Hemp Basics : Endocannabinoid System, Part One

What is the Endocannabinoid System ?

The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is a biological system in people and animals that uses cannabinoids (chemical compounds naturally produced in the body and also in plants) to support and regulate many body functions and processes, including:

  • Reducing pain and inflammation
  • Regeneration of some types of cells
  • Reducing anxiety, and promoting relaxation and restful sleep
  • Improving mood and memory; regulating appetite
  • Regulating some neurological functions
  • Regulating some immune functions
  • Promoting safety functions such as the inhibition of seizure activity and cancer cell growth

The Endocannabinoid System is composed of:

  • Many endocannabinoids (cannabinoid compounds produced by the body)*
  • 2 primary Cannabinoid Receptor types : CB1 and CB2, and several others 
  • Enzymes to support the interactions of the cannabinoids and receptors

CB1 Receptors:

  • Primarily associated with the central nervous system (CNS), including the brain and spinal cord; located at nerve ends
  • Help reduce pain, manage mood, affect appetite, improve memory, control muscle spasms and convulsions (seizures), inhibit the growth of cancer cells and tumors

CB2 Receptors:

  • Primarily associated with the immune system and peripheral nervous system (PNS), with the highest concentration of receptors in the gut
  • Help reduce inflammation and support immune function

The Receptors in the body are like locks, and cannabinoids (both those produced in the body and those produced by plants which are taken as supplements) are like keys that fit into the locks and activate them.  Enzymes present in the body support the interactions of the cannabinoids with the receptors, helping to generate their designated functions.

*  In contrast, the cannabinoids produced in plants are called “phytocannabinoids”

Sources:

DeAngelo, Steve, The Cannabis Manifesto : A New Paradigm for Wellness, 2015. North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA.

Hempika.com/all-about-cannabinoids/

Leafscience.com/2017/10/25/what-are-cannabinoids/

Sweet, Tami, The Wholistic Healing Guide to Cannabis, 2020. Storey Publishing, North Adams, MA.