Updated: May 27, 2020
The term endocannabinoid system (ECS) may be an unfamiliar term, and this comes of no surprise as this highly sophisticated system was only discovered the 1990’s by researchers who were working to understand the effects cannabinoids have on the body, in particular CBD and THC. CBD and THC are among the 400 phytocannabinoid compounds found in hemp.
The human ECS is a network of receptors spread throughout our entire body that control some of our most vital life functions, including our immune system, memory, appetite, sleep pattern, mood, and pain sensation.
This is why the ECS can be referred to as the power force within each of us, and science is only in its early stages of discovering just how important the ECS's role is for our overall health and wellbeing.
How does CBD work with the endocannabinoid system?
The natural cannabinoids that are produced in the body are referred to as endocannabinoids or endogenous cannabinoid receptors, these work with the phytocannabinoids found in plants ie cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from the hemp plant.
The ECS will recognise and respond via its receptors to the compounds from external sources, including CBD. These ECS receptors are referred to as CB1 and CB2, and pick up biochemical cues that affect brain development, coordination, movement, learning, sleep, pain, appetite, anxiety, addiction, nausea, and vomiting. More on this below.
The CB1 receptors are located in both the peripheral and central nerve systems, as well as in the kidneys, the liver and the lungs. They're involved in the regulation of:
And a number of other bodily functions
CB2 receptors are found in the immune system, including within the immune system tissues, digestive system and spleen, the tonsils and the thymus gland.
Within the immune system these receptors are involved with cytokine release. Cytokines are important immunomodulators that help to direct the immune systems approach to a health issues or health risks within the body. In particular CB2 receptors target the following to restore homeostasis within the body:
Also CB2 receptors present in the digestive tract, are involved in modulating the immune system's inflammatory response, and for this reason researchers have an interest in finding ways to interact with these receptors where disease in the digestive tract has resulted in inflammation.
The CB2 receptors present in the brain, most commonly on the microglia, acts macrophages (immune cells with the ability to engulf microbes, debris and other potentially harmful substances) in the brain.
Creating balance - Homeostasis
Some studies have shown low levels of endocannabinoid activity in the ECS - know as Endocannabinoid Deficiency Syndrome - are present may be linked to low moods, chronic pain, and other autoimmunity disorders. Through treating with phytocannabinoids this enables the body to come back into homeostasis. Homeostasis is how a person maintains the balance set point in the body which supports cell and neural protection, ultimately leading to long-term health.
It means all systems are stable, working well, adapting to your needs and maintaining your body's internal balance. Every system in your body - including the nervous, respiratory, digestive, reproductive systems - all require homeostasis to function optimally.