WHAT IS THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM?
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a biological system found in the human body as well as in most animals. That’s right! Just like you, the animal members of your family – including dogs, cats and horses – have an Endocannabinoid system. The ECS’s main function in the body is to maintain homeostasis, or balance. It does this by regulating various important physiological processes throughout the body.
WHAT IS HOMEOSTASIS?
Homeostasis is your body’s way of keeping its internal environment stable and in biological harmony. Conditions in the body, such as temperature, heart rate, hormone levels, etc., have to stay within a narrow range in order for the body to maintain optimal performance. The ECS keeps your body in the “Goldilocks” zone, where everything is “just right” for your body to function properly.
HOW DOES THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM WORK?
The endocannabinoid system of all mammals works the same. Yours, as well your animal’s endocannabinoid system is made up of three mechanisms:
- Cannabinoid Receptors
The human body produces chemicals that are similar to the ones found in hemp called cannabinoids. The cannabinoids found in hemp and other plants, such as CBD and THC, are called phytocannabinoids. “Phyto” means plant. The cannabinoids that the human body naturally produces are called endocannabinoids. “Endo” comes from the word endogenous, meaning originating from within. The two main endocannabinoids are called anandamide and 2-AG.
Both, endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids fit into cannabinoid receptors like a key. There are two types of cannabinoid receptors. CB1 receptors are found mainly in the brain and nervous system. CB2 receptors are found in the immune system, digestive system and other organs throughout the body. Cannabinoid receptors are located on the surface of cells and monitor conditions outside of the cell. They detect and communicate changes in the external environment to ensure the proper cellular response.
The ECS uses this process to regulate many different functions throughout the body.
HOW DOES CBD INTERACT WITH THE ECS?
The ECS is a delicate system that is easily thrown out of balance. Lifestyle factors such as worrying, diet, exercise, all influence the health of the ECS. The pressures of modern life can have a detrimental effect on the ECS. Because of the ECS’s significant widespread effects on the body, this can be harmful to overall health.
CBD may help enhance natural levels of endocannabinoids by modifying cannabinoid receptors’ ability to bind to cannabinoids. This may have a rebalancing effect on deficient or dysfunctional endocannabinoid systems. The ECS’s extensive function throughout the body is what makes CBD effective at bringing so many different body systems into balance.
Feeling tense triggers the release of hormones and chemicals that prime your body to respond to dangerous threats. However, when your body is in a chronic state of despair, these chemicals can become imbalanced and wreak havoc on the body. By stimulating the ECS, CBD can regulate how your brain responds to chaotic situations and protect your body from its harmful effects.
Swelling is your body’s way of protecting itself from harm and injury. Consistent elevated levels of tension, poor diet and exposure to environmental toxins can all contribute to long term bodily harm. CBD may help reduce body swelling by suppressing an overactive response.
Hemp extracts also have antioxidant and neuroprotective qualities. Antioxidants are substances that neutralize damaged cells. Neuroprotectants reduce damage to the brain and nervous system and encourage growth of new neurons.
THE ENTOURAGE EFFECT
CBD is one of the most important compounds found in the hemp, but it’s not the whole picture. The hemp plant contains over 90 different beneficial compounds, including cannabinoids and terpenes. Whole plant hemp extracts include the full spectrum of therapeutic compounds found in the plant. The entourage effect refers to the way these compounds work together to synergistically enhance each other’s beneficial therapeutic effects. In other words, the combination of all of these natural compounds working together is more effective than any single compound on its own.
Although the ECS evolved almost 600 million years ago, it was discovered as recently as the 1960’s. New research on the endocannabinoid system is constantly emerging. Science continues to discover details about how the ECS in humans and pets works, how CBD and hemp interact with it, and how to keep it in balance.