How many different body systems can you name off the top of your head? The nervous system? The cardiovascular system? The digestive system? You can probably think of quite a few. Whether your list is long or short, it very likely didn’t include the endocannabinoid system.
Unlike most other major bodily systems, the endocannabinoid system, or ECS for short, was discovered very recently. In fact, scientists didn’t know it existed until the early 1990s when they stumbled upon it by accident while studying the effects cannabis has on the body. However, despite our limited knowledge of this system, researchers are quickly realizing the important role it plays in our everyday life.
So what is the ECS and what effects does it have on the human body? Let us explain…
Goldilocks and the Endocannabinoid System
Components of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) can be found throughout the body. This system helps regulate our neural and physiological functions. The ECS keeps everything in check and helps maintain an internal balance called “homeostasis,” or “The Goldilocks Zone.” This internal balance is necessary for our bodies to stay healthy and function normally.
The ECS is made up of a variety of different components and receptors. The most well-studied receptors are the CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are primarily found along the central nervous system, while CB2 receptors are located in the immune system and in other peripheral systems. These receptors respond to compounds that our body produces called “endocannabinoids.” When endocannabinoids interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors, they work together to regulate our other systems and maintain balance.
For example, if a neurotransmitter is sending out too many signals, the ECS will respond by sending endocannabinoids to receptors in the area to adjust the transmitter’s output. These adjustments interact with the neurotransmitter to help it function normally again. By doing this, the ECS helps maintain order among our internal systems and can prevent parts of our bodies from over- or under-functioning.
Because the ECS is so far-reaching, scientists have found that plays a part in maintaining the immune system, the reproductive system, the nervous system, etc. The endocannabinoid system keeps everything “just right,” so we can enjoy living happy, healthy lives.
Cannabis and the Endocannabinoid System
By now you are probably wondering, “What does the endocannabinoid system have to do with cannabis?”
Cannabis plants naturally produce a wide range of chemical compounds known as cannabinoids. Researchers believe there are at least 100 different cannabinoids in existence. These cannabinoids interact with the receptors in the endocannabinoid system in a similar way as our body’s natural endocannabinoids. Cannabinoids interact with the ECS by binding to the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the central nervous system and peripheral systems. These interactions allow cannabinoids from cannabis plants to enhance the ECS and help it work better than it would on its own.
The two most well-known cannabinoids, THC and CBD, interact with the ECS in different ways. THC mostly binds to CB1 receptors, which are found in the central nervous system. When THC interacts with the brain’s endocannabinoid receptors, it gives users a euphoric “high” feeling.
CBD interacts with the ECS in its own unique way. While it does interact with CB1 receptors, it does not cause any psychoactive effects. Because of this, CBD provides a variety of psychological and physiological healing effects – instead of causing a “high.”
Cannabinoids have been shown to soothe the symptoms of users who suffer from anxiety, depression, inflammatory illnesses, sleep disorders, chronic pain, and a variety of other issues. This is why CBD is becoming so popular! CBD provides a variety of health benefits without the uncomfortable “high” associated with its cousin THC.
What many people don’t realize, though, is that cannabis produces other compounds as well that can interact with the endocannabinoid system in their own profound ways.
Terpenes and Flavonoids
In addition to cannabinoids, cannabis plants also produce terpenes and flavonoids.Terpenes are oils that are secreted from glands in cannabis plants. They are often very aromatic and provide different flavors to the plant. Cannabis plants can be bred to have citrus, mint, pine, and other flavors depending on the terpenes. Many researchers believe that there are around 100 different types of terpenes produced by cannabis.
Besides just making hemp and marijuana smell and taste good, terpenes also play an important role in the way cannabis interacts with our bodies. Like cannabinoids, terpenes are also able to bind to receptors in the ECS. They can alter the amount of THC and CBD that passes through the blood-brain barrier, they can influence your dopamine and serotonin levels, and they can alter the ECS’ chemical output.In other words, terpenes play a very important role in the way cannabis interacts with the endocannabinoid system to provide healing and soothing effects.
While terpenes are fairly well studied, flavonoids are not. They do, however, play an important role in the body as well. Flavonoids are largely responsible for cannabis’ vibrant colors, the way it tastes, the way it smells, etc. While researchers believe these chemicals are primarily used by the plant to attract pollinators, they provide plenty of health benefits too.
Each flavonoid has a different effect on the body – some more significant than others. While they are very under-studied, flavonoids are thought to provide anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, antioxidant, and cardiovascular health benefits.
Whole-Plant Synergy and CBD Extraction
Cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids work best when taken together. As a whole, these compounds provide synergistic healing effects that none could provide on its own. This is why CBD isolate is not nearly as effective as full spectrum (whole plant) products.
Because full spectrum products are so beneficial, they are the most popular. However, it is important to do your research when taking a product that includes all of the plant’s natural compounds and ingredients.
CBD is most commonly extracted from hemp plants, rather than marijuana plants. This is because hemp naturally produces less THC than marijuana does – making CBD from hemp legal across the nation. Hemp, however, is a special kind of plant that absorbs everything from the soil. This means that unwanted, or even dangerous chemicals, metals, or other compounds sometimes find their way into the final CBD product. Finding a brand that has their product tested by an unbiased third-party laboratory will let you see all of the ingredients before buying – so you can make sure your product is effective and safe.
Another thing to keep in mind is your CBD brand’s preferred extraction method. The safest way of extracting compounds from hemp plants is by using CO2 extraction. This type of extraction can be expensive, which is why many brands choose to use riskier solvent extraction methods instead. A reputable CBD brand will always have their extraction information listed on their website or available upon request.
For more information about finding a reliable CBD brand, visit our website or browse our list of quality CBD brands and save yourself some time and trouble.
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