Do you know what your endocannabinoid system is, or what it does? More importantly, do you know that it plays an important role in your health, whether or not you use marijuana?
Here’s how it works.
The human body is equipped with a sophisticated system of lipids and lipid receptors that help maintain everything from appetite to pain, mood, and memory. If these four functions sound familiar to you, it could be because they’re related to some common effects of cannabis: appetite stimulation, pain relief, mood improvement, and short-term memory loss. This system, as a whole, is your endocannabinoid system.
Whether or not you’re a cannabis user, your body actually produces its own endocannabinoids. Broken down into its prefix and root, the word “endocannabinoid” basically means “a cannabinoid that comes from within.”
Two other kinds of cannabinoid — man-made and natural — can also act on your receptors, sending signals to other cells and the brain. Phytocannabinoids, like the compounds in Cannabis sativa, come naturally from plants.
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the most common phytocannabinoid, found in large doses in most cannabis strains. It’s responsible for the psychoactive effects that patients feel when they medicate. More than 60 different kinds of cannabinoids are found in nature, and they all affect the human body differently.
Cannabinoid receptors are found in a number of brain hot spots for emotional regulation, including the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, hippocampus, and periaqueductal gray (PAG) of the midbrain. In other words, there’s potential for cannabinoids — both those found within the body and those introduced from outside — to alter the function of those channels, either for good or for bad.
According to preclinical research on mice, activating the PAG’s CB1 receptor reduces anxiety, stress, and panic. It seems, though, that these results are dose-dependent: past a certain point, a higher dose may actually worsen fear and stress.
Over the last few years, we’ve started hearing more and more about CBD, or cannabidiol. With numerous clinical applications and no psychoactive effects, CBD has come into the forefront among doctors treating neurological conditions like epilepsy.
And that’s not all it does. Almost everyone, at one time or another, has worried that their body and brain aren’t working optimally together. Maybe stress is a concern, or maybe it’s the full-body tension that accompanies feelings of anxiety and stress.
Whatever the symptoms or causes, it’s a bummer all around. But what if CBD could lend a hand?
Research suggests that CBD could play an important role in regulating our emotions and stress response. And a recent AlterNet article even went so far as to posit that a “marijuana deficiency” could be the culprit behind problems like migraines and IBS.
Like any other element of health, it’s important to keep the endocannabinoid system functioning at 100 percent. Fortunately, all the hype around CBD has led it to become widely available within the medical cannabis and adult use communities like Colorado’s.
CBD is already seen by many as a supplement, and will likely become even easier — and less costly — to obtain before long. Who knows: within a few years, parents could be giving CBD “vitamins” to their kids every morning before school.
After all, CBD from industrial hemp is already available and legal for all.