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endocannabinoid system

Why The Endocannabinoid System Is Important For People Who Smoke Weed

 October 08, 2023  Written by Emma Chasen
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Why you need to know about the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) if you're a cannabis connoisseur.

Scientists didn't discover the physiological system that allows us to feel the effects of cannabis until the 1990s. This system, aptly named the "endogenous cannabinoid receptor system" (AKA the ECS), is a biological system comprised of endocannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors, and various enzymatic factors. The ultimate goal of the ECS is to allow the body to achieve homeostasis. 

How the endocannabinoid system works

Our bodies are incredibly complex machines with many moving parts, which makes encountering problems inevitable. And when our bodies encounter problems, we enter into disease states. There are mechanisms at play, like our immune system, to help us move through these disease states as quickly as possible and back to equilibrium.

The ECS is a system that not only assists in recovery but also helps to prevent disease states from ever occurring. For example, when our bodies enter disease states we become similarly rusty like the infamous Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz. In this analogy, the ECS is the oil that not only prevents the Tin Man from ever becoming rusty but also allows him to recover from his rusty state. The ECS is the lubricant that keeps our complex bodies running smoothly. 

The history of the ECS and why that should impact how you consume cannabis

Research scientists first uncovered this hidden homeostatic highway when isolating the receptors that allow for cannabinoid interaction. Since that discovery, scientists have identified at least twelve cannabinoid receptors, two endogenous cannabinoids, and a variety of other receptor families in the ECS

Scientists have currently identified twelve cannabinoid receptors, but the most important are the CB1 and CB2 receptors.

  • CB1 receptors are densely populated in the brain, but can also be found scattered throughout our bodies. CB1 receptors mediate a variety of physiological responses, including the “high” we feel from cannabis. THC effectively binds to the CB1 receptors in our brain to facilitate the psychotropic experience. 
  • CB2 receptors are most densely populated on immune cells, but can also be found in our brain stem. CB2 receptors are largely responsible for immune modulation and can help to strengthen our bodies and prevent disease. Neither THC nor CBD effectively binds to the CB2 receptors, but b-caryophyllene, a common terpene in cannabis, can bind to these receptors and initiate effects.

Our bodies also produce our own cannabinoids. These are called endocannabinoids and they work in similar ways to phytocannabinoids (like THC and CBD), but they are designed by the body so they engage the cannabinoid receptors more effectively. Two of the most prominent endocannabinoids are anandamide and 2-AG. 

  • Anandamide engages CB1 receptors at the main binding site to facilitate a variety of physiological effects including mood stabilization, pain and inflammatory relief.
  • 2-AG - engages both CB1 and CB2 receptors to initiate a variety of medicinal pathways including immune modulation, pain and inflammatory relief

Why it's important to tailor your cannabis consumption to your own endocannabinoid system the

Every individual has a unique ECS, otherwise known as your ECS tone. Your unique ECS tone describes your various endocannabinoid receptor densities and endocannabinoid concentrations.

It has been theorized that most humans are in a state of diminished ECS tone. A diminished ECS tone may be due to chronic stress, poor nutrition, or a general lack of emotional, mental, and physical care. Researchers have even theorized a syndrome called Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Syndrome (CECD) that occurs as a result of diminished ECS tone. CECD may even be part of the root cause of diseases like cancers and seizure disorders. 

So how do you strengthen your ECS tone? By supplementing with cannabis! Cannabis compounds not only bind to cannabinoid receptors to initiate signaling pathways but also increase endocannabinoid concentrations.

Phytocannabinoids help to prevent the degradation of endocannabinoids by inhibiting the carrier proteins from delivering the endocannabinoids to their destruction. By this mechanism of action, cannabis helps to support the long-term improvement of our ECS tone. Improved ECS tone leads to healthier and happier states of being. 

There is still so much to uncover about our endocannabinoid receptor system. Further discoveries will allow us to develop smarter strategies for disease prevention and intervention. 

Want to take this information with you, or share it with a friend? 

Please note that this blog is not to be considered medical advice. Always consult your physician for more information and/or questions related to your specific medical history.

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