The Endocannabinoid System

Knowing about the endocannabinoid system and its function in the body is crucial to understanding the healing benefits of both the CBD and THC compounds. The endocannabinoid system plays a vital role when it comes to our immune system, keeping us healthy and using the marijuana plant compounds in a way that benefits our bodies.

We know that you must have plenty of questions, we are going to answer them! This guide will help you to understand the role of the endocannabinoid system, and we will dive deeper into the discovery and function of it so that we can more clearly see how CBD and THC assist in maintaining health.

The Body’s Major Organ Systems

Every single body, even those of plants, is made up of organs and organisms that each play a vital role in keeping the body healthy, growing and disease-free. The function of each varies, but each one is nonetheless important, and they all work together to maintain the careful balance that allows one to live a life of complete health.

The 11 most well-known major organ systems that makeup and preserve our body’s health are:

  • Circulatory system
  •  Respiratory
  •  Urinary
  •  Reproductive
  •  Integumentary
  •  Skeletal
  •  Muscular
  •  Nervous
  •  Endocrine
  •  Lymphatic
  • Digestive system

However, our bodies actually have a 12th system – the endocannabinoid system. This system is somewhat mysterious, as it plays a role that suggests our bodies were designed to ingest and use cannabinoids. It also suggests that we may have naturally occurring cannabinoids already present in our systems. This is truly revolutionary when you consider what that means for our understanding of cannabis and it’s health benefits.

What is A Cannabinoid?

So, we know so far that the endocannabinoid system has something to do with cannabinoids (it’s quite self-explanatory when we see the name). However, we need to also grasp precisely what a cannabinoid actually is before we can discuss what the endocannabinoid system does in terms of utilizing them. 

The marijuana plant itself is made up of a surprisingly vast variety of different chemical compounds, and each one of these is responsible for creating different characteristics and functions of the plant. These compounds all have different makeups, thus, when broken down, perform different activities in the body of mammals and in plants. These compounds are known as cannabinoids. 

The two most famous cannabinoids are THC and CBD. These substances interact with the body through our Endocannabinoid system, and each one has a different effect when doing so. These two cannabinoids are responsible for both the recreational and medicinal uses of the cannabis plant.

What is The Endocannabinoid System?

Let’s get to the juicy part, and discuss what exactly the endocannabinoid system (also known as the ECS) really is and how it works!

The mysterious ECS was originally discovered by an L.A doctor by the name of Dr. Matsuda. He came across this strange organ system 25 years ago. At the time, scientists were already undergoing studies and trying to gain insight into the way that THC affects the body and its health.

What Dr. Matsuda and his team uncovered was that the human body has a complex network made up of cannabinoid receptors, similar to how the immune system is made up of a series of nerve-endings.

This complex system was found to be in both our central (the body) and peripheral (the brain) nervous systems. Because of its function, this system was thus named the Endocannabinoid system.

The name was derived because of the way it appropriately describes this system. The ‘endo’ part of the name is from the word ‘endogenous’, meaning internal or self-created. As for the ‘cannabinoid’ part of the name, that part is fairly obvious, as the entire system is devoted to distributing cannabinoids.

Discovering this complex network within the body was just the beginning, and we now have a way to fully understand the way our body responds to and makes use of cannabinoids.

Why Does Our Body Have an Endocannabinoid System?

Well, this is a million dollar question! The reason we believe the human body already has a system designed to break down the cannabis plant and distribute cannabinoids throughout the body, is because we already have existing cannabinoids in our body.

It is a crazy concept to understand that we already produce cannabinoids naturally! As it seems, smoking or ingesting cannabis is not the only way that our bodies receive cannabinoids. The first cannabinoid-like compound that was proven to be naturally produced by the body was Anandamide. This compound is thought to respectively modulate both the central and peripheral nervous system. Uncovering this compound shows that the ECS  plays a part in maintaining our immune system.

The discovery of Anandamide was ground-breaking in the field of cannabis studies, as it shows us a deeper truth into our relationship with the marijuana plant. As humans, we as a species have used plant medicines since the dawn of our time – and it has gotten us very far! Look where we are today! Our ancestors, as well as ancient tribes all over the world, have known the healing power of plants for years.

We are coming back to our roots, and understanding that we do not always need to seek chemicals to aid us. Perhaps the remedy is growing right in our back garden…

Image by @livviesmalls

The Endocannabinoid System’s Function

The full puzzle of the endocannabinoid’s function is yet to be put together. However, there is research being done, and we will see more and more knowledge coming to the surface, and soon all the pieces will come together!

In the meantime, what we can know for sure is that the ECS assists in fine-tuning a variety of our vital physiological functions. By doing this, it aids and promotes a state of homeostasis. Therefore, the ECS can affect our body’s functions, from sleep, appetite, pain, inflammation, memory, mood, all the way to reproduction. So, practically every important function our body has – which is a huge responsibility! 

Basically, the function of the endocannabinoid system is to ensure that all of our bodily systems are working in harmony. This is also likely a nod to the popular entourage effect, and where the theory comes from. 

Image by @livviesmalls

Why is The Endocannabinoid System Important?

Our Endocannabinoid system is thought to be responsible for our health and balance. It has been discussed and debated that our endocannabinoid system helps us heal from diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and neurodegenerative disorders. 

The reason our endocannabinoid system plays a part in our well-being, is because our bodies need to be in a state of chemical equilibrium in order to function properly and with prime health. This chemically balanced state is known as homeostasis. When our body is out of chemical alignment, that is when we are weakened and we can experience sickness, disease and discomfort.

When our endocannabinoid system gets into a state of imbalance, this state is scientifically known as Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency. The hypothesis of this discovery is that having this deficiency in our endocannabinoid system makes us feel hypersensitive to pain, leading to migraines, fibromyalgia, and IBS.

Therefore, when we maintain our body’s natural chemical balance by treating ourselves with organic cannabinoids from plants, we can correct and heal these symptoms and maintain our health.

Sometimes, when we aren’t producing natural enzymes on our own, consuming cannabinoids through hemp oil, CBD oil, THC oil or medicinal marijuana buds can help us greatly! These substances will up the strength of our endocannabinoid system, and through this system be transported throughout the body to help maintain homeostasis.

This may just be a theory for now,  but it is necessary to understand that cannabinoids may play a very real role in balancing our well-being and keeping us healthy. Because of this very crucial role that the system plays, it has been called the ‘most important physiological system’.

The endocannabinoid is understood to be the system that is involved in establishing and preserving the health of our bodies!

CBD’s Effect on The Endocannabinoid System

CBD, otherwise known plainly as ‘cannabidiol’, is a chemical compound within the cannabis plant. Most of us are familiar with it’s uses as a medicine. The main thing to understand about CBD is that it is not responsible for the psychoactive effects of the marijuana plant. However, it is responsible for pain relief and drowsiness.

CBD oil, when consumed as in the form of oil or otherwise, goes through our body’s ECS. When it does this, it gets absorbed through the cannabinoid receptors and has the ability to reduce pain and plenty of other uncomfortable ailments. You can also grow and smoke high CBD strains if this is your main intention for using cannabis.

CBD also provides a sense of calmness throughout the body, relaxing muscles and slowing down the brain in order for it to relax. CBD exclusively acts on the CB1 and CB2 receptors, and stimulates the endocannabinoid system. This is why CBD oil can help in healing the body. It’s easy to extract CBD oil at home!

THC’s Effect on The Endocannabinoid System

THC is the famously psychoactive chemical component in the cannabis plant, and when consumed, provides a euphoric experience. THC also plays a much more fundamental role in the ECS when it comes to fighting cancer. The use of dagga oil for cancer is a fascinating subject, and something well-worth reading about!

When THC stimulates and passes through the cannabinoid receptors of the ECS, it completely binds both the  CB1 and CB2 receptors. This binding causes a high in the brain, and that is why it is sought-after for recreational use.

THC plays a role in helping the ECS to maintain homeostasis of the body, and therefore assists the immune system in healing and removing illness.

The Endocannabinoid System of Our Pets

Just like us, our cats, dogs and horses all have an endocannabinoid system as well. This is quite amazing, as it means we can also use cannabinoids to respectively treat our furry companions.

Cannabinoids work to support the health of our beloved pets, and they do this through the endocannabinoid system. There are still studies being done on the official health benefits of CBD for animals, and most have been done in relation to the endocannabinoid system of dogs.

There are plenty of success stories, and we can see evidence that the use of CBD for pets is definitely worth looking into. Whether your pet is old and in pain, or needs to relax, a safe and modulated dose of CBD could very well be the solution!

Just be sure to get your CBD from a reliable source, and remember that THC will have a completely different effect than pure CBD. Don’t expose your animals to marijuana smoke, that can be fatal for some!

Final Thoughts

There has always been hype surrounding cannabis, but with the recent events in South Africa, the limelight is now being shined on cannabis in our homeland. We are just beginning to understand its healing benefits, its economic benefits and its overall use for society in our country.

We hope that having the endocannabinoid system explained will expand your awareness of this plant’s diverse role in our world today! We can also now see how and why the cannabis plant has always been an aid for us, and we look forward to seeing cannabis culture grow!

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