This term refers to a group of endogenous cannabinoid receptors and neuromodulatory transmitters. These receptors are found in all mammalian brains throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems. The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) was discovered by Raphael Mechoulam with help from NIMH researchers William Devane and Dr. Lumir Hanus. The ECS is involved in many physical processes in the body. These processes include pain-sensation, appetite, memory, and mood. It is also known for mediating the psychoactive effects of cannabis. Cannabis had a huge role in discovering the ECS, this is how it got its name.
Cannabinoid receptors are found throughout the body. In 1990, the CB1 receptors were cloned. They are primarily in the brain and nervous system but these endocannabinoid receptors are also found in the organs and tissues. CB2 receptors were cloned in 1993. The protein sequence of CB1 and CB2 receptors are 44% the same. Amino acids between the two receptor subtypes are about 68% similar. These are the two predominant cannabinoid receptors that are found in the body.
CB1 receptors are generally correlated to our predominantly heady effects. These are the psychoactive, uplifting receptors often found in the brain. CB2 receptors are more frequently found throughout the body and have more of an effect on inflammation and pain. These cellular receptors are essentially little messenger mediators in our brains and bodies. They are waiting for the right message to send to our cells. These messages let our receptors know whether we should be feeling pain, depression, hunger, and more. These messages are brought to our endocannabinoid receptors in the form of agonists. Cannabis treatments can send THC, CBD and other cannabinoids to these receptors which will send messages of healing to the others throughout our body.
The cellular process that we’ve described above has been occurring for millions of years. It is possible that the first activation of the endocannabinoid system occurred up to 600 million years ago when complex life first met a sponge. There is a large body of research in the literature regarding endocannabinoid deficiency and chronic diseases. Some studies with multiple sclerosis have shown cannabis treatments to stop the degenerative disease and relieve symptoms. Many fibromyalgia patients also report back amazing results treating their chronic pain and flare ups with cannabis. Some testimonies claim that cannabis is an effective treatment for autoimmune disorders. There are quite a few chronic diseases that have been treated themselves or had their symptoms by using cannabis as medicine.
When the endocannabinoid system in our body is out of whack it tends to cause these deficiencies. Sometimes in the form of high stress or anxiety. Sometimes in the form of autism or palsy. Overactivity in either the CB1 or CB2 receptors can be just as dangerous as underactivity. The important goal to strive for is balance. Hemp oil is a great way to start balancing our ECS. It can deliver the right messages to our CB2 receptors without activating the CB1, which are the receptors that cause the “high” feeling we get when we smoke. CBD-only hemp oil is one of the best ways to introduce someone new to medical cannabis. Be aware that despite it being much less intense than THC treatment, hemp oil can make more sensitive patients extremely lethargic. The ECS is the key to understanding the science of how cannabis interacts with our bodies, making it one of the most interesting aspects of this plant.