The Endocannabinoid System: What does it do?
The endocannabinoid system in 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, the endocannabinoid system is fairly new.
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.
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.
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. That is when the ECS begins it’s 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
The ECS 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.
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.