When I was first using CBD years ago, it was super important to me to know why what I was putting in my body was actually working. I feel like this is the main difference between someone who uses cannabis recreationally and someone who uses it medicinally. Often times recreational users will use cannabis purely for the high that they can get from it.
Of course, to each his own, but I prefer to understand why cannabis is considered to be “plant medicine” in order to be able to understand how to use it responsibly. Deepening your knowledge of how cannabis works helps one to gain more respect for the plant and it’s centuries long history of medicinal benefits. There are many reasons why cannabis is called plant medicine, but they all come down to the main system in our bodies that metabolize and make use of the cannabis we consume whether it is THC, CBD, or any other cannabinoid – and thatsystem is the Endocannabinoid System (ECS).
What does this mean?
The ECS is a “group of neuromodulatory lipids and their receptors.” This system helps to regulate your body’s cardiovascular, nervous, and immune system functions.
Endocannabinoids are made inside of your body and are quite similar to external cannabinoids found in the marijuana and hemp plants. Two of the main endocannabinoids are anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2AG). The role of these two endocannabinoids to to help keep the body in homeostasis. Since they are produced on an as needed basis, there is not set baseline for how much should be present within the body at any one point in time.
CB1 and CB2 receptors are also part of the ECS and are abundant in the human body. These are the site which cannabinoids bind in order to be used by the body. These receptors can be found mostly in fatty tissue and in the brain. Predominantly, CB1 receptors are located in the central nervous system (CNS), while CB2 receptors are mostly in the peripheral nervous system (PNS) and immune cells.
The third aspect of the ECS are enzymes which help to break down and make use of cannabinoids. The two main enzymes are fatty acid amide hydralase and monoacylglycerol acid lipase.
The ECS receptors can be found in most systems of the body such as disgestion, apetite, memory, sleep, stress, reproductive system function, mood, hormones, memory, and many others. All of these processes help to keep the body in homeostasis, or harmonious flow and function.
Now here is one of the coolest parts – because the main goal of the ECS is to help your body achieve homeostasis, it only activates its self in the part of the body that it needs to. Meaning, that it can work on stress in the nervous system without causing imbalance in the other areas like the reproductive system and vice versa. Once the endocannabinoids have brought the system into balance, that’s when the enzymes come in and help to break the rest down before they cause an upset in the newly achieved balance. It’s an incredibly scientific and precise response that is in the process of being studied more in depth.
So now that we have a better understanding of the ECS is, we need to know how external cannabinoids function when they are used topically or consumed internally (this includes tincture, edible, suppositories, and smokable.) This elicits a different response from the body as using cannabinoids from an external source flood the system. While there are similarities between the endocannabinoids that come from the body and the cannabinoids that come from cannabis, the main difference is within the enzyme FAAH. Because this enzyme can break down the endocannbinoids that the body produces but can’t break down the cannabinoids in THC, the latter tend to stay in the system longer and their effects can be felt more potently.
CBD however, has been known to inhibit the FAAH enzyme from breaking down your body’s naturally produced endocannabinoids, particularly, anandamide, which is helpful for people with anxiety because it is considered to be a bliss-inducing endocannabinoid.
Can a person be deficient in endocannabinoids?
Absolutely! In fact, several conditions have been linked to endocannabinoid deficiency. They include but are not limited to: Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and Chronic Migraine.
It makes sense that these would be conditions that are associated with a deficiency of endocannabinoids because of the role they play in the overall homeostasis of the body. “Fibromyalgia is now conceived as a central sensitization state with secondary hyperalgesia. Cannabinoids have similarly demonstrated the ability to block spinal, peripheral and gastrointestinal mechanisms that promote pain in headache, fibromyalgia, IBS and related disorders.”
With this in mind, and research on our side, it would stand to reason that the supplemental use of cannabis could help to improve some of the debilitating aspects of these diseases. As someone who personally has all of the mentioned conditions and more, I can attest to the over all benefit that CBD and Delta 8 THC has been to my life. While some people may see cannabis as a party drug or something to do socially, there are others who truly view it as beneficial medicine when other medication and therapies have fallen short.
I have barely touched the surface of the incredible aspects of the endocannabinoid system. As research continues to be conducted, the depth of benefits that cannabis will continue to emerge.
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