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The Human Endocannabinoid System

August 30, 2022 5 min read

The Human Endocannabinoid System

The Human Endocannabinoid System

Are you wondering about the human endocannabinoid system? Understand the key elements and mysteries of the endocannabinoid system in this article.

Cannabinoids are organic chemical compounds in cannabis plants that have been gaining popularity over the past decades. Cannabinoids have many benefits but are linked to the endocannabinoid system. It is the base where the working mechanism of CBD lies. When looking at cannabinoids, you must have come across the endocannabinoid system. What role does this system play in the body? This post will explore the endocannabinoid system and how it keeps the human body balanced and working under optimum conditions. Consider some of the current studies and advancements in this field and look into the future of the human endocannabinoid system.

Understanding the Human Endocannabinoid System

To understand this mysterious biological system, master the key concepts of homeostasis, which is a process or anybody reaction the body uses to maintain a stable internal environment for smooth functioning and other processes. In many scenarios, homeostasis' functions are directed toward maintaining a state of balance necessary for any living organism's survival. Voinov et al. (2013) clarified that disturbing the psychological equilibrium can lead to tragic health if not treated and corrected with time. It can develop symptoms ranging from obesity, arthritis, glaucoma, cancer, epilepsy, stroke, Alzheimer's infection, etc. The body's ability to adjust to the changes inflicted and maintain balance affects the organism directly, thus impacting its health.

The human endocannabinoid system is a molecular system responsible for balancing and regulating almost all body processes for proper functioning. It is responsible for communication between cells, metabolism, appetite, memory perception, cognitive abilities, sleeping, pain perception, immune response, heartbeats, etc. The human endocannabinoid system allows the interaction between the cannabinoids and receptors to trigger special beneficial health effects. Despite the integral role of this system, it was discovered several decades ago, and its importance is still under study.

The History of the Human Endocannabinoid System

In 1998, the world's leading cannabis expert Vincenzo Di Marzo stated that psychological processes in the body, such as memory, mood, appetite, pain perception, sleep, memory, etc., are features in a domain of the biological regulatory system meant to keep the body in a balanced state.

The system was named after the plant that led to its discovery – it is the most crucial physiologic system in the body involved in establishing and maintaining optimum health at all times. The system features endocannabinoids, endogenous liquid-based neurotransmitters that bind to receptors and cannabinoid receptor proteins throughout the body organs, glands, connective tissues, brain, and immune response. The endocannabinoid system has a different role in each tissue in the body, but the goal remains to achieve balance. Hafeez et al. (2013) showed that almost every physiological process in the body is affected by this system at different levels. When the endocannabinoid system is targeted, it can be used to treat many health conditions.

The surprising fact is that even with these crucial factors, the human endocannabinoid system was discovered less than three decades ago. In 1964, a cannabis expert, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, first identified and named tetrahydrocannabinol THC for the first time. Costa et al. (2015) commented that THC is known for its psychoactive compounds. Mechoulam also isolated cannabidiol, another active commercial compound in cannabis but with no psychoactive compounds. However, cannabidiol is associated with neuroprotectant and anti-oxidant properties. These two main chemical compounds of cannabis are referred to as Phytocannabinoids because they are from plants. Isolating these two active compounds in cannabis was a crucial step that paved the way for more studies and the discovery of the endocannabinoid system.

In 1990, Lisa Matsuda, a molecular biologist who collogues at the national institute of mental health, identified THC as a sensitive receptor but used lab rats as test subjects. This was the first time where the endocannabinoid system was defined. After years of research, Mechoulam discovered two endocannabinoids, the anandamide and arachidonoyl glycerol. Endocannabinoids are cannabinoids naturally produced by the brain. These two endocannabinoids bind to receptors and target body cells, thus triggering more cellular responses. When it reaches this stage, it amplifies or reduces with commands to destroy or make more endocannabinoids. This process leads to other physiological effects such as feeling euphoric or anti-inflammatory responses. According to Mechoulam, plants have been available for ages to discover a new and essential system in the body. Without cannabis, users would not have progressed to this level in medicine.

The discoveries opened a wide door for a new exploration of CBD and exploring the endocannabinoid system. The system is said to be linked to various, if not all, psychological functions. Because of this system has clinical effects on the endocannabinoid system, biochemistry, pharmacology, etc. It has been established that the endocannabinoid system has a major role in the pathology of many health disorders and also serves protective roles in many medical conditions. Modulating the endocannabinoid system makes it possible to treat infections like pain, inflammation, emesis, cardiovascular disorders, anorexia, multiple cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma sclerosis, schizophrenia, obesity, metabolic syndrome-related diseases, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, Tourette's syndrome, and Huntington's disease.

Cannabinoid Receptors

The endocannabinoid system features two main receptors. The effects of cannabinoids and endocannabinoids on the body are a result of mediation by the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Other receptors are involved, but these are the main.

CB1 receptors are found in several parts of the brain and the central nervous system. They are also located in the cerebrum and the reproductive system. They mediate many psychoactive effects of CBD. CB2 is are found in the peripheral nervous system and mainly associated with the immune system. They are responsible for the anti-inflammatory and other activities related to the immune system.

The Bottom Line

The human endocannabinoid system was named after the plant that led to its discovery – it is the most crucial physiological system in the body involved in establishing and maintaining optimum health at all times. The system features endocannabinoids – endogenous liquid-based neurotransmitters that bind to receptors and cannabinoid receptor proteins throughout the body organs, glands, connective tissues, brain, and immune response. The endocannabinoid system has a different role in each tissue in the body, but the goal remains to achieve balance. Almost every physiological process in the body is affected by this system at different levels. For that reason, when the endocannabinoid system is targeted, it can be used to treat many health conditions.

References

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Costa, M. A., Fonseca, B. M., Marques, F., Teixeira, N. A., & Correia-Da-Silva, G. (2015). The Psychoactive Compound Of Cannabis Sativa, Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) Inhibits The Human Trophoblast Cell Turnover. Toxicology, 334, 94-103.

El-Talatini, M. R., Taylor, A. H., Elson, J. C., Brown, L., Davidson, A. C., & Konje, J. C. (2009). Localisation And Function Of The Endocannabinoid System In The Human Ovary. Plos One, 4(2), E4579.

Hafeez, B. M. K. Y., Khanif, Y. M., & Saleem, M. (2013). Role Of Zinc In Plant Nutrition-A Review. American Journal Of Experimental Agriculture, 3(2), 374.

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Pacher, P., & Kunos, G. (2013). Modulating The Endocannabinoid System In Human Health And Disease–Successes, And Failures. The FEBS Journal, 280(9), 1918-1943.

Voinov, B., Richie, W. D., & Bailey, R. K. (2013). Depression And Chronic Diseases: It Is Time For A Synergistic Mental Health And Primary Care Approach. The Primary Care Companion For CNS Disorders, 15(2), 26226.