Your Body Has an Endocannabinoid System
What is an Endocannabinoid System and what does it do? Why do you have one? The Endocannabinoid System, also known as ECS, is a crucial biological system essential for the conservation of our physical and mental health. Our ECS maintains homeostasis within our bodies, an internal balance that must be maintained even when external, or even internal, changes occur.
A great illustration of this is the household thermostat. Say you set your thermostat set to 70 degrees. The thermostat’s job is to maintain an internal temperature of 70 degrees in your home regardless of any other factors. It’s 40 degrees outside so your thermostat will tell the heat to kick on in order to keep running at 70 degrees. You’re making dinner and have your stove and oven going. The thermostat tells the a/c to kick on in order to preserve that 70 degrees. Whatever changes occur, the thermostat is always ensuring that it maintains that 70 degrees. Our bodies act in a similar way to the thermostat. When we experience illness, injury, or stress our bodies respond accordingly in order to return to a homeostatic state. The Endocannabinoid System is responsible for maintaining homeostasis and was discovered only recently, in the late 1980s, as an indirect result of researching the effects that cannabis has on the body. That sure explains its name, doesn’t it? Even though its discovery is still young, scientists have estimated that this biological system evolved more than 500 million years ago.
How the Endocannabinoid System Works
Through research and studies, we now know that the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is involved in many of the body’s physiological and neurological processes. This includes the regulation of pain, sleep, stress, mood, memory, and immune and reproductive systems. Our ECS modulates these processes through cannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors, and the enzymes that synthesize and breakdown these cannabinoids. What are cannabinoids you may ask? Cannabinoids – endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids. Phyto (meaning plant) cannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds found within the cannabis plant such as CBD and THC. Endo (meaning within) cannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds found within our own bodies. Our bodies produce endocannabinoids naturally in response to illness, injury, and stress and those endocannabinoids interact with what are called cannabinoid receptors. These receptors are found all throughout our bodies. See the human endocannabinoid system diagram below for a quick look as to where some of these receptors are located. Finally, enzymes synthesize and break down cannabinoids. This is the process that sustains homeostasis, the balance within our bodies.
CBD and Your Endocannabinoid System
Now that you have a foundational understanding of what our Endocannabinoid System is and its critical role in our health, it’s important to understand how CBD ties into all of this. After all, that’s why you’re here! Scientists have found that the chemical structure of phytocannabinoids are so similar to the ones that our body produces that our body naturally accepts these phytocannabinoids as if they were our own. The cannabis plant contains numerous cannabinoids and they all interact with our ECS differently. Among these is CBD and, along with THC, is the most researched of all cannabinoids. CBD does not directly interact with our cannabinoid receptors in the same way that our endocannabinoids do. In fact, CBD actually tells our bodies to create more of its own cannabinoids and ensures that these cannabinoids are not broken down too quickly by enzymes.
It is believed that chronic stress and inflammation can lead to what researchers call “Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency” and it is the underlying cause of many illnesses such as autoimmune diseases, migraines, and many treatment-resistant syndromes. This is when your body is just not producing enough endocannabinoids on its own. Remember the thermostat analogy? Basically, your thermostat is broken. This is the reason that so many have found relief using CBD products because it’s helping our ECS do the job it is designed to do. If our Endocannabinoid System is struggling to keep up, CBD is there to help it do its thing. CBD is not just any natural alternative method; it is the one that your body is already built for.