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What Is the Endocannabinoid System?

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The endocannabinoid system is one of the most widespread and complex signaling systems in our brain and body. It contains two main endocannabinoids (anandamide and 2-archidonyl glycerol), cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), and their associated endogenous lipid ligands.

While research is still relatively new, scientists have found strong evidence that this system is crucial in understanding how to prevent, manage, and even treat various chronic conditions.

It plays a key role in achieving, maintaining, and even restoring balance within one’s brain and body because it impacts many physiologic processes and behaviours. For this reason, the endocannabinoid system has been hailed as the universal, or master, regulator.

According to research published in Progress in Molecular Biology and Translational Science, the endocannabinoid system is responsible for modulating and regulating neurogenesis, neural development, immune function, metabolism and energy homeostasis, synaptic plasticity and learning, pain, emotional state, arousal and sleep, stress reactivity, and reward processing, and addiction to drugs of abuse.

We know that disruptions to the normal functioning of this system have consequences for our physical and mental health. Modulating this activity and restoring proper balance has shown therapeutic promise in a wide range of illnesses ranging from Huntington’s Disease to epilepsy to autism and more.

The role of cannabis in the endocannabinoid system

Cannabis contains phytocannabinoids that naturally pair with our endogenous cannabinoid receptors. This process of pairing stimulates the entire endocannabinoid system.

When disease or illness is present in the brain or body, we know there is an imbalance. Adding phytocannabinoids, which are processed as endocannabinoids, can help restore homeostasis. These cannabinoids target our naturally-occuring receptors and therefore work to fix the issue rather than mask symptoms like some other medications.

The beauty here is that the phytocannabinoids know exactly where to target and what restoration is needed. They can work as inhibitors or stimulators, depending on the unique needs of each patient.

The endocannabinoid system forms the basis of our well-being. Further research on this system’s role in specific instances of disease can open opportunity for a naturally healthier life for those suffering from treatment-resistant chronic conditions.