22/02/2020 | James Marsh
The discovery of the endocannabinoid system (ECS)
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex cell-signaling system within the body identified in the early 1990s by researchers exploring THC, a well-known cannabinoid. It has been described as ‘The supercomputer that regulates homeostasis in all mammals.’
Experts are still trying to fully understand the ECS. But so far, we know it plays a role in regulating a range of functions and processes, including: Appetite , Digestion , Immune function , Temperature regulation , Memory , Pain , Pleasure/reward , Inflammation , Mood , Sleep , Reproduction/fertility, Motor control.
The function of the endocannabinoid system (ECS)
The ECS involves three core components: endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes.
Endocannabinoids: Endocannabinoids are similar to the chemical compounds found in cannabis, such as CBD and THC, which are called cannabinoids. The prefix “endo” in endocannabinoids stands for endogenous (in the body)
Cannabinoid receptors: These receptors are found throughout your body. Endocannabinoids bind to them in order to signal that the ECS needs to take action.
There are two main endocannabinoid receptors:
- CB1 receptors, which are mostly found in the central nervous system
- CB2 receptors, which are mostly found in your peripheral nervous system, especially the immune cells.
Enzymes: Enzymes are responsible for breaking down endocannabinoids once they’ve carried out their function. There are two main enzymes responsible for this:
- Fatty acid amide hydrolase, which breaks down AEA
- Monoacylglycerol acid lipase, which typically breaks down 2-AG
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is responsible for maintaining your body in a state of optimal homeostasis. In other words, the ECS works to keep your body in a stable condition where everything is working at its best. If you imagine the body like a machine, each system works together to keep the machine moving. The immune system is like a filtration system, the brain is like the motherboard, and endocannabinoids help to maintain these systems.
Like any machine - whether it be a result of poor maintenance, damage, or natural aging - our body’s parts and systems can deteriorate and malfunction. When this happens, it affects the entire body and can lead to various health problems. This is where plant cannabinoids like CBD come in.