The endocannabinoid system or ECS was named after the cannabis plant that led to its discovery in 1988. Government-funded researchers identified abundant cannabinoid receptors in our brains that responded to compounds found in cannabis. Since then, the rest has been a slow history in the making!
Ever since the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, there is been little or slow progress made in understanding the way the way cannabis interacts with our mammalian bodies. Since California was the first American state to legalise medical cannabis for adult access in 1996, progress has been made in private and governmental studies, in understanding the benefits of cannabis and especially cannabinoids. Since the first cannabinoid was isolated, roughly the middle of the 20th century, over 500 compounds, have been identified in cannabis sativa.
Now with many countries broadening and relaxing both medical and recreational cannabis use, much-needed studies are showing the positive potential of cannabis for its therapeutic and medicinal properties. The United Kingdom has also had a similar stance on the classification of cannabis and in 2009 it was relisted as Class B drug from a Class C drug (less harmful and decriminalised).
What is the Role of the ECS in the Body and How Does it work?
The ECS comprises both the immune and nervous system of mammalian bodies and is responsible for most of our bodily and mental functions. Functions such as movement, mood, appetite, and memory to name a few are the major responsibilities of our ECS. A functioning ECS with a balanced amount of endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids will bring the body back into balance, meaning health and wellness. This body balance, is also known as homeostasis, and means balanced health and wellness. Essentially the goal of the ECS is to maintain a stable internal bodily environment (homeostasis) despite fluctuating external environmental variables.
In some cases, there is a deficiency in ECS signalling and this condition is known as Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency, and will lead to unhealthy symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, sickness or even disease. Reasons as to why this condition occurs could be a number of reasons such as our bodies are not synthesizing enough endocannabinoids, our bodies are not producing the required amount of cannabinoid receptors, and enzymes are breaking down cannabinoids before they achieve their bodily functions, or foods/medications are influencing the signalling of our ECS. This is potentially one of the main reasons why phytocannabinoids found in cannabis, can be used to supplement this deficiency and provide potential relief from a multitude of illnesses and diseases.
The Endocannabinoid System and CBD Oil
There are over 100 cannabinoids, which have been identified by researchers and scientists. Two of the most common cannabinoids are cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Both cannabinoids, have been proven through thousands of medical studies, to have many potential therapeutic and medical benefits. These cannabinoids offer people the possibility of relief from common conditions and ailments such as pain management, anti-inflammatory agent as well as neuroprotective abilities.
Although THC is known to offer recreational users of cannabis psychoactive effects, CBD is not active, and therefore does not stimulate the receptors found in the ECS, in the same way. In fact, CBD is a THC inhibitor that reduces the psychoactive effects of THC. CBD does not bind to receptors like THC but rather antagonises the CB1 and CB2 receptors.
The Latest Research on the Endocannabinoid System
There are many positive results coming out numerous studies done on our ECS so much so that the US Food and Drug Administration recently approved a CBD based drug called Epidiolex in the treatment of patients suffering from seizures related to epileptic diseases. There is still, however, a lack of number and quality of human trials using cannabis, that will ultimately prove, that cannabis is a safe medical drug.
A recent review by Joseph Maroon and Jeff Bost of the neurological benefits of phytocannabinoids resulted in some promising findings and demonstrated some significant benefits neuroprotection of cannabis. It was also reportedly peer reviewed and confirmed that that cannabinoids like CBD can reduce complications in neurological disorders and diseases.
There have been many promising studies conducted over the years related to cannabis. With the changing of laws across the globe, positive public opinion and demand for cannabis we will see many more peer-reviewed studies in the near future supporting the medical benefits of cannabis for human consumption.
CBD is a legal dietary supplement in the United Kingdom. It is a natural, non-toxic, and non-addictive cannabis compound, that can be used in addition to a healthy diet to maintain a balanced and healthy lifestyle.
Conclusion on the Endocannabinoid System (ECS)
Despite all the technical jargon and scientific jabber, what is most important to remember, is that the function and/goal of the endocannabinoid system is to obtain homeostasis. Nature has provided humans with the tools to obtain (we aim to obtain) this balance with the assistance of elements (like cannabis hemp) that contain the compounds our bodies need to fulfil this function. How we choose to utilise these tools, is entirely our responsibility. Your health is in your hands.