Our relationship with cannabinoids is old as time. For as long as humans (and all other vertebrates) have been around, we’ve had The Endocannabinoid System (ECS). Not only is it the key to understanding how we’re able to use cannabis, it’s how our bodies self-regulate AKA maintain homeostasis.
The Endocannabinoid System controls:
- And more.
Three players keep this system in check:
These are the body’s signaling molecules that help regulate homeostasis
Receptors are where the signaling molecules bind.
Imagine pac-man…but he’s eating the endocannabinoids after they’re done binding.
Here’s the big picture: Say you’re in bed getting ready to sleep, your body will release specific endocannabinoids, which bind to the receptors. Once the endocannabinoids are free from the receptors, they’re broken down by enzymes.
The Endocannabinoid System uses specific targets to regulate the body
CB1 receptors are located in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). CB2 receptors are found in the peripheral nervous system (organs and tissues). This is key in the way the system functions because it allows for the specificity needed to maintain the body’s natural balance. Essentially, the ECS can trigger a response based on the receptor’s location and the endocannabinoid binding to it.
A sexy example of the endocannabinoid system at work:
In females, the endocannabinoid system is speculated to play a role in sexual arousal. Say your female friend, Luna, is in the midst of a steamy makeout sesh. Her endocannabinoid levels will decrease. This decrease in ciruculating cannabinoids will increase her level of sexual arousal--leading to all the things we love about being turned on. 💦
Cannabinoids from cannabis interact with the Endocannabinoid System
When cannabinoids bind to our endocannabinoid receptors it triggers a response. Although these two molecules are similar in structure, they differ enough to give them different abilities.
THC and CBD interact with the Endocannabinoid System differently
THC and CBD, the two most well-known compounds in cannabis, interact with the Endocannabinoid System in different ways. While THC is a psychoactive compound, CBD is non-intoxicating and has a more indirect effect on the ECS.
Cannabidiol (CBD) and Its Effects on the Endocannabinoid System
CBD is one of the most abundant cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, and it has gained considerable attention in recent years for its potential therapeutic benefits. Unlike THC, which is known for its psychoactive effects, CBD does not produce a "high" and is considered non-intoxicating.
CBD's effects on the endocannabinoid system are complex and not fully understood. However, research suggests that it can influence the system in various ways. For instance, CBD can modulate the activity of CB1 and CB2 receptors, which can lead to the activation of other receptors involved in pain perception, inflammation, and immune function.
CBD can also interact with enzymes involved in the breakdown of endocannabinoids, including anandamide, which is known for its pain-relieving properties. By inhibiting these enzymes, CBD can increase the levels of endocannabinoids in the body, leading to enhanced pain relief and other therapeutic effects.
CBD's effects on the endocannabinoid system can also be influenced by other factors, including the dose and route of administration. For instance, research suggests that high doses of CBD can lead to the downregulation of CB1 receptors, which can reduce the psychoactive effects of THC.
Similarly, the route of administration can also affect CBD's effects on the endocannabinoid system. When taken orally, CBD is metabolized in the liver, which can lead to the formation of metabolites that can also influence the endocannabinoid system. In contrast, when CBD is inhaled, it bypasses the liver, leading to a more rapid onset of effects.
THC and Its Effects on the Endocannabinoid System
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is another well-known cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. Unlike CBD, THC is known for its psychoactive effects, which produce a feeling of euphoria or "high."
THC's effects on the endocannabinoid system are similar to CBD in that it can interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors. However, THC's interactions with these receptors are more potent and can lead to a range of effects, including altered perception, mood, and memory.
THC's effects on the endocannabinoid system can also be influenced by various factors, including the dose, route of administration, and individual differences in metabolism. For instance, higher doses of THC can lead to greater activation of CB1 receptors, which can result in more pronounced psychoactive effects.
THC's effects on the endocannabinoid system have also been linked to various potential therapeutic benefits. These include pain relief, appetite stimulation, and anti-inflammatory effects. However, these potential benefits must be weighed against THC's potential side effects, including anxiety, paranoia, and impaired cognitive function.
The endocannabinoid system plays a vital role in regulating various physiological processes, and its activation by cannabinoids found in cannabis plants, including CBD, can lead to a wide range of effects. CBD's effects on the endocannabinoid system have been linked to various potential therapeutic benefits, including pain relief, anxiety and depression, neuroprotection, and anti-inflammatory effects.
As cannabis use continues to gain acceptance, understanding the role of the endocannabinoid system in cannabis's effects is essential for developing effective therapies and optimizing cannabis use for recreational and medicinal purposes. However, more research is needed to fully understand the complex interactions between cannabinoids, the endocannabinoid system, and the body's physiological processes.