What is the endocannabinoid system? Let’s break it down. Endo, short for endogenous means produced or synthesized within the organism or system. In this case, the organism is us. A Cannabinoid is a chemical that is naturally occurring in the body and the cannabis plant. In the body they are Anandamide and AG-2. In the cannabis plant THC-A and CBD-A are two of many that can be present. Finally, a system is a group of body organs or structures that together perform one or more vital functions. Anandamide and AG-2 are synthesized in the body from essential fatty acids. Oddly enough hemp seed contains the proper fatty acid ratio that humans need. These naturally occurring cannabinoids help regulate many different functions throughout the body, in turn helping the body maintain homeostasis. They do this by binding to CB1 and CB2 receptors and activating them.
Cannabinoid receptors are located throughout the body. The CB1 receptors are found mostly in the central and peripheral nervous systems and organs. The CB2 receptors are found in glial cells in the brain as well as the immune system. The glial cells control the uptake of neurotransmitters and help in the recovery from and possibly prevent neural injury. Here are some of the major clusters of cannabinoid receptors:
- This is a region of the brain responsible for the release of certain hormones. It also regulates body temperature, food and water intake, sexual behavior and reproduction, daily cycle of physiological state and behavior, as well as emotional responses.
- Nucleus Accumbens
- This is the part of the brain that is activated during drug cravings of addicts.
- The brainstem coordinates motor function control between the brain and body. It also controls the involuntary functions of the peripheral nervous system. Things like breathing, heart rate, and digestion.
- Vagus Nerve
- This is the longest of the cranial nerves, it travels from the brainstem to the abdomen. Along the way it hits the esophagus, heart, and lungs while helping control involuntary body functions like heart rate, breathing, and digestion.
- G.I. Tract
- The Gastrointestinal Tract is where our bodies digest and absorb nutrients. The second function is to expel the waste from our systems.
- Adipose Tissue
- Better known as fat, is used by our bodies as storage of energy and to cushion and insulate.
All of these locations are very important to the body in maintaining homeostasis. We need to be able to study the signaling that the endocannabinoid system is responsible for much deeper then we have at the moment. These things are not being taught in medical schools, there are no ECS wards or specialists in hospitals. This desperately needs to change. Modulation of the endocannabinoid system is capable of so many amazing things. It can mitigate convulsive disorders, send forms of cancer into remission, stimulate appetite, relieve pain without fear of an opiate overdose, and help with depression just to name a few. In the words of Dr. David Allen, “the discovery of the endocannabinoid system is the single most important scientific medical discovery since the recognition of sterile surgical technique.”