An Introduction to the Endocannabinoid System
Hi Everyone and welcome back!
Now if you’re reading this I can probably assume that you already know that cannabis is an amazing plant that does everything from helping with pain to relieving stress to boosting your appetite.
But do you know how or why it works?
I mean logically speaking that’s quite a spread of conditions. We’re talking influence over muscles, nerves, organs and mental health. All at the same time!?! That’s bonkers!!!
It leaves many of us, especially those that have struggled with chronic conditions, afraid that it’s a fad or worse - a scam. Some kind of snake oil to get you goofy, but not actually help anything. This impression is made worse by the fact that user experience varies drastically. We covered that briefly in this post and I’m sure we’ll talk about it more in the future, but today is about explaining how this little ol’ weed can provoke so many different reactions in the body.
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS)
The ECS was discovered in the early 90’s and if you look it up you’ll find lots of articles that all say the same frustratingly vague thing.
It’ll look something like this:
Now I don’t know about you, but I have no recollection of homeostasis ever being brought up in health class, let alone how to “maintain” it.
For something that supposedly explains everything cannabis can do in two words, this didn’t make much sense. So I pursued the idea until it did. It comes in two parts; The receptors (communication centres/locks) and the cannabinoids (keys).
This image shows that there are two main types of receptors throughout your body.
CB1- are primarily in the nervous system
CB2- are throughout the muscles and organs
Remember those cell towers in locked rooms I mentioned? Well, every function your body is capable of and has it’s own tower locked inside it’s own room. To activate the process of that room you need keys known as a cannabinoids.
A healthy ECS produces it’s own cannabinoids, known as AEA and 2AG, to fulfill this purpose. These two little keys open and close every door on demand and everything runs smoothly. This is the state known as homeostasis.
“Maintaining homeostasis” means “sustaining optimal function” aka “your body works the way it’s supposed to”
Those with a healthy ECS rarely get sick, tend to heal exceptionally quickly and have very few issues around mental health.
Which is fantastic for them, but what about the rest of us?
These receptors are how your body talks to your body. Think of them as cell towers inside of locked rooms. If the signal is weak, the request for a key never gets through and the required function doesn’t happen.