The Endocannabinoid System & How it Works with CBD
There are many people are benefiting from using cannabidiol (CBD) for a variety of different symptoms and ailments. This leads many to ask how CBD can have so many benefits for so many things.
The secret lies in the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a physiological system that every single vertebrate on the planet has within their bodies.
What is the Endocannabinoid System?
The ECS is made up of three primary parts: endocannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors, and metabolic enzymes.
Endocannabinoids (endo = inside) are retrograde neurotransmitters called such because they are a type of cannabinoid manufactured inside the body and have the ability to control and regulate the signalling of other chemicals and neurotransmitters in the body. In other words, if too much or too little of a certain neurotransmitter is being sent along a neural pathway, endocannabinoids can send its own message back up that neural pathway, and tell the cells to either stop, or send more signalling neurotransmitters.
CB-1 & CBD-2 receptors are receptors that act as a kind of “lock-and-key” system, where the receptor is the lock and the endocannabinoid is the key that unlocks the signalling systems between different cells in the body.
- Responsible for regulating the release of neurotransmitters and balancing neuronal activity
- Mostly found in the brain and central nervous system, but is also present in the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, liver and kidneys
- Found within the immune system, but is also present in the spleen, tonsils, thymus gland, and the retinal cells of the eye.
- immune function
- cell death and cell migration during tissue development
- modulation of intestinal inflammatory responses (e.g., Chron’s disease, inflammatory bowel diseases, and ulcerative colitis)
There are two main metabolic enzymes responsible for breaking down endocannabinoids. It is because of these enzymes that, unlike other hormones and other neurochemicals, cannabinoids don’t hang around and cannot be stored for later use.
How Does it Work?
The ECS and its components are responsible for keeping the body in a state of balance (or homeostasis) by modulating and regulating almost every biological and physiological system in the body. And when the body is in this state of homeostasis, your body has everything available to it, to perform at its best, allowing you to stay healthy and vital.
However, as with anything else, sometimes things go wrong with the ECS. Sometimes it can happen that there aren’t enough endocannabinoids to go around. This can cause the body to fall out of homeostasis, with scientists now believing that this causes many of the symptoms and ailments we suffer from. When this happens, it causes a condition called clinical endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome.
The Endocannabinoid System & CBD
Because the ECS is your body’s very own cannabinoid producing system that not only helps your cells, organs and nervous system run smoothly, it is also what allows plant cannabinoids like CBD to do its job.
When cannabinoids researchers started looking at how plant cannabinoids interact and work with the ECS, they found the ECS is not only a great target site for therapeutic interventions but that phytocannabinoids like CBD oil can hold the key to restoring endocannabinoid deficiencies.
For instance, scientists found that, although phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids are chemically different, the way in which they interact with the ECS is very similar. This means that, when you take CBD, it works very much the same way as what your body’s own cannabinoids do.
The Endocannabinoid System Research
As mentioned, the ECS has been implicated in various diseases. Here we have a quick look at some research.
- Appetite Regulation: The ECS seems to be involved in the physiological control of appetite, body weight and energy metabolism
- Obesity and Associated Metabolic Abnormalities: CB-1 receptors in particular seem to be involved with lower leptin (a hunger hormone) levels and fat mass.
- Pain and Inflammation: Both CB-1 and CB-2 receptors, along with the endocannabinoid anandamide, are implicated in neuropathic and inflammatory pain relief.
- Neurotrauma & Neurodegeneration: The ECS plays an important role in neuroprotection both in acute brain injury (e.g., traumatic brain injury, stroke, epilepsy) and in chronic neurodegenerative disorders (e.g., Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease)
- Psychiatric & Mood Disorders: The well-known psychotropic effects of cannabinoids and the distribution of cannabinoid receptors across important emotional circuits in the brain suggest that the ECS is intricately involved in various psychiatric and mood disorders, including schizophrenia, anxiety and depression
- Drug Addiction and Alcohol Disorders: The ECS, in particular the endocannabinoid activation of CB-1 receptors, is involved with the same dopaminergic reward pathways that form part of a “common pathway” of drug reward.
- Cancer: The endocannabinoids anandamide and 2-AG, the endocannabinoid transport inhibitors, and cannabinoid receptors, have all shown to induce cancer cell death and inhibit the production and migration in tumor cells.
As ECS and CBD research is continuing and more information is becoming available about the therapeutic properties and benefits of this phytocannabinoid, more people are using CBD oil for serval kind of reasons. And although we are still in the early stages of knowing everything there is to know about how CBD interact with our bodies, and in particular with the ECS, what we know is that there is a definite biological basis for why it works so well for so many people.