The endocannabinoid system (ECS) was discovered in the 1990’s and is one of the body’s largest communication networks. The ECS plays a crucial role in maintaining balance in the body by regulating many of the below physiological processes:
- appetite, hunger, and digestion
- motor control
- pain and pleasure
- immune function
- energy balance
- fertility, pregnancy, and reproduction
The best way to describe the ECS is as a balancing system (or homeostatic regulator) which sends neurotransmitters (messenger + communication molecules) all over the body to check that everything is working smoothly and confirm if anything needs to be re-balanced.
The ECS is comprised of messengers and receptors. The body naturally produces chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) called endocannabinoids (like anandamide and 2-AG). These neurotransmitters bind to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, immune system, and throughout the body. There are two types of cannabinoid receptors; CB1 and CB2. These receptors act as a sort of lock, with cannabinoids acting as the key. CB1 receptors are mainly found in the brain, central nervous system and outlying organs and tissues. CB2 receptors are more often found in the immune system, gastrointestinal tract and peripheral nervous system. The ECS regulates how quickly neurotransmitters are being released; slowing them down or speeding them up as necessary in order to return to and maintain internal homeostasis.
When the body does not produce enough endocannabinoids or cannot regulate them properly, it falls out of balance and systems of the body may begin to malfunction. Many common health problems can arise such as chronic pain, inflammation, insomnia, anxiety, fatigue, autoimmune disorders, and depression.
This is where CBD comes in. CBD is a phytocannabinoid (phyto meaning plant) which is derived from the cannabis plant. CBD also interacts with the endocannabinoid system. The main function of CBD is to slow down the breakdown of the body’s own endocannabinoids so that the body can use more of what it is naturally producing. CBD works as a modulator in the ECS to help the body regain homeostasis. When the right amount of CBD is added to the body, balance begins to return, and the body begins to heal itself. CBD’s effect on the endocannabinoid system, as well as its impact on other areas of the human body, suggest that it may be useful in treating a multitude of medical conditions. In this way, many people are finding that CBD can be a viable alternative to other pharmaceuticals.