The endocannabinoid system is a complex network of receptors and mechanisms inside the body. This group of internal components works to keep the body operating at its most efficient capacity. In terms of science and discovery, the endocannabinoid system is fairly new. Why is the Endocannabinoid System important? The Endocannabinoid System is the precursor to the Immune System. Everyone knows the Immune System helps fight off infection and protect us from becoming sick. Well, the Endocannabinoid System acts similarly as it protects all the cells and mechanisms in the body. Cannabidiol (CBD) acts on the Endocannabinoid System in some of the same ways that Vitamin C acts on the Immune System, helping to boost the overall functioning of the Endocannabinoid and Immune Systems respectively.
History of the Endocannabinoid System
It is debated when the Endocannabinoid system was discovered. At the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Dr. Lumir Hanus along with American researcher Dr. William Devane discovered the first-ever endocannabinoid in the mid 1990’s. This first endocannabinoid was anandamide which was named after the Sanskrit word for bliss, anan. Other’s point to the cloning of the CB1 receptor in 1990 and the cloning of the CB2 receptor in 1993.
Still, the first possible discovery of the ECS could very well have been in 1988 when a government-funded study was conducted at the St. Louis University School of Medicine. The researchers in this study concluded that mammals have receptors in the brain that respond to the phytocannabinoids found in cannabis.
Where is the Endocannabinoid System?
It was once believed that the endocannabinoid system was located only in the central nervous system, but researchers have discovered something entirely different. We now know that ECS receptors are present in virtually all tissues: skin, immune cells, bone, fat tissue, liver, pancreas, skeletal muscle, heart, blood vessels, kidney, gastrointestinal tract and more.
CBD has been shown to help the functioning of some of the serotonin receptors. This includes the 5-HT1A receptor. These receptors can be found in the central and peripheral nervous systems. The family of 5-HT serotonin receptors have been shown to influence a wide range of neurological and biological processes.
TRPV receptors were nicknamed vanilloid receptors and have some CBD interaction. TRPV stands for transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily V and CBD has been found to bind to the TRPV1 receptor. Another molecule that has been found to bind to this receptor is capsaicin.
GPR55 is a G protein-coupled receptor that has been referred to by scientists as an orphan receptor because they are still unsure what family of receptors GPR55 belongs to. GPR55 has been found to be critical in regulating bone density and overall health of the skeletal system. It has also been found to be functional in regulating blood pressure and other physiological functions.
These receptors can be found around the nucleus of each cell. PPARs (peroxisome proliferator activated receptors) as they are known, help to regulate different genes. Most of these genes have to do with a variety of metabolic functions in the body.
What does the Endocannabinoid System do?
It appears the main function of the endocannabinoid system is to signal to the body. This acts as an alert system, or alarm system, to let the body know when something is not working properly. And these signaling cells are all throughout the body as previously stated. When something isn’t right, the endocannabinoid system communicates with the body to determine the best course of action. Cells can be repaired or they can be signaled to die off in a process called programmed cell death.
Programmed cell death is not always a bad thing and can be the body’s way of getting rid of damaged or abnormal cells.
Homeostasis in the Endocannabinoid System
Everyone remembers the story of the little girl and the three bears, right? One porridge is too hot, one is too cold, but one is just right. Your endocannabinoid system is just like Goldielocks and it prefers just the right balance. Go too far in any direction and problems can arise and you see the endocannabinoid system begin signaling to the body that something isn’t right.
“With the ‘pro-homeostatic action of the ECS,’ we mean that this system of chemical signals gets temporarily activated following deviations from cellular homeostasis. When such deviations are non-physiological, the temporarily activated ECS attempts, in a space- and time-selective manner, to restore the previous physiological situation (homeostasis).” – Dr. Vincenzo Di Marzo
Endocannabinoid System and CBD
If you were ever a kid and got sick (that should be all of us), then you probably heard you should drink orange juice. This is because orange juice has vitamin C. Vitamin C boosts your immune system. The relationship between the endocannabinoid system and CBD is similar to that of vitamin c and the immune system. You see, the endocannabinoid system is made up of these neurotransmitters, receptors, and mechanisms in the body. This system is responsible for keeping your body in balance or homeostasis. When your body gets out of balance, these systems engage and act as a precursor to the immune system to get the body back to healthy functioning. Much like vitamin C gets your immune system to function more properly, CBD can aid your endocannabinoid system’s mechanisms in restoring your body to homeostasis.
Modern Lifestyles Create Endocannabinoid Deficiency
Unfortunately, our 21st century lifestyles don’t support the work of the endocannabinoid system. Junk food, alcohol, lack of exercise, stress, exposure to pollution, and lack of sleep [A1] can cause our ECS to become depleted. American Neurologist Ethan Russo has termed this ‘Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency‘, suggesting that it lies at the root of illnesses such as fibromyalgia, muscular sclerosis, IBS and migraines. According to Dr Russo, “If you don’t have enough endocannabinoids you have pain where there shouldn’t be pain. You would be sick, meaning nauseated. You would have a lowered seizure threshold. And just a whole litany of other problems.”
The Endocannabinoid System – Why Cannabis Helps So Many Different People
The answer lies in our own biology. That’s because humans and indeed every other vertebrate has what’s known as an ‘endocannabinoid system’ – a homeostatic regulator responsible for modulating our sleep, appetite, mood, immune system, reproduction, memory, pain and inflammation. Now, for many of you, this will be the first time you’ve heard of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), and you may be thinking that it’s just some other new age theory. But in fact the ECS was actually discovered by scientists in the 1990s, when they were studying how THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis, acts in the body.
They found a complex network of receptors throughout the brain, central nervous and immune system that act like locks on the surface of cells, waiting to be opened by cannabis-like chemicals called ‘endocannabinoids.’
When these endocannabinoid receptors are activated a host of biological effects occur, acting much like a biological dimmer switch, keeping the body operating at an optimum level.
Ways to boost your endocannabinoid system – with or without CBD
It’s not just the cannabis plant that supports the endocannabinoid system. Here are five steps you can take to give your ECS a boost:
1. Microdosing cannabis. If giving your ECS a helping hand is your goal, taking very small amounts of cannabis on a regular basis is a good way to go about it. Water Soluble CBD extracts such as the premium products at CBD 2.0 are a good way to improve endocannabinoid tone. CBD 2.0 produces products that are more bioavailable than most of the CBD Oil based products on the market. This allows a person to truly microdose with CBD. We believe “Less Is More” when it comes to water soluble CBD. We encourage our customers to start with just 10mg of CBD and titrate up or down as needed. While most Hemp CBD Oil companies will recommend 125-250mg of CBD per day, many of our customers have found relief with just 10-30mg of CBD. Every person’s body is different, and we believe you are the best judge when it comes to how much CBD you should take.
2. Do some exercise: Did you know that the ‘runner’s high’ associated with cardiovascular exercise isn’t just down to the release of endorphins? When we exercise we also produce the feel-good endocannabinoid, Anandamide. Another reason to go for a run if you’re feeling down in the dumps.
3. Increase your intake of Omega 3: Our body’s endocannabinoids are made from essential fatty acids, and a lack of Omega 3 can have a negative impact on endocannabinoid signalling. One study on mice found Omega 3 deficiency caused a malformation of CB1 receptors, resulting in “impaired emotional behaviour.”
4. Cut down on alcohol: Studies show that ethanol dampens the endocannabinoid system. The odd drink isn’t a problem, but it is thought sustained alcohol abuse can be a contributing factor in Endocannabinoid Deficiency Syndrome.
5. Eat your greens: Leafy green vegetables contain a natural chemical called beta-caryophyllene, which is also found in the cannabis plant, black pepper, and cloves. Beta-caryophyllene acts like a cannabinoid by activating the CB2 endocannabinoid receptor, bringing about an anti-inflammatory effect.
Mackie K. Cannabinoid receptors: where they are and what they do. J Neuroendocrinol. 2008;20 Suppl 1:10-14. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2826.2008.01671.x.