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What is the ENDOCANNABINOID system?
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) was discovered in the 1990’s. Since its time of discovery it has gained extensive recognition as one of the most important receptor systems in the body aimed at promoting good health. The ECS is considered a homeostatic regulator.
Homeostasis is an organism’s tendency to self-regulate its internal environment through physiological processes in order to maintain optimal health. The ECS plays a role in neuroprotection, immune function, metabolism, motor control, memory, mood, pain, appetite, sleep, digestion, temperature regulation, fertility and reproduction. The ECS works as it was intended to help these fundamental pathways regulate and restore the balance that nature intended.
The ECS is comprised of two main components which can be thought of as Keys and Locks.
1) The Key - Endogenous cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) are produced within the body naturally. Endocannabinoids are found in the central nervous system, immune system, organs, connective tissue, and glands of the body. The two main endocannabinoids are anandamide (AEA) and arachidonoyl glycerol (2AG). 2AG is the most abundant endocannabinoid in the body and is reported to be an important regulator for pain management, immune system and appetite. Anandamide is a neurotransmitter produced in the brain and is reported to play an important role in pain, appetite, and fertility and also shows anti-anxiety and anti-depressant properties.
CBD is one of these Keys as well. However, instead of being produced internally it is one of many phytocannabinoids that occur naturally in the cannabis plant. CBD mimics the structure of naturally produced endocannabinoids allowing it to influence the ECS and help the body maintain homeostasis.
When these keys find their designated locks they initiate a reaction for those neurons to spring into action. This interaction sparks a chain of chemical messages that are passed along to the cells of the body influencing a variety of events that are key to maintaining homeostasis and healthy function.
2) The Lock- The effects of cannabinoids and endocannabinoids are mediated by G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) known as Cannabinoid receptors. As far as we currently know there are two main classes of cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 each found in different parts of the body. The first class, CB1 cannabinoid receptors are found primarily in the central nervous system (brain) and to a much lesser extent in peripheral tissues and organs. The second class, CB2 cannabinoid receptors are found in the various parts of the immune system; this includes the spleen, liver, lungs, muscles, and bones.
The interaction of this link between Lock and Key is accelerated by the naturally produced enzymes monacylglycerol lipase (MAGL) and fatty acid amid hydrolase (FAAH). These enzymes help catalyze (speed up) the biochemical process for the reaction but also help metabolize (breakdown) the cannabinoids after they serve their purpose.
CBD and its interaction with the ECS
Recent research shows new insight into the physiological pathway of CBD and its interaction with the ECS. Unlike THC, CBD does not directly bind to the CB1 or CB2 receptors. Instead CBD suppresses the FAAH enzyme. FAAH enzyme is responsible for breaking down the endocannabinoid AEA (anandamide) in the body. FAAH acts as an inhibitory enzyme to AEA; this actual lowers the amount of available AEA in our system and thus its ability to bind to our CB2 receptors. This decrease in the AEA translates to a decline in the beneficial effects of AEA.