All about the Endocannabinoid System
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Homeostasis. All living organisms need this ability to regulate internal, physical, and chemical systems to function well and live healthily. To help maintain homeostasis, the body’s Endocannabinoid System (ECS) plays a big part.
Homeostasis, from the Greek words for “same” and “steady,” is the ability to maintain a stable internal system, which includes a healthy body temperature, balanced chemical levels and proper fluid balance.
What is the Endocannabinoid System?
The ECS is a “master regulator” in the body, one study calls it. “This is due to its ability to play a critical role in maintaining the homeostasis of the human body, which encompasses the brain, endocrine, and immune system, to name a few. ECS is a unique system in multiple dimensions,” says the study, entitled The Endocannabinoid System, Our Universal Regulator.
The ECS is a biological system that helps to regulate and balance processes in the body, including immune response, communication between cells, sleep, mood, appetite and metabolism, memory, and even fertility and reproduction.
What does the Endocannabinoid System do?
As we said above, the ECS plays an important role in helping to maintain homeostasis in the body. This homeostasis encompasses the immune system, the brain and endocrine system. The ECS naturally contains an abundance of endocannabinoid receptors along with receptors, and enzymes.
Endocannabinoids are molecules naturally made in the body. The body produces them as needed to help internal systems mentioned above, function optimally.
Endocannabinoid receptors can be found throughout the body and help to signal the ECS when action is needed. There are two main types of these receptors; CB1 receptors, mostly found in the central nervous system and CB2 receptors primarily found in the peripheral nervous systems and immune cells.
How does CBD affect the Endocannabinoid System?
Researchers continue to dig into the impact cannabidiol has on the body and specifically, the ECS. However, studies have found positive links between CBD and the body’s ECS and the promising results call for more research.
Cannabinoids – naturally occurring compounds – are found in the family of cannabis plants. There are over 100 types of cannabinoids, which include Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The difference between CBD and THC is their chemical makeup and how they interact with the body; simply put, THC gets you high while CBD does not. CBD derived from hemp contains so little THC (less than 0.3%) that it has no psychoactive effects on the user.
THC binds to the ECS and CBD does not. This is why THC gets you high and CBD does not.
So, what does this mean for the ECS? CBD does not bind with CB1 receptors and instead, CBD stimulates ECS receptor responses that bring about calming or therapeutic effects to the mind and body. This is why CBD products such as CBD oil, capsules, and gummies are increasingly becoming natural alternatives.
THC, on the other hand, binds and activates CB1 and CB2 receptors. When the CB1 receptors are activated, a psychoactive effect is produced, meaning you get high.
CBD is a phytocannabinoid that interacts with your ECS. Once CBD is in the body’s system, your enzymes begin to break down the phytocannabinoid; this frees up the endocannabinoids that your body naturally produces to bind with receptors. CBD works by blocking the breakdown of the body’s own endocannabinoids and instead of interacting with cannabinoid receptors as mentioned above. Along with blocking the breakdown of your endocannabinoids, CBD can bind to non-cannabinoid receptors such as serotonin receptors that are known to influence pain, mood, and sleep.
A study published in The FEBS Journal also found promising and positive effects of CBD consumption on everything from a social anxiety disorder, Multiple Sclerosis side effects, insomnia, and epilepsy, based on how CBD interacts with the ECS and CB1 and CB2 receptors.
The study looked at oral consumption of CBD and also the impacts of CBD combined with THC, however, it noted there was not much positive impact on physical and mental ailments when the two are used together. The study also warned about the impacts the psychoactive effects may have on patients/users which may hinder treatment.
Without the ability to get you high or alter your mental state, CBD is safe for the majority of adults. CBD has also proven helpful to help treat physical and mental illnesses in pets and children, but doses have to be monitored and controlled very carefully in comparison to adults.
CBD, the ECS, and inner balance
As our central nervous system helps regulate hormones including stress hormones like cortisol and cannabinoids and the ECS are known to regulate hormone-related issues, such as anxiety, it’s no wonder that CBD – whether in oil or other ingestible forms – have already proven so effective in helping reduce feelings of anxiety and physical pain in the body. CBD, therefore, supports the body’s ECS, naturally working with the body’s receptors, endocannabinoids and enzymes to help achieve homeostasis.
Cortisol also breaks down muscle tissue, and high-intensity workouts increase cortisol levels. CBD regulates homeostasis and has anti-carbolic properties that help regulate cortisol levels and help to increase muscle growth by limiting the retention of cortisol related fat. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, CBD helps with the muscles’ recovery and regeneration time, allowing natural, faster repair, reduced soreness, and inflammation.
This explains CBD’s increasing popularity among active people – whether you’re a Yogi trying to prolong feelings of savasana or enhance your practice. Or, you’re an avid runner and weightlifting fan, CBD oil gummies and pain cream all help to calm the mind and repair muscle and joint pain and soreness.
Types of CBD extracts
While not all studies focus on the type of CBD extracts and their effect on the ECS, it’s important to know the difference between the three types: full spectrum, isolate and broad spectrum.
Full spectrum CBD is a whole plant extract that contains CBD and more than 100 other cannabinoids, amino acids, and essential oils found within the plant. These compounds all have various benefits and work together in what is known as the “entourage effect” to increase efficacy.
The entourage effect is the synergistic interactions between the various cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, amino acids, and essential oils found in a whole-plant (full spectrum) extract. The entourage effect is more likely to occur with full spectrum products offering higher levels of relief from inflammation, pain, and anxiety than other CBD extract products of the same done.
Broad Spectrum CBD is similar to full spectrum; however, all trace amounts of THC have been removed completely.
Isolate CBD is 99% pure CBD. In CBD isolate, the whole plant extract has been further refined to isolate the CBD compound, thereby removing all other cannabinoids, essential oils, and amino acids. While this is the purest form of CBD, it lacks other cannabinoids and compounds therefore being unable to produce the “entourage effect”.
CBD oil is the foundation ingredient in most ingestibles and other CBD products including capsules, gummies, and topicals such as creams, balms, and salves.
The growing potential for CBD and the ECS
While what we know now does not include the full potential of how CBD can work with the body’s ECS, the research we do have shows it does help the body to achieve homeostasis. CBD provides an alternate solution to prescription and over the counter medication for physical and mental pain relief and can be used safely for most people. Have you found relief with CBD? If not yet, are you willing to try?
Written by: Rosalyn Solomon