More and more people are now becoming aware of certain compounds found in cannabis such as THC and CBD. They know that there is a myriad of potential benefits that these compounds found in marijuana can have for consumers, but there is a lot more going on than meets the eye.
Some people consume cannabis due to the high that it gives, whereas others are looking for relief from particular conditions. If it wasn’t for a certain biological system however, there would be no way in which the human body could interact with the vital compounds found in marijuana, including CBD and THC.
This is the endocannabinoid system. There are a lot of functions in which this system plays an important role, other than allowing humans to enjoy certain psychoactive effects from smoking weed. There are many vital processes in the human body that it oversees. This article aims to look at what exactly the endocannabinoid system does and how it can operate effectively in the human body.
Basics of the endocannabinoid system
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is made up of endocannabinoids; these are neurotransmitters which can bind to the cannabinoid receptors which are found throughout the body.
The ECS plays an important role in a number of psychological and physical processes in the human body, such as memory, mood, pain tolerance, appetite and fertility. There are three mains aspects of this system.
Firstly, there are the endocannabinoids, which are the molecules which activate the cannabinoid receptors. Then, there are the cannabinoid receptors which are located on the cell’s surface. Finally, there are the metabolic enzymes which are used to break down endocannabinoids following their use.
These receptors are located on the cell surface, and they take note of any outside signals and conditions. If there are changes occurring outside the cell, they will transmit this information and will act as the catalyst or the necessary response.
The two significant receptors are called CB1 and CB2. While there are other cannabinoid receptors, these are the ones which have been studied the most. CB1 receptors are predominantly found in the brain and are what cause people to get high after consuming marijuana, as this is where THC is able to interact with the brain. The CB2 receptors, on the other hand, are found largely in the immune system.
These are the molecules that are able to bind with and subsequently activate the receptors, which are produced inside of the body by the cells. The mains types are 2-AG and anandamide.
These enzymes will destroy the endocannabinoids as soon as they have been used. The main types are FAAH, which is responsible for the breakage of anandamide, alongside MAGL which focuses on 2-AG breakdown. In short, the role of these enzymes is to make sure endocannabinoids can be used, but that they are not used for too long.
Uses of the ECS
Brain cell regulation
Brain cells, called neurons, communicate with one another through the use of electrochemical signals. However, they cannot deal with being sent too many signals at any given time, because it can lead to levels of toxicity.
Endocannabinoids are able to help with this scenario. If there are two neurons trying to communicate with one another and one of them is overactive (subsequently sending excessive amounts of signals), the neuron that receives these signals will then create endocannabinoids at a point where they can have a connection with the overactive neuron. The resulting endocannabinoids will then go to the overactive neuron and bind to its CB1 receptors.
The overactive neuron will then be sent a sort of message to tell it to stop sending so many signals. This means that a balanced and organised brain condition can be maintained as a result of these endocannabinoids.
The role of endocannabinoids and inflammation
Inflammation occurs naturally by the immune system in order to protect things as a result of some sort of physical damage or infection, with the goal of getting rid of pathogens or any tissue that has been damaged.
Due to inflammation, immune cells and fluid move into the area and causes the swelling and pain. It is vital that this inflammation does not last for too long and that it stays only in the location where the issue occurs, otherwise it can have harmful consequences.
The likes of autoimmune diseases and chronic inflammation are serious problems that happen when the immune system is regularly being activated in an unnecessary circumstances.
In these cases, the inflammatory response goes on for too long and it can start to attack the healthy cells. In studies so far, endocannabinoids appear to limit or suppress the inflammatory signals in the immune system. This is why many people use marijuana in the treatment of inflammation, because endocannabinoid production has been shown to be a somewhat effective treatment against inflammatory disease.
It is thanks to the ECS that plant cannabinoids are able to have their medicinal and psychoactive effects in the human body. THC is able to get a person high due to the brain’s CB1 receptors being activated.
Without the ECS, there could be no way in which the human body could take advantage of these chemical compounds and therefore you might as well be smoking literal grass for all the good it would do.
The ECS system is highly efficient thanks to the metabolic enzymes, endocannabinoid molecules and the cannabinoid receptors it is made up of. It ensures that the body can stay in an optimal level of homeostasis.
Moreover, the ECS is kept tightly regulated due to the numerous important roles it plays. Despite all of the positives, it is important to note that ECS activation through cannabis consumption is not always going to ensure that everything works out the right way. There are issues that can occur within the system, just like with any other biological processes; it is a complicated matter.
All in all, the vital functions carried about by the ECS throughout the human body are able to provide an explanation for a lot of different types of diseases and conditions can be responsive to cannabis-related treatments.