To understand the endocannabinoid system, it’s a good idea to first understand endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids are cannabinoids found within the human body that occur naturally.
The endocannabinoid system keeps the body’s balance by acting as a homeostatic regulator. It helps the body self-adjust. Cannabinoids like cannabidiol (CBD) from the hemp plant and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from the marijuana plant can act to reinforce the natural endocannabinoids in the human body. They are neuromodulators – as opposed to neurotransmitters.
Neurotransmitters carry messages to neurons, or nerve cells, regulating bodily functions like heart rate, breathing, digestion and sleep cycles, among others. When neurotransmitters go awry, endocannabinoids can help control them.
For instance, epinephrine (adrenaline) is released in fight or flight situations, giving muscles a boost of energy when facing danger. But its levels also rise as a result of chronic stress, which can lead to an array of other health problems like high blood pressure, insomnia and heart disease. That’s where additional endocannabinoids like CBD or THC are able to help the body’s natural endocannabinoids suppress the adrenaline and reduce that stress.
The endocannabinoid system works through two known cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are primarily located in the central nervous system, while CB2 receptors are located in the immune system. While research is ongoing, scientists believe there are more receptors yet to be discovered.
THC is famous for its psychoactive properties, usually associated with the recreational use of marijuana, CBD is free from those side effects, which makes it appealing to an overwhelming number of consumers who wish to avoid feeling “high.”
CBD works to modulate many other neurotransmitter functions, as well, depending on the amount and strength of the dose. Smaller doses of CBD can boost energy. High doses can work as a sedative. It can also ease anxiety, relieve nausea, reduce pain, stop muscle spasms, lower inflammation – it has a long list of wellness functions.
CBD is but one cannabinoid. Scientists have already identified nearly 150 cannabinoids that can be extracted from the hemp plant. Their ability to deliver therapeutic results to ease dozens of maladies has only begun to be discovered. By working with the human body’s own natural substances, cannabidiol and other cannabinoids – through the endocannabinoid system – have endless potential to ease ailments that hamper many everyday functions for consumers.