The widespread acceptance and acknowledgment of cannabis as a legitimate medicine has significantly changed public perception of the cannabis plant. And while many persons are familiar with the concept of the plant’s potential medicinal use, very few actually understand how it is capable of promoting healing and wellness. That being said, a clear understanding of what the human ECS or endocannabinoid system is and how it functions is essential.
To understand what role the ECS plays in humans, we must first define what (exactly) it is. A scientific definition of the ECS would be; “The endocannabinoid system (ECS) consists of receptors, endogenous ligands (endocannabinoids) and metabolizing enzymes, and plays an important role in different physiological and pathological processes. (1)” Because that is specific to human physiology, some further explanation is in order.
Put in the most basic terms, ‘The brain endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays an essential role in regulating central physiological processes that underlie learning and memory, anxiety, depression, addiction, appetite and feeding, pain, neuronal excitability, and protection.”(2)
If we examine the scope of regulation for which the human ECS is responsible, we quickly see it is not an insignificant factor where human health is concerned.
Given that definition, it is now possible to further understand how the maintenance of our own ECS is imperative to strong overall health and immune response.
“Not only is the ECS a natural part of our bodies, but it’s also a crucial one. You may have heard a lot of claims about the medicinal properties of cannabis in general or of the cannabinoids THC and CBD. With so many seemingly unrelated effects, you might wonder whether it’s just a lot of hype from people who want the drug legalized; however, medical science backs up many of these claims, and the reason for the far-reaching effects have to do with the size and scope of the endocannabinoid system itself.”(3)
Put simply, the human endocannabinoid system is crucial in maintaining homeostasis. Let’s look at some examples of how our bodies achieve this. When your body is functioning outside of normal parameters, the ECS is activated in an effort to correct the imbalance. When your body gets too hot, the ECS activates to cool it down. If you feel hungry, that is because the ECS has alerted your body to feel hunger.
All humans have the CB1 and CB2 receptors in their body which receive those signals. The CB1 receptor is found in the brain and spinal cord while CB2 receptors are located in the peripheral nervous system, the digestive system, and, also, specialized cells in the immune system.
When our bodies are not functioning normally, the ECS provides a very precise response to affect a change back to homeostasis. Once these cannabinoids have achieved that, the ECS releases enzymes to break down those same cannabinoids so as to assure the desired ‘balance’ isn’t upset further. Clearly, human ECS plays an extremely crucial role in maintaining health.
So, why has CBD and cannabis become so popular in recent years? Prior to recent research, it was believed that cannabis was only useful where the alleviation of pain, anxiety, or indigestion was concerned. Since studies of the ECS began, that belief has been debunked. “Moreover, experimental studies showed that the activation of CB receptors by cannabinoids is antitumorigenic in most cases, i.e., it inhibits tumor cell proliferation, induces apoptosis in vitro, and blocks angiogenesis and tumor invasion/metastasis in vivo.”
Since the rescheduling of cannabis in 1941 removed the possibility for in-depth research, our medical knowledge as to the full potential of the ECS in relation to cannabinoids is not vast. According to one source, “The opportunities for viable therapeutic treatments that focus on the endocannabinoid system provide strong justification for increasing research of the endocannabinoid system.”(4)
Footnotes / Endnotes:
- Journal of the Association of Basic Medical Sciences – ‘Cannabinoids in cancer treatment: Therapeutic potential and legislation‘ by Barbara Daris: Department of Cell Biology, Institute of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Maribor, Slovenia – 2019
- ‘Endocannabinoids and epilepsy’- Dr. Robert Blair / Dr. Robert J. DeLorenzo – from ‘Cannabinoids in Neurologic and Mental Disease, 2015
- What is the Endocannabinoid System? – By Adrienne Dellwo / Medically reviewed by Jenny Sweigard, MD
- Journal of the Association of Basic Medical Sciences – ‘Cannabinoids in cancer treatment: Therapeutic potential and legislation’ by Barbara Daris.
Photo Attribution –
- ‘Looking at the the Endocannabinoid System’ – cbdguide.se/cbd-och-manniskokroppen/vad-ar-det-endocannabinoida-systemet-ecs/