Endocannabinoid System

The Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system is a biological system that regulates a range of physiological functions including appetite, mood and the quality of our sleep. A chemist identified the first endocannabinoid in the human brain around 30 years ago. Endocannabinoids are similar to the cannabinoid compounds found in the cannabis plant, but unlike cannabinoids, they are naturally produced within the human body. Scientists are still conducting research to understand the full range of complexities in this system.

There are three main components of the endocannabinoid system: endocannabinoids themselves, endocannabinoid receptors, and enzymes. Endocannabinoids (short for endogenous cannabinoids) are naturally occurring neurotransmitters, chemical messengers that transmit signals between nerve cells. The body constantly produces them as they are needed, so it’s actually quite difficult to tell what typical levels are.

Endocannabinoid receptors exist on the surface of cells throughout the human body. Endocannabinoids bind to these receptors, sending messages to the endocannabinoid system that then generate a response. Two primary receptors are present within the body: CB1 and CB2. CB1 is primarily present in the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). CB2, on the other hand, is mostly present in the peripheral nervous system and immune cells. Scientists believe a third cannabinoid receptor may also exist, but research is not yet conclusive.

Endocannabinoids can attach to either the CB1 or CB2 receptor, causing a different reaction depending on the receptor and its location in the body. For example, endocannabinoids can bind to CB1 receptors in a spinal nerve to ease pain or to CB2 receptors in an immune cell to relieve inflammation. Enzymes make up the third main component of the endocannabinoid system. They are responsible for breaking down endocannabinoids after they’ve generated the necessary response within the body.

The endocannabinoid system helps the body maintain homeostasis, a state of physiological equilibrium for appetite, temperature, blood sugar and more. Research is still underway regarding the precise mechanism by which endocannabinoids bind to receptors on cellular surfaces. But when something within the body is out of balance, the endocannabinoid system works to correct the problem. Endocannabinoids, receptors and enzymes make up this system, and external cannabinoids such as CBD and CBN have the potential to interact with it to produce a variety of therapeutic results.

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