Our bodies are adapted to respond to constantly changing environmental factors, exuding biochemical substances, adapting our mood or behaviour. Science community understands the mechanisms and roles of 11 different systems such as nervous, digestive, circulatory or reproductive. In the stress situation, adrenal glands produce a high amount of cortisol (stress hormone) to alert the brain and increase attention in a dangerous situation. The hormone attaches to the receptors based on the key-lock mechanism. This scheme is common in nature. Components found in cannabis have been used based on the same principle, as a medicine for over centuries without recognition of the process. Now we can understand these mechanisms due to the discovery of the previously unknown endocannabinoid system or ECS which is responsible for maintaining health and regulation of all the other systems. Its discovery and name are owed to studies on THC and CBD effects on animals.
What is ECS built of?
The ECS consists of cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids and enzymes that regulate and recycle cannabinoids. There are two main types of receptors widely spread throughout the body. CB1 is the most abundant receptor in the central nervous system, gastrointestinal tract and in some other peripheral organs such as heart, skin, uterus and more. CB2 is less concentrated occurring mainly in immune cells, some neuron cells and blood cells. Endocannabinoids such as Anandamide or 2-AG, create a reaction by interacting with those receptors.
How does the ECS work?
Anandamide, called from Sanskrit word ‘Anand’ which states for ‘bliss, divine joy’ is expressed mostly through binding to CB1 type of receptors. The major role of this lipid-based neurotransmitter is pain relief modulation. Studies found an increased level of anandamide when the body was under constant pain.
Another suggested role of this molecule is to regulate memory, specifically helps to erase old memories to segregate and accelerate brain activity. Its found in the postanal stage of human growth and considered as an important substance in early development in the mother's womb.
2-AG mediates through attaching to both types of the cannabinoid receptors – CB1 and CB2. The concentration of this lipid in the brain was more than 170 times higher than anandamide. It also acts as an full agonist (binds completely with the receptors) what might suggest that is even more important than anandamide.
Pieces of evidence indicate that 2-arachidonoylglycerol regulates appetite and food intake, it was found in increased level during fasting periods. In response to injury, it is produced in some immune cells to prevent inflammation protecting the body from further consequences.
The Endocannabinoid deficiency
There is a theory saying that some humans might have naturally not enough cannabinoids in their bodies causing symptoms in the nervous or the digestive system.
Not all the existing diseases have been explained and the mechanisms described. Human bodies are severely sophisticated enabling us to find the possible fix. Some of them like migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome have never been explained before and cannabinoid deficiency was proposed as a possible explanation.
The body has increased level of cannabinoid’s metabolites, reducing the flow of molecules achiving the receptors.