6 Ways Your Endocannabinoid System Regulates Your Body’s Physiological Processes
Updated: Jan 20
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex cell-signaling system that plays a critical role in regulating a wide range of physiological processes in the human body. The ECS is made up of three main components: endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes.
Endocannabinoids are molecules that the body produces naturally that bind to the receptors in the ECS. T
Receptors are protein molecules that are found on the surface of cells. They bind to endocannabinoids and other signaling molecules, causing a cascade of cellular responses. The two main types of receptors in the ECS are CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are primarily found in the brain and central nervous system, while CB2 receptors are primarily found in the immune system.
Enzymes are responsible for breaking down endocannabinoids once they have fulfilled their function. The two main enzymes in the ECS are fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL).
Research has shown that the ECS is involved in regulating a wide range of physiological processes, including:
Pain perception: Endocannabinoids modulate pain perception by binding to CB1 receptors in the spinal cord and brain, which reduces the release of neurotransmitters that transmit pain signals. Studies have shown that endocannabinoids can be effective in reducing chronic pain, neuropathic pain, and cancer pain.
Mood and Emotion: Endocannabinoids modulate the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, which can affect mood, appetite, and other cognitive processes. Studies have shown that endocannabinoids can be effective in reducing anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
Appetite and Metabolism: Endocannabinoids modulate the release of neurotransmitters that control appetite and metabolism. Studies have shown that endocannabinoids can be effective in reducing food intake, weight gain, and obesity.
Sleep and Circadian rhythm: Endocannabinoids modulate the release of neurotransmitters and hormones that control sleep and circadian rhythm. Studies have shown that endocannabinoids can be effective in improving sleep quality, reducing insomnia, and regulating the sleep-wake cycle.
Immune function: Endocannabinoids modulate the activity of the immune system by binding to CB2 receptors. Studies have shown that endocannabinoids can be effective in reducing inflammation and autoimmune diseases.
Cardiovascular health: Endocannabinoids modulate the activity of the cardiovascular system by binding to CB1 receptors. Studies have shown that endocannabinoids can be effective in reducing blood pressure and protecting the heart from damage.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH): Research on the Potential Therapeutic Benefits of Cannabis Compounds.
Here are a few examples of recent studies published by the NIH on the positive impact cannabis use can have in those suffering from chronic pain, PTSD, and cancer:
A study published in the "Journal of Pain" in 2020, found that cannabis may be effective in reducing chronic pain in adults.
A study published in "The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry" in 2020, found that cannabis use may be effective in reducing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans.
A study published in the "Journal of Clinical Oncology" in 2019, found that cannabis use may be effective in reducing symptoms of nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy in cancer patients.
A study published in the "European Journal of Cancer" in 2018, found that cannabis use may be effective in reducing pain and improving the quality of life in cancer patients.
Note: While some studies have found potential benefits, others have highlighted the potential risks and side effects, which underlines the importance of further research to understand the full potential of cannabis and its compounds.
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS): a Complex Cell-Signaling System.
The ECS was discovered in the 1990s through research on the effects of cannabis; however, literature and evidence of its medical uses date back thousands of years.
2000 BC: The Oldest Evidence of Human Consumption of Cannabis
The earliest known reference to cannabis in Chinese literature is in the "Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing" (Shen Nong's Herbal Classic), a Chinese text on agriculture and medicinal plants that was written during the Han dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD).
The text describes the use of cannabis for a variety of ailments, including gout, rheumatism, and absent-mindedness.
In ancient China, cannabis was also used in religious and spiritual rituals, particularly in the Taoist tradition. The "Shang Han Lun" (Treatise on Cold Damage), a Chinese medical text was written during the Han dynasty.
The text describes the use of cannabis in the treatment of various conditions, including malaria and gout.
In Central Asia and the ancient Indian subcontinent, cannabis was used for medicinal and ritualistic purposes as early as 2000 BC. The Atharva Veda, one of the oldest Indian texts, describes the use of cannabis for medicinal and ritualistic purposes.
The text describes cannabis as one of the "five sacred plants" and praises its ability to "release us from anxiety."
In ancient Egypt, cannabis was used for medicinal purposes as early as 1550 BC.
The Ebers Papyrus, an ancient Egyptian medical text, describes the use of cannabis for the treatment of glaucoma and inflammation.
It's important to note that further research is still needed to fully understand the mechanism and therapeutic potential of the ECS, and how it can be modulated to improve health outcomes.
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