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Endocannabinoid System - What is it, and is it Vital?

What is the endocannabinoid system? In this article, we continue our series on cannabinoid 101 to shed light on the important questions surrounding all things cannabis.

Jason SanderJason Sander · Aug. 28, 2020 · 6 min read
Endocannabinoid System - What is it, and is it Vital?

A common question that many cannabis consumers have is: what is the endocannabinoid system? In this article, we continue our series on cannabinoid 101 to shed light on the important questions surrounding all things cannabis. Keep reading as we explore this critical question as well as what science can currently tell us about the endocannabinoid system - an interesting part of all of our bodies.

What is the Endocannabinoid System?

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex system that signals cells in the human body and is existent in all of us. This system was discovered about 30 years ago, by scientific researchers who were studying the cannabinoid THC - the psychoactive compound in cannabis. Even though there has been some research conducted on it, we don’t fully understand the ECS quite yet.

Even in those of us who don’t consume cannabis, the ECS is ever-present. In fact, the ECS is found in all species with vertebrae. This has led to much musing and speculation as to whether the cannabis plant is intrinsically linked to humans. While this topic is no doubt fun to discuss - especially after consuming cannabis - experts are still learning about the ECS. At this point, there’s no definitive scientific evidence that another system couldn’t take the ECS’ place.

Here’s What Science Currently Tells Us About the ECS

With the above caveat in mind, the ECS does play a vital role in a wide array of bodily functions as well as processes. These include regulating appetite, circadian rhythms that help you keep your sleep schedule, memory, reproductive system, and fertility, as well as mood. Cannabis makes you hungry, can help you sleep, can help relieve pain, and puts you in a good mood. For these reasons, cannabis has been recommended for patients with cancer for decades to help them find relief possibly. There has also been much debate as to what impact cannabis has on memory, IQ, and sperm count.

The prevailing school of thought, especially from prohibitionists, is that cannabis reduces IQ and sperm count. However, some studies show that the opposite might be true - that some cannabis consumers show a higher IQ and a higher sperm count than non-consumers. These studies just further complicate our misunderstanding while highlighting how little we truly understand about the ECS and how cannabinoids impact our bodies.

Balance Found in Nature

Natural balance is usually referred to as homeostasis, and all living things seek to maintain that balance. Staying as close to our comfort zone is thought to be linked to the ECS: giving us the desire to keep cool in the summer, warm in the winter, eat when we are hungry, sleep when we’re tired, and so on. There are three key components of the ECS cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids, and enzymes.

Receptors are found on the surface of cells in the body. Endocannabinoids are microscopic molecules that stimulate these receptors, and enzymes break down endocannabinoids when the body uses them. There are two main types of cannabinoid receptors throughout the body: CB1 and CB2. In the brain, CB1 receptors are some of the most abundant receptors. These are what make us feel high. CB2 receptors are mainly found existing outside of the nervous system, in other areas such as the immune system. Just like there are over 100 cannabinoids that we still need to study, there are other cannabinoid receptors in the body. At this time, CB1 and CB2 are the best-studied receptors because they were discovered first. This is also true for THC and CBD.

Endocannabinoid-system-diagram

CBD and the ECS

Havard University performed some essential scientific research indicating the potential reason why CBD helps some people with pain relief. This study, as well as others like it, further suggests that cannabinoids like CBD are linked to the ECS. Microscopic proteins found inside of your cells, known as receptors, receive signals all throughout the ECS and the body. Cells respond to the stimuli created by these signals which are initiated by the consumption of cannabinoids like CBD. These studies show an indication that cannabinoids help with pain and inflammation by interacting with the ECS. Exactly how these interactions work is still unclear.

Even though cannabis can help with pain relief, sleep, stimulating appetite, and so on, its apparent interaction with the ECS can also cause side effects. These side effects are directly related to the ECS, just as the benefits are. Some of these side effects include vomiting and other stomach issues from consuming too much, irritability (usually associated with chronic consumption and withdrawal), as well as changes in appetite. As with any other medicine, everyone responds differently. This is why we always recommend that newbies dip their feet into the world of cannabis consumption by micro-dosing - and take things slowly - especially when it comes to edibles.

HashDash - Building Community and Educating Tomorrow’s Cannabis Consumer

It’s a broken record by now, but more research and studies are imperative for us to understand the ECS and its various components fully. We are just scratching the surface when it comes to understanding cannabinoids, the ECS, and how cannabis can potentially help us achieve homeostasis.

We hope you enjoyed our article about the misunderstood endocannabinoid system. Did you learn anything? If so, be sure to visit us again soon - we are always posting informative content just like this. You will definitely want to connect with us on social media: @hashdash.com on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to stay up to date with our content.

This is an elementary explanation of the ECS, and we will continue to add educational information that builds off of these fundamentals. HashDash is compiling a library of cannabis education content. We are also building a database to help you find the best dispensaries in your area. Be sure to sign up for HashDash to discover your cannabis matches if you haven’t already. As always, thanks for reading, and happy consuming!

DISCLAIMER: This article is for entertainment and education purposes only. Neither HashDash content nor products mentioned in this article are intended to treat, cure, diagnose, or prevent any disease, condition, or ailment.

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Jason Sander
Jason SanderJason is a versatile writer and marketer with over ten combined years of experience working with clients in various industries. He couples this expertise with six years of writing for the cannabis sector as well as a passion for the business side, and the science behind the plant medicine.

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