What Is the Endocannabinoid System?
The Endocannabinoid System is the primary human biological system that interacts with hemp. Hemp and cannabis are versatile plants used by millions of people around the globe for different purposes. Every effect that CBD and THC have on the human body is thanks to the endocannabinoid system.
How Homoeostasis Works
To understand the body’s endocannabinoid system, it’s important to start with one of the most essential concepts in biology: Homeostasis. The role of the endocannabinoid system is to maintain homeostasis or equilibrium in the body.
In order for our bodies to perform their best, the biological systems found within us (ex: the cardiovascular system and digestive system) must regulate themselves to keep conditions in an ideal middle range.
Cannabinoid Receptors Within the Endocannabinoid System
The three main components of the endocannabinoid system are cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids, and metabolic enzymes.
Cannabinoid receptors lie on cell surfaces throughout the body. They transmit information about changing conditions to the cell’s inside. This, in turn, sparks a cellular response.
The two major cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system are CB1 and CB2 receptors. They are not the only cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system, but they were the first ones to be discovered and, as a result, are the best understood.
Endocannabinoids are endogenous cannabinoids that bind to and activate cannabinoid receptors, similar to the way that plant cannabinoids do. These cannabinoids are produced naturally by cells in the human body and help regulate many biological functions.
A few examples of cannabinoids include:
Metabolic enzymes perform various cellular functions that are vital for homeostasis. When working with the endocannabinoid system, metabolic enzymes get rid of endocannabinoids after they have been used. FAAH is an enzyme that breaks down anandamide, while MAGL breaks down 2-AG.
These enzymes ensure that endocannabinoids are used only when they are needed. This
How the Endocannabinoid System Regulates Neurons
Neurons are brain cells that communicate with each other by sending electrochemical signals to one another. Each neuron must listen to its partner neuron in order to decide whether to fire off a signal.
However, neurons do not like to give out too much signal. In fact, a neutron that gives out too many signals can become toxic. This is where endocannabinoids come in.
Regulating Inflammation with Endocannabinoids
When the immune system suffers from an infection, it responds with inflammation as a natural protective reaction. The main purpose of inflammation is to reduce damaged tissue as well as remove pathogens or germs which can cause infection. Inflammation is a result of immune cells and fluid cells moving into the affected area to help regain homeostasis.
How Do THC and CBD Interact with the Endocannabinoid System?
The main reason that plant cannabinoids provide psychoactive and medicinal effects is because they interact with the endocannabinoid system.
- THC induces a temporary high because it activates the CB1 receptors located within the brain. It does not interact with CB1 receptors in the same way that natural endocannabinoids do: Metabolic enzymes that would normally break down endocannabinoids after they are used do not work on THC, so THC lingers for a longer period of time.
- CBD, the most common non-psychoactive cannabinoid found hemp and cannabis, interacts with various receptors in the brain. So, although plant cannabinoids may interact with the same receptors as endogenous endocannabinoids, they also interact with other receptors. This is what causes the effects of endocannabinoids and plant cannabinoids in the body to differ.
CBD can also influence the number of endocannabinoids present in the brain. This is referred to as “endocannabinoid tone.”