Knowledge For Self: Endogenous Cannabinoid System (ECS)
Our perspective changed when we learned about the ECS and it is the inspiration for our mission statement: To normalize the use of cannabinoids as everyday essentials. We believe every mammal, including us humans, should have free and safe access to the benefits of this healing plant. We decided to use food, another everyday essential as the vehicle to educate, empower and entertain our community.
The following is a bit scientific but just understand the cannabinoids found in cannabis and our ECS is like a lock and key system, this plant is made for us to create homeostasis in our bodies. Absorb this knowledge, get curious and dig in!
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a group of endogenous cannabinoid receptors located in the mammalian brain and throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems, consisting of neuromodulatory lipids and their receptors.The (ECS) works with many of our bodies’ systems to help bring those systems into balance, or homeostasis. Known as "the body’s own cannabinoid system,” the ECS is involved in a variety of physiological processes including the immune system, appetite, pre and post natal development, pain-sensation, mood, and memory and in mediating the psychoactive effects of cannabis. Two primary cannabinoid receptors have been identified: CB1, first cloned in 1990; and CB2, cloned in 1993.
The ECS involves three core components:
Endocannabinoids, also called endogenous cannabinoids, are molecules made by your body. They’re similar to cannabinoids, but they’re produced by your body.
Experts have identified two key endocannabinoids so far:
- anandamide (AEA)
- 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG)
These help keep internal functions running smoothly. Your body produces them as needed, making it difficult to know what typical levels are for each.
These receptors are found throughout your body. Endocannabinoids bind to them in order to signal that the ECS needs to take action. There are two main endocannabinoid receptors:
- CB1 receptors, which are mostly found in the central nervous system
- CB2 receptors, which are mostly found in your peripheral nervous system, especially immune cells
Endocannabinoids can bind to either receptor. The effects that result depend on where the receptor is located and which endocannabinoid it binds to.
For example, endocannabinoids might target CB1 receptors in a spinal nerve to relieve pain. Others might bind to a CB2 receptor in your immune cells to signal that your body’s experiencing inflammation, a common sign of autoimmune disorders.
Enzymes are responsible for breaking down endocannabinoids once they’ve carried out their function.
There are two main enzymes responsible for this:
- fatty acid amide hydrolase, which breaks down AEA
- monoacylglycerol acid lipase, which typically breaks down 2-AG
What are its functions?
The ECS is complicated, and experts haven’t yet determined exactly how it works or all of its potential functions. The National Library of Medicine has linked the ECS to the following processes:
- appetite and digestion
- chronic pain
- inflammation and other immune system responses
- learning and memory
- motor control
- cardiovascular system function
- muscle formation
- bone remodeling and growth
- liver function
- reproductive system function
- skin and nerve function
These functions all contribute to homeostasis, which refers to stability of your internal environment. For example, if an outside force, such as pain from an injury or a fever, throws off your body’s homeostasis, your ECS kicks in to help your body return to its ideal operation.
EC system communicates its messages in a different way because it works “backward.” When the postsynaptic neuron is activated, cannabinoids (chemical messengers of the EC system) are made “on demand” from lipid precursors (fat cells) already present in the neuron. Then they are released from that cell and travel backward to the presynaptic neuron, where they attach to cannabinoid receptors.
So why is this important?
Since cannabinoids act on presynaptic cells, they can control what happens next when these cells are activated. In general, cannabinoids function like a “dimmer switch” for presynaptic neurons, limiting the amount of neurotransmitter (e.g., dopamine) that gets released, which in turn affects how messages are sent, received, and processed by the cell.
The functional nature of endocannabinoids are much like neurotransmitters. These signaling cannabinoids keep track of metabolic systems all over the body. This information is shared with the nervous system and the immune system so that any imbalance is attended to. If the body is in chronic disease or emotional stress, the immune system can fall behind and lose control of compromised systems. It is here that phytocannabinoids can pitch in to support the stressed body in a return to health. The cannabis plant provides analogues of the body's primary signaling cannabinoids. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is mimetic to anandamide, and cannabidiol (CBD) is mimetic to 2-AG, and has the same affinity to CB1 and CB2 receptors; providing the body with additional support for the immune and endocannabinoid systems.
Endocannabinoids are usually produced ‘on demand’ following elevation of intracellular Ca2+ concentrations. Owing to their lipophilic nature, the endocannabinoids act locally and are not synthesized until needed.
● Endocannabinoids possess immune‐modulatory functions and usually inhibit cytokine release from immune cells and regulate the migration of the latter. Slows the rate of inflammation.
● Endocannabinoids are key regulators of food intake, gastrointestinal function, energy storage in the adipose tissue and energy processing by the liver and the skeletal muscle
● Endocannabinoids are deeply involved in pain processing a t peripheral, spinal and supra‐spinal sites.
● Endocannabinoids regulate both male and female reproduction.
● Endocannabinoid can differentially affect cell fate in healthy and cancer cells by regulating differentiation, proliferation and apoptosis. It can help kill cancer cells and save healthy ones.
● Endocannabinoids, and anandamide in particular, also directly interact with non‐CB1, non‐CB2 receptors, the most studied of which is the transient receptor potential vanilloid type‐1 (TRPV1) channel.
● Dysregulation of the ECS underlies several neurological, immune and metabolic disorders, and therapeutic strategies manipulating the ECS are being developed.
Overall we are still learning, until research on the positive effects of cannabinoids is allowed we must continue to push forward and share information with each other. Together we can all work to figure out how to use all of the benefits this plant has to offer us. Keep sharing!