When I started to investigate the medicinal properties of cannabis, I discovered a body system I had never heard of before, the endocannabinoid system. I earned a BS in Biomedical Science and Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine and I don’t remember a single mention of this system! In this article, I am going to give an overview of the endocannabinoid system. Just a warning, this is super nerdy. If nothing else, you can use the correct pronunciation of the word endocannabinoid to impress your friends.
This system is present not only in humans but dogs and cats as well. It consists of receptors in the brain and all over the body. Think of a receptor being like the ignition of your car. These receptors influence the following functions in the body:
- immune system
- pain perception
- mood and well being
- emotional reactivity
- neurogenesis (making new nerve cells)
The receptors of the endocannabinoid system are bound by cannabinoids. Think of the cannabinoid like your car key that turns your ignition (the receptor). If your car starts with the push of a button, the button is the cannabinoid. Cannabinoids come from two places. The first are cannabinoids that are made by the body called endocannabinoids. The second source is from outside the body either from plants (phytocannabinoids) or from synthetically made cannabinoids. The following are a few of the cannabinoids that are found in the cannabis plant that have been studied.
- CBD (cannabidiol)
- THC (tetrahydrocannabinol)
- CBN (cannabinol)
- CBL (cannabicyclol)
- CBC (cannabichromene)
Over 500 compounds have been isolated from Cannabis sativa, so these cannabinoids are just a small portion of the therapeutic components. Like many herbal remedies, these cannabinoids and other therapeutic compounds work together to produce benefit to the body. There is a growing body of research that has isolates and studied how each of these cannabinoids affect both human and animal endocannabinoid systems. So, stay tuned for new and exciting discoveries!
In my practice, I use a full spectrum hemp extract that contains less than 0.3% THC (no high). The term full spectrum means that the extract contains more than just CBD. It contains many of the other therapeutic components of the hemp plant. Not surprisingly, I find CBD to be extremely effective for my patients with anxiety. It also helps my patients with seizures, arthritis and chronic viral infections. You can browse the products I use in my practice or you can get my Cannabis Quick Start Guide here.
I would love to hear from you! Comment below with any questions or for a geeky bonus, share any new cannabis related science articles you are reading.