“Marijuana should not only be legalized, it should be mandatory.” Bill Hicks
May 13, 2017
Why do so few people know about the endocannabinoid system?
It might have something to do with how the endocannabinoid system (ECS) was discovered. Back in the 1990s, scientists were trying to understand how THC, the psychoactive substance in the cannabis plant, affects the body. What they uncovered was a complex network of receptors (CB1) in the brain and central nervous system that were a perfect fit for the THC molecule.
Soon after, another type of receptor (CB2) was discovered in the immune system, gut, and many of the body’s major organs. But that was only part of the puzzle. The hunt was on to find out whether the body produced its own cannabis-like chemicals, and with the identification of the first endocannabinoid, Anandamide, they had their answer.
What does the endocannabinoid system do?
What scientists have realized is that the endocannabinoid system fine-tunes most of our vital physiological functions, bringing balance to everything from sleep, appetite, and pain to inflammation, memory, mood, and even reproduction. So in basic terms, it’s like an orchestral conductor, ensuring that no one section drowns out the other.
So, it’s time to bring this fascinating biological system out of the laboratory, and get to grips with some endocannabinoid system basics.
1. Humans aren’t alone in having an ECS
As humans beings, we’re not special for having an ECS. Not only is the endocannabinoid system found in all vertebrates, but scientists also discovered cannabinoid receptors in non-vertebrate sea-squirts, suggesting an evolutionary process dating back 600 million years ago.
Most of us have heard — they’re the chemicals that communicate information throughout the brain and body. Serotonin and dopamine are perhaps the most well known examples, but it’s the endocannabinoid Anandamide, also classed as a neurotransmitter, that has the most receptors in the brain.
3. Increased endocannabinoid system activity has been noted in many diseases
As the endocannabinoid system’s modus operandi is to bring balance to the body, it’s no surprise that scientists have observed elevated ECS activity in a number of illnesses. Everything from neurodegenerative diseases to rheumatoid arthritis and cancer have shown changes in endocannabinoid levels and greater receptor expression.