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What Are Endocannabinoids?

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It’s no secret that the medicinal use of cannabis (in one form or another) is on the rise. With that comes an increased desire to better understand how this plant can have such a powerful effect on our bodies. The resulting research led to the astounding discovery of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS)!

But what the heck is an endocannabinoid, and why do we need a whole system for them?

By now, you’re probably familiar with cannabinoids. These are the active compounds (such as THC and CBD) found within the cannabis plant. They interact with specific receptors within our central nervous system to produce the effects we experience. But did you know that our body actually has a biological system that creates similar molecules called endocannabinoids?

Endocannabinoids are one of the main components of a wide-reaching system called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). When the natural stability of our health is compromised, the ECS is activated, causing the body to create endocannabinoids within the compromised area. These molecules then bind with cannabinoid receptors throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems.

Those cannabinoid receptors are the same receptors with which the cannabis plant compounds interact.  CB1 receptors and CB2 receptors are the two primary cannabinoid receptors.  More abundant than any other receptor system in our body, cannabinoid receptors are present throughout the body.  However, the CB1 receptors are more prominent in the brain, and the CB2 receptors are more predominant outside of the nervous system.

When the binding process occurs, it acts much like traffic lights within the body. The endocannabinoids and the linked receptors send signals back and forth between cells. One may serve as a green light, telling the cells within the immune system that it’s time to step into action. Whereas, another endocannabinoid might warn the cells within the cardiovascular system that the heart rate should slow down.  Yet another may communicate with nerve cells to alert them of the need to limit or stop the pain impulses.

The signals sent by the endocannabinoids and receptors help to regulate a host of functions.  They influence our mood, appetite, immune system, reproductive system, sleep, senses, and more.  Whether the signal indicates if a process needs to start, slow, or stop depends upon where the body creates the endocannabinoid, and to which receptor it binds.   And that depends upon what physiological process is required to return the stability necessary for our overall well-being.

Metabolic enzymes are the final component of the Endocannabinoid System.  They break down the endocannabinoids once they have finished their signaling process, and the whole process begins again with the next threat to the body’s stability.

Endocannabinoids are one of the main components of a wide-reaching system called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). They play a vital role in sending signals throughout the body to maintain the stability required for optimal health and wellness.

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