The endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays a very important role in the human body for our survival. This is due to its ability to play a critical role in maintaining the homeostasis of the human body, which encompasses the brain, endocrine, and immune system, to name a few. ECS is a unique system in multiple dimensions.
To begin with, it is a retrograde system functioning post- to pre-synapse, allowing it to be a “master regulator” in the body. Secondly, it has a very wide scope of influence due to an abundance of cannabinoid receptors located anywhere from immune cells to neurons. Finally, cannabinoids are rapidly synthesized and degraded, so they do not stay in the body for very long in high amounts, possibly enabling cannabinoid therapy to be a safer alternative to traditional pharmaceutical medications.
The ECS is present nearly everywhere in the human body and functions by maintaining the homeostasis of the human body (Alger, 2013), defined as “any self-regulating process by which biological systems tend to maintain stability while adjusting to conditions that are optimal for survival. If homeostasis is successful, life continues; if unsuccessful, disaster or death ensues. The stability attained is actually a dynamic equilibrium, in which continuous change occurs yet relatively uniform conditions prevail”. This is partially achieved through a negative feedback loop which works by the activation of a postsynaptic neuron synthesizing and releasing the endocannabinoids as they target various cannabinoid (CB) receptors. CB1 is a dominant receptor in the brain and central nervous system, responsible for signaling to the rest of the ECS once influenced by cannabinoids. CB2 is a second receptor, mostly located in the immune and peripheral systems.
There are multiple known endocannabinoids that play a role in the ECS. All of them seem to play a role in anti-proliferative, anti-inflammatory, and anti-metastatic effects (Madia & Daeninck, 2016). Additionally, it appears that they have a role in neurotransmitter, immune system, and mitochondrial function. Researchers say that this system helps regulate many functions in humans such as:
In summary, the ECS comprises a vast network of chemical signals and cellular receptors that are located throughout our brains and bodies. This system is involved in regulating a variety of physiological processes and functions to maintain homeostasis, or balance. To stimulate these receptors, our bodies produce molecules called endocannabinoids, which have a structural similarity to molecules in the cannabis plant. The cannabis plant, which humans have been using for about 5,000 years, essentially works its effect by the phytocannabinoids, acting similar to endogenous endocanninbinoids, modulating this ancient cellular machinery.
With each individual supported by their endocannabinoid system, we know CBD and other cannabinoids act as a means to keep the ECS in balance and function at its prime. Understanding how and why the body harmoniously interacts with this system will help guide you to better sustainable health!
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