The Endocannabinoid System (ECS): Homeostasis is the main objective
The Endocannabinoid System is a remarkable medical discovery uncovered in the 1990’s after a series of investigatory research activities starting in the 1960s yet some would argue has been a long time coming (Remember the Pen Tsao Ching). The findings were to leave the medical researchers in awe of what this implied. A significant biological system which extends its influence over a large amount of Human physiological and neurological activity. The whole point of this system it seems is to create stability in the human body, a term known as: Homeostasis.
Basically, homeostasis is your body’s energies to keep everything functioning in harmony. It is working automatically to keep your internal biological environment stable and running smooth no matter what’s going on in the external environment. Much like an information dashboard this web of activity is consistently feeding back information throughout your body between a multitude of key physical, neurological and immune functions.
The findings were to leave the medical researchers in awe of what this implied. A significant biological system which extends its influence over a large amount of Human physiological and neurological activity. The whole point of this system it seems is to create stability in the human body, a term known as: Homeostasis.
As it is a regulatory retrograde signalling system your body works continuously to monitor important levels and functions. Is your temperature too high, too low, or just right? Are your hormone levels what they should be? Is your heart beating too fast? Do you need to rest? Is too much of something building up in your bloodstream or inside of your cells?
When something is functioning outside of the right range, your body activates the ECS to help correct it. So when you overheat and begin to sweat, thank your ECS for working to cool you down. If you have chronic pain it’s your ECS that works to ensure that it is manageable.
The ECS does this via cannabinoid receptors found in select tissues. We have a growing number of types of cannabinoid receptors due to the ongoing research:
CB1 which is in the central nervous system (brain and nerves of the spinal cord)
CB2 which is in the peripheral nervous system (nerves in your extremities), the digestive system, and specialized cells in the immune system
GPR55 which is linked to energy conservation and distribution as well as metabolic dysregulation associated with Diabetes and obesity
GPR18 regulates a range of disparate functions including intraocular pressure, Cell migration and a range of metastatic (spreading or migratory) diseases
GPR30 Estrogen rapid signaling relating to the characteristics of growth prevalent of this hormone
GPR119 which is like an excess fat indicator regulating appetite increase/decrease
Through all these receptors, the ECS helps regulate a lot of important functions, such as:
Appetite, Digestion, Immune function, Inflammation including Neuroinflammation, Mood, Sleep, Reproduction/Fertility, Motor control, Temperature Regulation, Pleasure/Reward and Pain.
Your body triggers the ECS with exactness so that it affects only what it needs to. For example, if your digestion is off kilter, it will work to regulate it without altering your immune system or functioning. Truly remarkable.
Then, once the endocannabinoids have attended to its duties and ensured balance, specific enzymes break them down and stop them from upsetting the balance in the opposite direction.
Homeostasis is essential to our health and survival, so when the ECS isn’t working properly, it can cause many issues. Currently, Fibromyalgia is being examined as an ECS deficiency disease.
We’re already seeing a lot of research on cannabinoid-based treatments and we’re certain to see more as we gain a better understanding of the ECS and the chemical substances involved. Changes in legal status and the recent World Health Organisation stance on new Cannabis regulations based on scientific studies will see a growing number of Cannabis/Hemp products hitting the common market to serve the wider public and increasing demand.
The Role of Receptors and Enzymes
When someone smokes Cannabis, a cannabinoid from the plant attaches to the CB1 receptor in the brain and creates a high. This also provides the risk of over-consumption of THC which down-regulates the CB1 receptors effectively creating a shut down of the ECS (Ever hear of a “Whitey”) this can be uncomfortable and not a very nice experience however in no cases has it been fatal. Time and comfort are what is needed in the event of too much THC. THC is short for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. One of your own endocannabinoids (Endo stands for Endogenous and Endogenous means from your body) that attaches to the same receptor is called Anandamide. (More on this in our Science Info Vault coming soon)
While THC and anandamide are similar in they can activate the same receptor, Anandamide doesn’t get you stoned or create the same feeling as THC. Anandamide does have a calming effect, of course, being the chemical that is used to ensure ECS activity is constant. In fact, it gets its name from “Ananda”, the Sanskrit word for bliss.
The reason Anandamide doesn’t get us high and THC does, lies with something called the Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase or FAAH enzyme. FAAH’s job is to break down anandamide and other endocannabinoids have subsequent enzymes that do the same thing. It works quickly on the ones your body creates, but it doesn’t break down THC. That means THC sticks around for a lot longer and therefore has a much greater effect and is why many people go to Cannabis for prolonged relief from many afflictions.
In the brain, cannabinoids and endocannabinoids function as neurotransmitters (chemical messengers that deliver information from one cell to the next.
A plant-based cannabinoid that’s gotten a lot of attention from researchers is Cannabidiol or CBD. It doesn’t have strong psychoactive properties, so its benefits come without the high of THC however it is highly effective which is what the fuss is all about and why CBD products are so effective.
One known function of CBD in the brain is to stop the FAAH enzyme from breaking down Anandamide. This allows for anandamide to build up naturally and can have more of an impact on the Homeostasis objective that the ECS is now becoming famous for.
Cannabinoids are being studied as likely treatments for all kinds of conditions, not just those involving ECS deficiencies. The potential for human health is extremely promising.
Some of the illness they’re being researched for include:
Neurological, neurodegenerative, neurodevelopmental, and psychiatric illnesses
Acute and chronic kidney disease
Chronic inflammatory diseases such as Fibromyalgia
Chronic pain conditions
CBD already is in use for pediatric epilepsy, pain, inflammation, acne, asthma, and a host of other conditions.
The future will posit further findings as the commitment globally to Cannabis research is a metaphorical cat out of the bag situation which now the stigma is slowly being lifted should see more freedom in finding the true potential of this fantastic plant and its hidden mysteries.
So whichever way you look at it the ECS is by far the most important medical find in the last half century and at Flora Fusion we will always be looking to stay up to date with the information as it leaves the labs!