Understanding the Endocannabinoid System

Today there are many claims that cannabis can be used for a wide variety of issues and ailments. So many in fact that it is sometimes hard to believe that one plant can possibly have so many benefits, especially a plant that has been so stigmatized over the last 80 years. The benefits come because of something all mammals have called an endocannabinoid system, and the cannabis plants production of cannabinoids and terpenes. 

A team of researchers in the 1960’s discovered that THC and CBD were the active components in cannabis. When trying to figure out why these compounds had such a significant response in our body they eventually discovered that these compounds interacted with something they called the Endocannabinoid system, short for endogenous cannabinoids or internally produced cannabinoids. Further research into why our body would have receptors for a chemical that is produced in a plant and they discovered that our body created compounds that were nearly identical to THC and CBD. These compounds are called Anandamide and 2ag. Anandamide and 2ag are so like THC and CBD, that when we consume cannabis its active components naturally interact with this system. This turned out to be a vital system in how our bodies healed themselves. 

Image courtesy of Analytical Cannabis

Image courtesy of Analytical Cannabis

It turned out that our bodies produced anandamide and 2ag whenever our bodies went out of homeostasis or out of balance. Whether it’s inflammation throughout the body or a traumatic brain injury, our bodies produced these compounds to try and heal itself. The reason we don’t walk around with a buzz all the time even though we produce the same compounds as the cannabis plant is because we have enzymes that break these endocannabinoids down after they have done their job. Although, it was recently discovered that the so called “runners high” is from the flood of anandamide and not from serotonin. 

Much like we produce endocannabinoids to help bolster our immune system and healing processes, the cannabis plant also produces cannabinoids called phyto cannabinoids or plant- made cannabinoids and essential oils called terpenes to act as its own immune system. To protect itself from predators, mold, fungus, or even to attract pollinators based on its environment the cannabis plant can produce a wide variety of cannabinoids and terpenes, and when we consume the plant the varying ratios of cannabinoids to terpenes can have a vast array of effects and potential benefits. 

There is still a lot to learn about how to properly use different cannabinoids and terpenes for their medicinal benefits, but we are becoming more knowledgeable every day.