacture and use naturally-occurring endocannabinoids.
Your ECS is a complex network of transmitters and cannabinoid receptors called CB1 and CB2. The neurotransmitters of your ECS are the endocannabinoids (eCBs) and they act as messengers, similar to the way that serotonin and dopamine are chemical transmitters in the nervous system.
CB1 receptors are found predominately in the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). Depending on where they are located in the brain, they may be involved in regulating mood, memory, motor function or pain perception. They are also found in lower concentrations in the rest of the body and play a role in heart health, digestions, hormone production and pregnancy. CB2 are found throughout the peripheral nervous system and immune system, are most often located on immune system cells, helping to moderate the immune response and inflammation.
These receptors are stimulated when they receive the endocannabinoids anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-ag). Anandamide plays a role in the neural generation of pleasure and motivation, while arachidonoylglycerol is thought to play a role in appetite regulation, immune system functions and pain management. When the endocannabinoids bind with the receptors they send a signal that helps to regulate physiological functions such as sleep and inflammation. Once they have performed their role, metabolic enzymes (fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL)) break down the endocannabinoids.
How does CBD work with your ECS?
Most cannabinoids (both phyto- and endo-) bind to your CB1 and CB2 receptors, but CBD is slightly different. CBD supports the work of your CB1 and CB2 receptors by modifying the receptors’ ability to bind to cannabinoids, but it doesn’t directly trigger them.
CBD also influences other types of receptors and enhances natural levels of endocannabinoids. One way that it does this is by occupying the enzymes that break down the endocannabinoids. FAAH, in particular, is interesting, as around 20% of adults have a genetic variation that impairs their FAAH enzyme function. This results in higher levels of anandamide, and people with this variation are generally less anxious. CBD mimics this by inhibiting the enzymes, resulting in higher levels of feel-good anandamide (also known as the “bliss molecule”) and 2-AG. CBD’s indirect actions also include activating TRPV1 receptors that control functions such as body temperature, pain perception and inflammation.
What can you do to support a healthy ECS?
Food, exercise and stress management are all health-supporting activities that can boost the function of your endocannabinoid system and make it easier to keep your body’s systems in balance. Then there is also the exciting option of incorporating phytocannabinoids into your lifestyle to support the function of your ECS, especially if it is not functioning as it should.
Unlike endocannabinoids that are naturally synthesised by the body, phytocannabinoids are synthesised in the plant Cannabis Sativa, the most well-known of which are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Hemp-based CBD in the UK is produced by extracting CBD from industrial hemp that contains low levels (and sometimes no) THC, making them legal to purchase, sell and consume in the UK. CBD is non-intoxicating and offers a number of health and wellness-supporting benefits. Because the levels of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC are so low, it cannot induce a “high”.
CBD is available in a wide range of strengths and forms designed to fit into your lifestyle. Choose from options such as tinctures, vapes, topicals and more. Each offers unique advantages and can be combined to match your specific needs and restore stability to your endocannabinoid system.
The National Institute of Health has shared findings that the introduction of external cannabinoids, like CBD, could be useful in treating a number of conditions such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, inflammation, acne, depression, psoriasis, arthritis, nausea, anxiety, ADHD, irritable bowel syndrome and more. This is not a full list of the benefits of CBD as researchers and scientists are only just beginning to understand how cannabinoids can restore and heal the human body.
Crucial to this research is a deepening understanding of the role that the endocannabinoid system plays in regulating many systems within the body, and how cannabinoids can support that process.