It is thought that the endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays a hugely important role in the human body. It’s completely vital to our survival, which is why we need to make sure that our ECS is working properly. But, like all other body systems, sometimes it appears to falter.
Sadly, the ECS is not widely discussed outside the cannabis community. It is not often taught about, even at medical schools, meaning that there is only a limited number of researchers looking into the importance of the ECS and what a poorly functioning one could mean for our health. Seemingly, this lack of conversation surrounding the ECS is due to its association with the cannabis plant, in part due to a similarity in name. With cannabis being illegal in many regions, the ECS is swept under the carpet as though it isn’t important in its own right.
We think it’s important to educate people about the ECS and what it does, so that the public are aware about this integral part of our bodies, and what it might mean if it isn’t working in optimal condition.
Read on to find out all about the endocannabinoid system and endocannabinoid deficiencies…
What is the Endocannabinoid System?
The endocannabinoid system is a specialised biological system consisting of cannabinoid receptors located throughout the body, alongside endocannabinoids – a type of specialised neurotransmitter. There are actually more cannabinoid receptors in the body than the total number of all other neurotransmitters put together, which is why it is such a vast and complex system.
To date, scientists have identified and studied two primary cannabinoid receptors, called CB1 and CB2. Although various types of CB receptors can be found throughout the whole body, CB1 receptors are more highly concentrated in the brain and central nervous system, as well as the kidneys, liver and lungs. CB2 receptors, on the other hand, exist predominantly in the immune system and hematopoietic cells, which generate blood cells.
The endocannabinoids are different from some other neurotransmitters in that they are synthesised (created) on demand, as and when we need them. When they are created, they bind with corresponding cannabinoid receptors to pass messages around the body about various issues and problems. As soon as the body is thrown out of balance, endocannabinoids are created to pass this message along the body via the cannabinoid receptors, which sit on the surface of the cells and “listen” for these messages.
Scientists have identified two main endocannabinoids, called 2-AG and anandamide. As soon as they have fulfilled their purpose, enzymes exist which break down the endocannabinoids, preventing them from hanging around too long.
Together, the cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids, and enzymes make up the endocannabinoid system, or ECS for short.
What Does the ECS Do?
Although the ECS is not talked about much, it is actually very important. As research continues to unfold about it, we are learning that it could be more vital than we would have ever thought.
In simple terms, the ECS maintains homeostasis, meaning that it regulates our bodily functions to ensure that we stay in optimal condition. It keeps us alive by regulating temperature, mood, sleep, appetite, and even fighting off sickness. It’s essential to keep all the conditions in our body just right, and this job falls to the endocannabinoid system. This is why a poorly functioning ECS is not good – we need it to ensure that our bodies are working properly. The more scientists investigate the ECS, the more they come to realise just how important it is.
The endocannabinoid system regulates pretty much everything, so it’s necessary for it to be in tip top condition so that we can maintain a good sleep schedule, a healthy appetite, a balanced mood, regulate pain sensations, and more.
How Does CBD Work with the Endocannabinoid System?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a hot topic as of late. It is a cannabinoid – one of the active compounds in the Cannabis sativa plant. Cannabinoids found in plants are called phytocannabinoids, and they can have an impact on the ECS, too. It is generally well-known that cannabis has an impact on humans when consumed, which is why it is used recreationally in some places. The psychoactive element of cannabis is called THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), and it works by binding directly with the CB1 receptors to create the feeling of being ‘high.’
CBD, on the other hand, is a multi-directional active ingredient. Whereas most active ingredients adjust something in one direction – either lowering it or raising it – CBD can act in both directions. It stimulates our endocannabinoid system indirectly, and it can help to stabilise it. If we need more endocannabinoids, CBD encourages their creation; if we desire less endocannabinoids, CBD prevents their creation.
It doesn’t bind directly with either the CB1 or CB2 receptor, instead influencing the creation of endocannabinoids which can interact with the cannabinoid receptors themselves.
By regulating the function of the endocannabinoid system, taking CBD can help us to maintain homeostasis and remain healthy.
What is Endocannabinoid Deficiency?
When the body does not produce enough natural endocannabinoids to maintain homeostasis, it is referred to as an endocannabinoid deficiency. Science doesn’t yet know a lot about endocannabinoid deficiency, other than that it’s bad for our health in general. Having a lack of endocannabinoids means that, clearly, we won’t be able to keep all our body systems in check.
Having an abnormally functioning ECS can cause a number of body systems to come out of balance, which is of course not a good thing. This is why it is important to make sure that our endocannabinoid system is healthy and properly functioning.
It appears that endocannabinoid deficiency might actually be very common, although research is just scratching the surface of this mystery at the moment.
How Might CBD Assist with Endocannabinoid Deficiency?
Although CBD is a phytocannabinoid, it is still a natural compound that might be able to help us stay healthy. When suffering from a lack of endocannabinoids, external cannabinoids found in plants might be able to restore some of the missing pieces to the system. And with CBD’s remarkable ability to stimulate the production of cannabinoids, it could really play a role in pushing the ECS back to full health.
Final Thoughts on Endocannabinoid Deficiency
Taking CBD is not going to magically make you healthy all the time. Staying healthy means getting exercise, eating a balanced diet, looking after your mental health, and staying hygienic. That being said, there is evidence which suggests taking a CBD supplement would be able to help you maintain a strong level of health.
More studies are needed into CBD and how it can help us as part of a healthy diet, but it seems apparent that cannabidiol is definitely something we should be looking into as a great, natural, healthy compound.