The Endocannabinoid System and Its Role in the Body
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) performs regulatory functions in the body. First discovered in the 1990s, study of the ECS is still a relatively new field, and medical scientists and researchers continue to find new pieces to add to the puzzle. We learn more about the endocannabinoid system, its roles, and how it functions every day, but scientists believe we have barely scratched the surface. Here's a brief rundown on a few of the things we do know.
Roles of the Endocannabinoid System
As we said, the experts are just beginning to unravel many of the ECS's mysteries. Still, they have managed to discover that it plays a role in many critical bodily functions, including:
- reproduction and fertility
- muscle repair
- motor control
- nerve and skin functions
Components of the ECS
You can think of the ECS as a series of connectors and the corresponding molecules that interact with them. Molecules binding with the ECS connectors relay messages to the cells that instruct them on what to do.
Three core components make up the ECS: enzymes, receptors, and endocannabinoids.
Enzymes perform a clean-up role in that they are responsible for breaking down endocannabinoids after they have completed their function. Two main enzymes are involved in this clean-up duty:
- monoacylglycerol acid lipase to eliminate the 2-AG endocannabinoid
- fatty acid amide hydrolase to break down anandamide (AEA), a naturally produced neurotransmitter
There are two types of receptors: CB1 receptors in the central nervous system and CB2 receptors found in immune cells and peripheral nervous systems.
Endocannabinoids can bind to either receptor and achieve different results depending on where the receptor is located. For example, if you are experiencing back trouble, the endocannabinoids might bind to spinal nerves to control pain.
An endocannabinoid binding to CB2 receptors in immune cells would signal inflammation - a common symptom of many autoimmune disorders.
How CBD Interacts with the ECS
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psychoactive component of marijuana, but it also binds with the ECS receptors like the body's natural endocannabinoids do and can interact with both the CB1 and CB2 receptors.
In addition to a marijuana high, THC interactions can also produce different effects on the mind and body, such as controlling pain or stimulating the appetite. Other, more undesirable results in some users include anxiety and paranoia in some people.
CBD also interacts with the ECS, but without producing the high associated with marijuana use. However, the interactions are not as powerful as those produced by THC. For instance, CBD does not bind with the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the same way that THC does.
Researchers theorize that CBD works by blocking endocannabinoids from getting broken down, allowing them to have a more significant influence than they usually would have.
There is still a lot of work to be done in figuring out the precise mechanisms behind how CBD works in the body. For now, studies show promising results for using CBD in pain management, treating nausea, or finding relief from anxiety and depression.
CBD is legal, safe, and readily available, but you will always get the best results by choosing a reputable source that manufactures CBD to strict regulatory standards. Of course, seeking a medical professional's advice is also highly recommended when dealing with medical and mental issues like severe pain, depression, or anxiety.
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