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What is the Endocannabinoid System and How Does It Work?

Introduction: What is the Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

The healing benefits of the Sativa L cannabis plants hemp and marijuana, have been well known to human civilization since the earliest age of recorded history, and most likely long before that. Hemp, highly valued all around the world for its useful fibers and healing oils is one of the first cultivated crops, dating back to ancient China. Hemp oil was an excellent therapeutic source for a broad range of ailments and disorders including pain, nausea, vomiting, inflammation, sleeplessness, and anxiety.

Marijuana's famous psychoactive and sedative properties made it a popular therapeutic as well as a natural source for spiritual and recreational use. Until the 20th Century, both cannabis varieties were revered as effective folk remedies known to provide relief "for what ails you". 

Raphael Mechoulam: Cannabis and Cannabinoid Receptors

Humanity knew that both types of cannabis plants worked very well, we just didn't know how they could be so effective as an apparent cure-all for so many seemingly unrelated mental and physical maladies. To this day, consumers tend to be skeptical about CBD products for just the reason that they seem to be too good to be true.  In the 20th Century, social and political pressures after World War 2 caused hemp and marijuana to fall out of favor.

Modern synthetic fibers edged natural hemp fibers out of the marketplace and the hemp oil byproduct was reduced to a little-known folk remedy available only in a few back-alley head shops as hemp cultivation in the US dropped off dramatically. As a member of the cannabis family, hemp was commonly associated with its psychoactive cousin marijuana even though it's a benign nonpsychoactive plant that can't induce a mental high. This is why you've never heard of anyone smuggling hemp across the border, but as we'll see the misassociation with marijuana would do little to help hemp's cause. 

Marijuana was denigrated (in error) as a "narcotic" favorite of beatnik poets and jazz musicians, a "deadly menace" unsuitable for the general population as a result of "Reefer Madness" propaganda which had snowballed and entrenched itself in the public consciousness since the notorious film's release in 1936. As late as the 1950s the terms "cannabis therapeutics" and "medical marijuana" were unheard of and no one in the life science community even considered either type of cannabis seriously for medical research. But one Israeli scientist changed all that in the 1960s when he began to look at cannabis and its effects from a scientific medical point of view. 

Dr. Raphael Mechoulam wanted to know exactly why and how cannabis affected the human brain and body as it did. His pioneering preclinical studies with rats soon led him to isolate the active components in hemp and marijuana responsible for the various beneficial effects. Those are the cannabinoids CBD (for cannabidiol), and THC (for tetrahydrocannabinol). Later clinical research on human brains revealed that the limbic and paralimbic regions of the brain had numerous receptors (neurotransmitters) specifically available for the two cannabinoids CBD and THC. Mechoulam was intrigued, knowing that these important regions of the brain control such important functions as:

  • mood
  • sleep
  • immune response
  • motor control
  • emotions
  • cognitive thought
  • memory
  • neuropathic pain
  • inflammation response

Dr. Mechoulam now had to question why our brains (and all mammals) should need such an enormous volume of cannabinoid neurotransmitters. Further research revealed that the cannabinoid receptors (CB1) were the most numerous of all types of neurotransmitters found in the human brain. As the intrepid Israeli researcher continued his quest into the 1990s he discovered that another enormous network of cannabinoid receptors (CB2) extended throughout the body in an extensive and complex biochemical communication system we now know as the endocannabinoid system.

Dr. Mechoulam's discovery of the ECS has brought some surprising facts to light which have changed both the public and scientific perception of the value of cannabis in general and the CBD cannabinoid from hemp oil in particular. 

Endocannabinoids: You're Already Using Cannabinoids!

One of the most startling facts Raphael Mechoulam discovered is that the body already manufactures its own natural supplies of the THC and CBD cannabinoids. This explained the mysterious purpose of the enormous network of cannabinoid receptors he'd found. As it turns out our bodies, and those of all mammals, are "pre-wired" to take advantage of the powerful therapeutic properties of CBD and THC, so much so that those cannabinoids are synthesized naturally in our physiological processes.

The prefix "endo" means "internal" or "within". Thus we have the term "endocannabinoid". This is also the reason that CBD products are classified as supplements rather than as drugs. When we take CBD we're not ingesting a foreign substance into our bodies, we're simply supplementing the body's natural supply of the vital endocannabinoid. Even those who have never partaken of marijuana or used a CBD oil product in their entire lives still have a naturally occurring level of the two cannabinoids working via the endocannabinoid system to maintain overall health and wellbeing. 

The Expanding Role of the Endocannabinoid System

Interest in the endocannabinoid system as expanded exponentially as exciting new research unveiled the role of the ECS as the primary regulator of physiological processes. ECS science has come a long way in the last 50 years. When Raphael Mechoulam first applied to the National Institute of Health (NIH) for a grant to research the medicinal potential of cannabis his request was denied. Today the NIH and the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) are leading institutions in the field of cannabis research. 

The ECS has now overcome the old 20th Century remnants of bias against cannabis to become one of the most promising areas of research in the life sciences. From a humble folk remedy, cannabis has evolved into the source for CBD which has been revealed as the cannabinoid responsible for most of the hemp plant's many beneficial healing properties. Scientists now know that the ECS is more extensively tuned to use CBD. THC also plays a therapeutic role in the ECS, but even then it's frequently more effective when used in conjunction with CBD.

CB1 and CB2 Receptors

The human body reacts to the CBD and THC cannabinoids in different ways because of the two cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2. The scientific distinction can be complex. The Science Direct report on the subject defines the difference between the two as,  "2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) and arachidonoylethanolamide (anandamide) are two representative endogenous ligands of cannabinoid (CB) receptors and are collectively referred to as endocannabinoids". Suffice it to say that the structure of CB1 and CB2 receptors is understood on the molecular level. For purposes of understanding the ECS, it's more enlightening to look at where the CB1 and CB2 receptors are located throughout the body.

CB1 receptors are located in dense concentrations in the brain and throughout the body. There are also some CB2 receptors in the brain, but not in such concentrations as the CB1 receptor. CB2 receptors are found more intensely expressed in the immune cells as well as the gastrointestinal system. THC binds readily with the CB1 receptor, which explains its psychoactive action. CB2 however, does not bind with THC. Naturally, we might leap to the conclusion that CB2 receptors, therefore, bind with CBD but this is not the case. 

CBD: Whole Body Effects and Action

CBD accomplishes its many therapeutic effects by inhibiting or blocking chemical actions on a complex molecular level. Rather than working directly on the CB1 and CB2 receptors, CBD targets 65 molecules to affect the chemical responses of the CB1 and CB2 receptors. CBD also works directly on pathways, or ion channels, completely independent of the CB1 and CB2 receptors. In high concentrations, CBD can directly activate the 5-HT1A (hydroxytryptamine) serotonin receptor to trigger an antianxiety effect. TRPV1 is a molecule known to mediate pain perception, inflammation, and body temperature, and CBD can bind to TRPV1 receptors to achieve an analgesic (painkilling) response. These are just two examples of many of CBD's actions on the molecular level, which helps explain how CBD works so well at alleviating such a wide range of symptoms.

Optimizing Your ECS with CBD

For years the endocannabinoid system, as well as the cannabis plant species, have been under-researched an under-reported, but all that has changed with the growing awareness of just how beneficial cannabis, and CBD products especially, can benefit overall well being. CBD from natural hemp oil has emerged as the major contributor to the many healing effects of cannabis working via the incredible endocannabinoid system, elevating the cannabis species far above its traditional role as an effective folk remedy for aches and pains.

Ongoing research into the primary role of the ECS as the regulator of homeostasis, the scientific term for the overall state of physical health and mental well being, have made cannabidiol one of the most important therapeutic substances of the 21st Century. As life scientists hone in on CBD and the intricate workings of the ECS we now get a clearer picture of why CBD exhibits such a variety of therapeutic properties including:

  • Antiemetic- Reduces nausea and vomiting 
  • Anti-cancer- CBD has been shown to destroy breast cancer cells.
  • Neuroprotective- Protects nerve and brain cells
  • Anti-seizure
  • Anti-anxiety
  • Anti-oxidant
  • Analgesic- Pain killing 
  • Antidepressant
  • Muscle Recovery
  • Injury Recovery
  • Enhanced Immune Response 
CBD as an Essential Supplement for Every Health Regimen

CBD's many benefits have taken it far beyond its initial popularity as an effective treatment for various symptoms and disorders. Today it's become a mainstay in workout programs and is recommended by professional trainers, athletes, and fitness experts. CBD has more antioxidant effect than vitamins C or D, helping to reduce the free radicals responsible for aging. Dr. Stuart Titus is quoted in a Men's Health report saying, " "We really believe that at some point there will be a fixed daily recommended serving size of CBD."

At Modern Nature, we agree with the good doctor whole-heartedly. For informed health consumers like you, our CBD capsules provide a safe and effective way to avail yourself of all of the health-boosting properties of the cannabis plant without getting high or worrying about the debilitating side effects of strong drugs and synthetic medications.

CBD's effects will vary depending on individual body weight, the rate of metabolism, and the symptoms you seek to relieve.  Our CBD capsules provide a convenient way to track the amounts of CBD ingested so that your self-administered CBD regimen can be monitored and adjusted to suit your own individual needs for maximum benefit. When you're ready to ensure that your own incredible endocannabinoid system has an adequate supply of the CBD it needs you can rely on the natural hemp-derived CBD products from Modern Nature to provide it.