The Endocannabinoid System (ECS for short) is an essential part of our bodies that plays a big role in our physical and psychological health. The surprising thing is, many of us don’t even know what this system is, how it works, or what it does. Well, today we will be putting this endocannabinoid mystery to rest, by telling you everything you need to know about it in the simplest way possible.
What is the Endocannabinoid System?
First and foremost, it is important to understand just what this system in our body is. The endocannabinoid system, or ECS, is a complex cell-signalling system that was identified or “discovered” by researchers exploring Cannabis. Although the presence of this system has been known for almost 2 decades now, we still do not know very much and are learning more about it and what it does.
One thing important to understand is that “endocannabinoid” does not mean cannabis system. This ECS is active and present in your body even if you don’t use cannabis, or if you never have. It is a biological system that we all have, not just “stoners” have it.
The ECS, as mentioned above, plays a primary role in our mental and physical health. This is due to the fact that it plays a role in regulating a range of processes and functions, including mood, sleep, appetite, memory and reproductive health.
How Does the ECS Work?
Despite the fact that the endocannabinoid system is a complicated system that is still not fully understood by scientists, we do know the primary “outline” of how it works. What we know is that it involves 3 core components: endocannabinoids, receptors and enzymes.
Endocannabinoids - Also called endogenous cannabinoids, and are molecules made by the body. They are similar to cannabinoids, which are compounds found in cannabis, but instead of being produced by the cannabis plant, they’re produced by the body.
There have been two key endocannabinoids identified so far: 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG), and anandamide (AEA). These keep internal function running smoothly, and the body produces these 2 main types as needed.
Receptors - Endocannabinoid receptors are found throughout the body. Endocannabinoids bind to these receptors to signal the ECS, and make it take action or “get its job done”.
The two main types of endocannabinoid receptors are CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are found mostly in the central nervous system, whereas CB2 receptors are found in the peripheral nervous system (especially immune cells).
Endocannabinoids can bind to both CB1 and CB2 receptors, and the effect caused by the endocannabinoids depends completely on what receptors they bind to, and what part of the body the receptors are located.
Enzymes - Last but not least, enzymes. Enzymes are responsible for breaking down endocannabinoids once they have “completed their mission”. There are two main enzymes responsible for this: monoacylglycerol acid lipase, which typically takes care of 2-AG, and fatty acid amide hydrolase, which break down AEA.
What Does the ECS Do? | Why is it so Important?
As mentioned, the ECS is an essential part of our bodies. One of the primary factors that makes the ECS so important for our bodies is the fact that it maintains homeostasis— meaning that it keeps stability in the body’s internal environment. It does this by being part of these following processes:
Now that you have learned more about how the endocannabinoid system works, what it is, and what it does, you most probably understand just how important it is. It keeps our bodies happy, us happy, and our external environment thriving. It definitely deserves a big “thank you”, and a lot more attention than it receives, don’t you think?!
CBD and the ECS
With its popularity booming, you probably have already heard of CBD. CBD (cannabidiol) is one of the 100+ cannabinoids found in the cannabis and hemp plant, and has become widely-known primarily because of its capability of interacting with the ECS and creating a positive impact on this system.
As mentioned above, one of the 3 main components that make the ECS “work properly” are endocannabinoids. One for the types of cannabinoids are called phytocannabinoids, which are found in the cannabis plant. There are around 70 phytocannabinoids known, and one of these is CBD.
CBD, being an endocannabinoid, is capable of triggering receptors found throughout the body. One of the main unique characteristics of CBD is that it primarily triggers CB2 receptors, and is not capable of triggering CB1 receptors directly. This means that it is incapable of causing psychoactive effects, which are mostly known to be caused by triggers in CB1 receptors.
Despite its inability to cause a high or psychoactive effects, it is able to do something more amazing: fuel the ECS and restore homeostasis. Due to the fact that the ECS can easily be thrown off by stress, anxiety and other causes, discovering a natural ECS “helper” is obviously a big breakthrough. This is also something that has added to CBD’s popularity— it’s impressive ability to fuel the ECS efficiently, and not cause unwanted psychoactive effects like other endocannabinoids, such as THC.