The human body contains an endogenous cannabinoid system, commonly referred to as the endocannabinoid system, or ECS for short. The ECS is a widespread neuromodulatory system with far reaching affects throughout the whole body, from the Central Nervous System (CNS) to the Periphery. The ECS is comprised of 3 main components:
- Cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2)
- Endocannabinoids (2-AG and AEA)
- Enzymes (FAAH and MAGL) responsible for the make up and break down of the endocannabinoids
The ECS regulates the human body, from embryological development to neural plasticity and neuroprotection. The ECS is involved in cellular processes such as apoptosis (cell death), carcinogenesis (cancer formation), the regulation of pain, hunger, satiety, feeding and metabolism, and emotional memory.
Endocannabinoid tone describes the overall state of your ECS and is a reflection of how all the previously mentioned 3 components act to bring about homeostasis within your system. CBD or any form of hemp extract work with the ECS to ensure your endocannabinoid tone is in a state of balance to bring its therapeutic effects.
A) Cannabinoid Receptors:
CB1 and CB2 receptors are widespread throughout the human body. CB1 receptors are primarily in the CNS, while CB2 receptors are primarily in the periphery. When these cannabinoid receptors are activated by the endocannabinoids, it elicits a therapeutic effect.
When cannabis is consumed, phytocannabinoids (i.e. CBD oil) bind to CB1 receptors in your brain, leading to psychoactivity such as reducing anxiety. When CB2 receptors are activated, they can address inflammatory conditions and help boost your immune system response.
We call this process the lock & key: think of CB1 and CB2 receptors as locks within your body, and the keys are the naturally occurring endocannabinoids in our ECS + phytocannabinoids within the plant.
The 2 major endocannabinoids are 2-AG and AEA. They are derived from arachidonic acid produced by the body. These endocannabinoids activate 2 different cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) just mentioned. AEA, or anandamide, is known as the BLISS Molecule. It’s a neuron that plays a role in human behavior and emotions. When you’re feeling down, or depressed, it’s often attributed to inflammation or lack of neuron signaling due to a distressed endocannabinoid tone. AEA regulates this problem by decreasing inflammation and increasing neuron signaling, which in turn makes you happy. Hence it being called the bliss molecule.
The 2 major enzymes (FAAH and MAGL) are responsible for the synthesis and degradation of endocannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids like CBD can affect overall levels of endocannabinoids in the brain by influencing enzymes as followed:
- CBD inhibits the FAAH enzyme, which breaks down Anandamide, or AEA, or the Bliss molecule we just mentioned. Essentially, CBD can increase Anandamide levels by preventing FAAH from breaking it down.
- CBD inhibits the MAGL enzyme, which results in increase levels of 2-AG. The upkick of brain 2-AG can influence you to essentially help you feel less stressed and anxious.
To sum it all up: As you can see, the ECS modulates functions throughout the body using receptors CB1 and CB2 that are affected by cannabinoids—either made from the body (endocannabinoids) or taken exogenously from the plant (phytocannabinoids). Scientists have identified at least 113 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, and over 200 terpenes. It should be considered a superfood, given all the chemical compounds it contains, and as an active drug, with all the potential therapeutic benefits it has on our bodies.