The Human Endocannabinoid System Explained

It’s becoming popular knowledge that cannabis in a variety of forms can provide an array of therapeutic health benefits, but have you ever stopped and wondered why and how it all works? We know that the active compounds found within cannabis, otherwise known as cannabinoids, have an unmistakable effect on our bodies; but what is it that allows those compounds to create those effects?

As it turns out, it’s all due to the human endocannabinoid system (ECS). When it comes to demystifying cannabis and all of its effects and purposes, you must first understand what the ECS is and how it works.

What is the human endocannabinoid system?

Scientists first discovered the human endocannabinoid system in the early 1990s while they were researching the effects of cannabis on humans. Through their research, they found that endocannabinoids are natural, cannabis-like molecules made by the human body, and that the effects of cannabis in humans are made possible by mimicking our body’s natural endocannabinoids.

To fully understand the endocannabinoid system, you must first understand the concept of homeostasis in the human body. Human homeostasis, otherwise known as the Goldilocks zone, is your body’s unwavering attempt to keep your internal ecosystem stable and operating just right, regardless of what’s going on in the environment around you.

So, when a function inside of you starts operating outside of the optimal range, like high body temperature or increased blood sugar levels, your ECS kicks in to return your body to its ideal operating state.

In short, the endocannabinoid system’s main function is to maintain bodily homeostasis.

How does the endocannabinoid system work?

There are three main components to the ECS: endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes.

  1. Endocannabinoids. As mentioned, endocannabinoids are molecules produced by the human body. They are similar to cannabinoids, the active compounds found in cannabis, but they are naturally occurring in our bodies to keep internal functions running smoothly.
  2. Endocannabinoid receptors. There are two main endocannabinoid receptors found in the human body, and they are what endocannabinoids bind to when the ECS needs to be activated. Those two endocannabinoid receptors are:
    • CB1 – Found in the central nervous system
    • CB2 – Found in the peripheral nervous system (immune cells, digestive system, nerves in extremities)
      To put it into perspective, endocannabinoids could bind to the CB1 receptors to relieve back pain, or if your body was experiencing inflammation, others could target CB2 receptors in your immune cells.
  3. Enzymes. Once endocannabinoids have carried out their duties, enzymes are responsible for breaking them down and destroying them.

What role does the endocannabinoid system play in our overall health?

The endocannabinoid system’s main function is to bring balance to the body, but what happens when it isn’t working properly? Scientists have found that several conditions, such as inflammation and hypersensitivity to pain, are all tied to a low functioning ECS, otherwise known as endocannabinoid deficiency or clinical endocannabinoid system deficiency.

It is hypothesized that the ECS is at the root cause of some of these conditions, and it is believed that supporting the body with naturally occurring plant cannabinoids can effectively amend the deficiency, alleviate symptoms, and restore optimal health.

How does hemp interact with the endocannabinoid system?

The psychoactive and therapeutic effects of cannabinoids are made possible by our endocannabinoid system because that is what they interact with inside our bodies.

Broad-Spectrum Hemp Extract, which doesn’t have any psychoactive effects, does not bind to CB1 or CB2 receptors at all. Instead, it interacts with other receptors in our bodies that are also responsible for controlling functions like inflammation and pain reception.

Broad-Spectrum Hemp Extract also prevents endocannabinoids from being broken down while also helping to produce more endocannabinoids naturally. This leads to better functioning ECS and a healthier body overall. So, if your ECS is having a hard time maintaining homeostasis, hemp can give it a strong boost.

The discovery of the endocannabinoid system has uncovered a biological basis for the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids, and the use of cannabis is the most common way of targeting and supporting the endocannabinoid system.

The bottom line is, the endocannabinoid system is responsible for keeping our body’s inner workings stable. Therefore, it stands to reason that the ECS is an effective target for not just restoring balance in our bodies, but also for promoting and restoring optimal health. There is still a lot that we don’t yet know about the ECS, but as we develop a better understanding, it could be the inroads we need to effectively address several health concerns.

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