Cellular Biology

The endocannabinoid system safeguards balance in our body

The endocannabinoid system (ECS), first discovered in the early 90s, is paramount to understand how cannabis works in the healing of the human body.

The ECS is a complex system made up of cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids, and enzymes. ECS possesses multiple functions and some characterize the ECS being the most important neurotransmitter system in the body. It plays a crucial role in a number of processes such as mood, memory, motor control, immune function, pain perception, appetite, sleep, bone development, among others.

The ECS is similar to software that runs your internal processes, whereas the software is the neurotransmitters in the nervous system, the hormones in the endocrine system, and the cytokines in your immune system.

endocannabinoid-system
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The central nervous system – plays a role in controlling certain memory processes, promoting the generation and protection of new neurons.
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Immune System – controls the immune system by inhibiting the production of proinflammatory cytokines.
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Hormones – involved in the hypothalamic function which controls responses to stress, metabolism and reproduction.
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Gastrointestinal System  – promotes shielding the GI tract from inflammation and particularly high gastric and enteric secretions.
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Metabolism – preserves balance by regulating nutrient transport, energy storage, food intake, and modulating insulin sensitivity.
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Skin Diseases – regulates proper and balanced proliferation, differentiation and survival as well as immune competence of skin cells.
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Muscles – helps increase stamina by controlling blood sugar and stimulates “runner´s” high.
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Bones – involved in bone mass regulation and bone regrowth.

The ECS is comprised of:
• Cannabinoid receptors – found on the surface of cells
• Endocannabinoids –  small molecules that activate cannabinoid receptors
• Metabolic enzymes – that break down endocannabinoids 

Cannabinoid receptors
are located on the surface of cells in your body and they “listen” to conditions outside the cell. They transmit information about altered conditions to the inside of the cell and initiate the relevant cellular response.

There are two main cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2. These are not the only cannabinoid receptors, but the first to be discovered and remain the best studied.

CB1 and CB2 receptors are key players in the ECS. CB1 receptors are more prevalent in the central nervous system, including neurons in the brain. In contrast, CB2 receptors are more abundant outside the nervous system, including cells of the immune system.

Endocannabinoids
such as ANA and 2-AG are the best-studied molecules, that help regulate and balance many processes in the body.

Distance running or other exercises that require stamina can lead to a feeling known as “runners high”, which is linked to decreased anxiety and pain, an increased sense of relaxation, and a feeling of euphoria. The levels of Anandamide and β-endorphin are found to be abundantly increased in the plasma of humans and mice after long-distance running.

Metabolic enzymes
include FAAH and MAGL that are responsible for the degradation of endocannabinoids. FAAH is responsible for breaking down ANA and MAGL is responsible for breaking down 2-AG.

These enzymes ensure that endocannabinoids are present when needed, but no longer than necessary. This process separates endocannabinoids from many other molecular signals in your body, such as hormones or classic neurotransmitters, which can persist for many seconds or minutes, or be packed and stored for later use.

The EndoCannabinoid System safeguards the Biochemical Balance in our Body

The ECS plays a role in many critical functions of our body such as energy supply, brain activity, cell division, and immunity to maintain our bodies’ structural and functional integrity.

If the ECS fails to work properly the interactions and communication between the different organs and body activities will be interrupted which can cause diseases, such as

  • metabolic disorders such as obesity, anorexia or diabetes, cancer
  • degenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s
  • excitability disorders such as epilepsy or Migraine
  • autoimmune diseases such as Arthritis, Psoriasis, Multiple Sclerosis, etc.

The ECS maintains balance or homeostasis in our body, but it is also a system evolved from nature working as a biochemical neurological system.

The cannabis plant contains cannabinoids that can be used to regulate our ECS and connected systems. This offers some great opportunities in therapeutics treatment as plant cannabinoids can be used to enhance and optimize our endocannabinoid system, and thus anticipate, prevent, or even help fight diseases.

The Body’s Cannabinoids share similarities to Cannabinoids found in the Cannabis Plant

The acting of the body’s cannabinoids – is similar to Phytocannabinoids, produced by the cannabis plant.  However, if the ECS becomes unbalanced, this may lead to stress, bad sleep, or the development of diseases.

Addition of natural and plant-based cannabinoids to our diet, can improve the functions of the ECS and enhance the power our body has to heal itself.

Learn more about different kind of Cannabinioids and Cannabinioids classifications.

Efficacy of Plant Cannabinoids in Medical treatment

The use of medical cannabis may exhibit positive effects in a number of health-related conditions. Patients report many benefits of CBD including relieving inflammation, insomnia, anxiety, spasticity, and pain. CBD may also help relieve certain symptoms associated with cancer.

The therapeutic effects of cannabis are still under investigation and many clinical trials are being performed. One of the more comprehensive studies has been performed by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine by Harvard Medical School, who found “substantial” evidence that cannabis/cannabinoids may be effective for treating chronic pain and inflammation. The committee concluded their finding in 2017 based on reviewing 10,000 studies from the past two decades and weighed the strength of the evidence for nearly two dozen health conditions that scientists have studied.

In our disease section, we review some of the above studies and, combined with the potential therapeutic benefits of the compounds, the properties of Medical Cannabis are evaluated. The evaluation is performed by a comparison with current clinical trials and literature in the field, including PubMed (US National Library of Medicine, NIH) and SpringerLink (the world’s most comprehensive online collection of scientific, technological, and medical journals). 

Learn more about diseases where cannabinoids are reported to have therapeutic potential.