An Introduction to the Endocannabinoid System:
The concept of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) wasn’t introduced until the late 1980s. A study in 1988 led scientists to discover a receptor located in a mammal’s brain that responded to cannabis. Eventually, in March of 1992, a Czech scientist named Lumír Hanuš went on to discover the first known endocannabinoid in the human brain: anandamide. Endogenous cannabinoids such as anandamide function as neurotransmitters because they send chemical messages between nerve cells throughout the nervous system.
The first studies involving the endocannabinoid system and anandamide have laid the foundation for research on CBD and how it interacts within the human body. We have found that the endocannabinoid system is essentially a network that controls processes by way of endocannabinoid messaging. The three main components that make up the endocannabinoid system are cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids, and metabolic enzymes. Homeostasis, or a balance within the body, is the perceived primary goal of this system.
Cannabinoid receptors can be found on the outer surface of cells and are “monitoring” the conditions that take place outside of the cell. CB1 and CB2 are the two main types of cannabinoid receptors. Each type of receptor exists in a different part of the body within the endocannabinoid system. Nerve cells primarily contain CB1 receptors, while CB2 receptors are mostly found in the immune system.
Endocannabinoids are the chemical compounds that interact with the cannabinoid receptors within the endocannabinoid system. Our bodies naturally produce Endocannabinoids, while phytocannabinoids, like CBD, are chemical compounds from plants. Since CBD is a cannabinoid, numerous receptors within our endocannabinoid system interact with CBD.
The endocannabinoid system has specific metabolic enzymes. FAAH and MAGL are two of the main enzymes. These enzymes ensure endocannabinoids are utilized and are broken down once they are used.
FAAH breaks down anandamide, while MAGL breaks down 2-AG. It is believed that these metabolic enzymes are more successful at breaking down endocannabinoids that naturally occur within our body, and are less effective when working with plant cannabinoids. Further, it is suspected that CBD inhibits the FAAH enzyme from breaking down anandamide, leading to a greater abundance of endocannabinoids.
Since its discovery in 1988, our knowledge of the endocannabinoid system has expanded. However, more research is necessary to understand this intricate and fascinating system. We will keep you up to date on any new findings and research as it becomes available.