Understanding the Endocannabinoid System

The Endocannabinoid System

There’s a good chance you’ve heard the term endocannabinoid system (ECS). But what is it exactly and why does it matter?

The ECS was only first discovered in 1992. It is one of the biggest discoveries in modern medical science.

You would think that would make it complicated to understand. However, it’s not. When you cut out most of the medical jargon and get right to the point, it’s easy to comprehend, and quite remarkable.

Human Regulatory Systems

We all have different regulatory systems in our body that control different functions. Our respiratory system controls our breathing to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. Our cardiovascular system controls the flow of blood delivering oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.

The endocannabinoid system works to control homeostasis within our body.

Homeostasis in our body means an overall balance. It supports the regulation of things like sleep, appetite, our immune system, pain signaling, and more.

Cannabinoids & CB Receptors

It does this by interacting with cannabinoids. Some of which you probably know, like THC or CBD. However, our bodies also produce their own cannabinoids, like  anandamide. Anandamide has been linked to causing the euphoric feeling after exercise commonly referred to as “the runner’s high”.

All of these cannabinoids interact with our ECS in a unique way. They bind themselves to our natural endocannabinoid receptors. We have CB1 and CB2 receptors.

CB1 receptors are linked to our central nervous system, which controls pain signaling and other nerve functions. CB2 receptors are linked to our peripheral nervous system, which controls things like our immune system and inflammation response. This is how cannabis provides pain relief and reduces inflammation, but how does cannabis keep our internal processes balanced for each of us? It’s not a one size fits all answer.

Internal Balance

For example, let’s say you’ve had a long day and you haven’t slept well the past few nights. Consuming cannabis will most likely make you sleepy because it’s trying to balance out your sleep cycle. At the same time, someone who is well rested may consume cannabis and not feel sleepy because they don’t need that balanced out. Maybe instead of needing sleep, you’ve been stressed recently and haven’t been eating much. Consuming cannabis could very well give you the famous munchies, and you could find yourself in front of plate full of food. This happens because that’s what you need balanced out to achieve homeostasis.

The Endocannabinoid System & You

This is part of what makes cannabis such a personalized medicine, and why understanding how the ECS works can help you make decisions about your cannabis needs. This is also why it is important to pay close attention to how different cannabis products and methods of consumption make you feel, in order to get the most medicinal benefit for you personally. Experiment with different products and consumption methods to find the best fit for your condition. 

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