Every living mammal has an endo-cannabinoid system (ECS). Studies show that this system helps regulate the body’s cell cycles, organ functions and nervous system by acting as a bridge between brain function and states of physical health and disease.
The regulatory ECS is composed of receptors in our bodies that interact with naturally occurring organic compounds called cannabinoids. These cannabinoid receptors, resident in the cell membranes of connective nervous tissues and organs through the body, work with the system for curative effects as well as palliative ones i.e. treating diseases as well as relieving symptoms without curing the root cause. The receptors are active in our mediation of the psychoactive effects of cannabis, but are equally active in other areas, the system as a whole helping the body to reach a state of homeostasis (a state of regulation and balance). The system can help to regulate a number of bodily functions including appetite, pain management and cell renewal.
To date, there are two specific types of receptors which form this system; CB1 receptors in the connective tissues of the nervous system and CB2 receptors in the immune system, which when stimulated give responses relative to the body’s state of homeostasis. These are the known receptors but speculation continues with another receptor expected to be found soon.
The links between the psychological and corporal effects of marijuana continually raise questions regarding the relationship between states of consciousness and disease. These effects are Implicated in the treatment of such conditions as mood and anxiety disorders, movement disorders such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, neuropathic pain, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury, and such highly disparate ones as cancer, stroke, hypertension, glaucoma, and obesity. The ECS has been said to act as a bridge between mind and body – resetting old patterns to improve the health of the individual.
“The endogenous cannabinoid system—named for the plant that led to its discovery—is one of the most important physiologic systems involved in establishing and maintaining human health. Endocannabinoids and their receptors are found throughout the body: in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells. With its complex actions in our immune system, nervous system, and virtually all of the body’s organs, the endocannabinoids are literally a bridge between body and mind. By understanding this system, we begin to see a mechanism that could connect brain activity and states of physical health and disease.”
On a cellular level the system is known to stimulate autophagy (when old, dysfunctional or unnecessary cells destroy themselves) in turn helping combat tumours and also to act on the nervous system by stabilising injured nerve cells and inhibiting the action of immune cells to prevent inflammation. The ECS works in conjunction with these different cell types to help the body recover or return to a state of homeostasis. While cannabinoids are said to enhance the conscious awareness of the human mind, they equally can enhance the awareness of the human body when reacting to external changes.
The wide range of conditions dealt with by the 60 different cannabinoids present in marijuana produces much research, with much still to be done. While in 1990 the first brain receptor was found and in 1993 the second, it took until 2005 to find out that a second also resides in the brain. It also took until 2005 to find any receptor in the liver, the pancreas and in bone. As splice receptors of CB1 and 2 have now been found experts enjoy speculating not only on unknown areas holding receptors, but also on the idea that there are yet unknown types of receptors to be found, both, if found, likely proffering further information on the effects of consuming cannabis.
References and further Reading
Bradley E. Alger (1st Nov 2013) Getting High on the Endocannabinoid System, US National Library of Medicine-http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3997295/
Dustin Sulak (2015) Introduction to the Endocannabinoid System, NORML-http://norml.org/library/item/introduction-to-the-endocannabinoid-system
Pyszniak M, Tabarkiewicz J, Łuszczki JJ (July 2016) Endocannabinoid system as a regulator of tumor cell malignancy – biological pathways and clinical significance, US National Library of Medicine- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27486335
Costa L, Amaral C, Teixeira N, Correia-da-Silva G, Fonseca BM (Dec 2015) Cannabinoid-induced autophagy: Protective or death role?, US National Library of Medicine- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26732541
Sadiye Amcaoglu Rieder, Ashok Chauhan, Ugra Singh, Mitzi Nagarkatti, and Prakash Nagarkatti (2010) Cannabinoid-induced apoptosis in immune cells as a pathway to immunosuppression-http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3005548/
Pal Pacher, Sandor Batkai, and George Kunos (2006) The Endocannabinoid System as an Emerging Target of Pharmacotherapy- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2241751/
Ting CH, Chi CW, Li CP, Chen CY (2014) Differential modulation of endogenous cannabinoid CB1 and CB2 receptors in spontaneous and splice variants of ghrelin-induced food intake in conscious rats-http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25466669