So What IS The Endocannabinoid System?
CBD works as well as it does because it meshes perfectly with the human body! More specifically, CBD’s special interaction with our endocannabinoid system is the source from which all its blessings flow. But maybe you ’ve heard all this already— in that case, it’s time to give the ECS a much closer look.
Before we get into the nitty gritty, let’s give ourselves a few moments of appreciation.
The human body is extraordinarily complex; with 9 organ systems, hundreds of receptor systems, millions of mitochondria, trillions of brain cells...it’s a miracle of biology/evolution/supernaturalism that everything works together as it does.
Up until just recently, there was nothing tangible to attribute this miracle to. But that all changed in the early 1990s…
An Amazing Discovery
At that time, the benefits of plant cannabinoids (aka CBD, THC, etc) were really coming to light. Internal cannabinoids (like anandamide) had also just been discovered. Researchers knew that both types of compounds worked, but didn’t quite know how.
With scientific intuition they began to suspect that maybe plant cannabinoids were pairing well with some sort of equivalent internal system...
It was true. One type of internal cannabinoid receptor was discovered, and then another, and finally: the 3-part endocannabinoid system began to take shape. At that point, it all made sense. Cannabinoids worked because they were activating something built into the body on the most innate level possible.
A Self-Perpetuating System
As mentioned the endocannabinoid system has three parts:
- There’s the endocannabinoids (eCB’s) themselves, which include anandamide (the bliss molecule) and 2-AG.
- Then there’s endocannabinoid receptors, which also happen to be phytocannabinoid receptors. In other words, eCB receptors don’t discriminate, so long as they get fed!
- Finally, there’s endocannabinoid enzymes. Certain enzymes build endocannabinoids (out of healthy fats, interestingly enough), while others, like FAAH, break them down.
In an ideal world, endocannabinoids feed their receptors which can then activate signals. These signals then help the rest of the body communicate with itself, which can then ensure homeostasis. It’s like a nonstop feedback loop that makes sure things are just right.
It’s also worth noting where all this endocannabinoid-related stuff is located — it’s everywhere. Endocannabinoids are produced in pretty much every part of one’s body, pretty much all the time.
But endocannabinoids are especially active in areas that are especially important. In the brain, for example, endocannabinoid receptors are the most common receptor of their kind by far. Elsewhere in the body, endocannabinoids are concentrated around vital organs including the kidneys and liver. Endocannabinoids also help us maintain things like proper digestion and sexual function (you know… the essentials).
As cannabinoid expert Dr. Bob Melamede has said, “the broad therapeutic potential that can result from correctly manipulating the endocannabinoid system is just beginning to be realized.”
CBD: A Natural Activator
Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that nature has made it so easy to keep our endocannabinoid system running strong — but even then, we still are sometimes!
And while there are many simple ways to boost ECS function, the easiest of them all is just to take CBD. The amazing thing about CBD is that it strengthens the ECS within every one of its three facets.
- CBD seems to boost endocannabinoid levels in a myriad of ways, many of which still need more time under the microscope. This effect can also be put simply, though: CBD = more bliss molecules = a healthier, happier you.
- CBD may change the shape and structure of endocannabinoid receptors so that they get better at picking up their signals. Amazing, right? It’s kind of like if you were playing basketball, but not very good...and swapped out that elusive basketball net for a giant ground-level funnel. More success.
- It’s often stated that CBD prevents endocannabinoid enzymes (like FAAH) from breaking down anandamide. While this is probably true, it’s not responsible for much of CBD’s overall effect. Still, CBD’s action towards FAAH just goes to show how holistic it really is.
From Theory to Practice
To recap, so far we’ve covered a few things: how complex the human body is, how complex the endocannabinoid system is, and how complex CBD’s interaction with the ECS is. And there’s more. We didn’t even mention how CBD also reacts with other receptor systems (TRPV-1 and serotonin 5HT1-A, to name just two). Nor did we talk here about how cannabinoids can come from alternate sources besides cannabis and hemp!
Regardless, it’s all good stuff. So now it’s time to take a look at the practical applications. When CBD activates the endocannabinoid system, good things often follow:
- Increased stress tolerance
- Reduced stress
- Improved recovery
- Reduced inflammation
- Improved metabolism
- Reduced oxidation (i.e, free radicals)
- Improved mobility
- Reduced pain
- Improved circadian rhythm
- Reduced sleep problems
- Improved neurotransmitter levels
- Fewer mood problems
Of course, these are all just possibilities. We can’t say with certainty that any of the above will happen to you 100% of the time. We wouldn’t want to either, because CBD’s effects are individualized!
The truth is that there’s only one way to find out how CBD will impact every dimension of your health — by giving the compound a serious try! You might just figure out why your endocannabinoid system is such a big deal along the way...