People, as recent research has shown, have an extensive endocannabinoid system inside them. How does it work and what’s its purpose?
The human body still hides many secrets. Modern science has recently proved that we have a special, sophisticated endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for the perception of compounds found in cannabis! What is more, the body of each of us produces this substance itself. So, what are cannabinoids? How does this mysterious system work and what do cannabis have to do with it?
What is the endocannabinoid system?
Endocannabinoid system is a relatively recent discovery of science. It was discovered in 1990, noting that there are receptors in the brain of every human being, to which active cannabis compounds – cannabinoids – “adhere”. Today it is known that other mammals and vertebrates also have such a system.
The endocannabinoid system consists of receptors distributed throughout the human body and internally secreted chemical compounds, under the influence of which these receptors trigger physiological processes taking place in the nervous and immune system. This system is therefore responsible for regulating mood, hunger, sleep, memory, motor activity, pain, metabolic processes and much more. In short, the role of the endocannabinoid system is to support homeostasis, i.e. the ability of our body to return to balance after a disease or harmful external stimuli have thrown it out of balance.
How does it work?
Science has distinguished two types of cannabinoid receptors in our body: CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are by far the most numerous of all receptors found in the brain. Their presence was also detected in other parts of the nervous system – mainly in the spinal cord and peripheral nerves. CB2 receptors are found practically in the entire immune system: on leukocytes, neutrophils and macrophages, in the spleen, pancreas or liver, but also in other parts of the body, e.g. in gley cells of the brain, sexual organs or osteoblasts, osteocytes and osteoclasts (bone cells).
To activate cannabinoid receptors, and thus to activate the physiological processes mentioned above, our body produces substances called endocannabinoids (the prefix “endo-” means that they are produced internally). Unfortunately, due to huge air, water and food pollution, many people suffer from a lack of these compounds in their bodies.
Changes in the external environment have taken place so quickly and are so deep that our homeostasis has been disturbed and the endocannabinoid system to support it does not always function properly, because it simply does not keep up with the pace of life today. According to an increasingly accepted theory, in many people, the amount of cannabinoids produced by the body is not sufficient. This infirmity is called “clinical deficiency of endocannabinoids”. Its consequences are various diseases of civilization.
That is why it is so important today to supplement the broadly understood supplementation with endocannabinoid supporting substances.
Cannabinoids in hemp
Among the millions of substances produced in nature, there are those that can replace our endocannabinoids. These are plant cannabinoids (so-called “phytocannabinoids”), the indisputable majority of which are found in cannabis. More than 120 have been identified so far, including THCV, CBN, CBG. But the best known are the two that occur in the highest concentrations of cannabis: THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).
THC occurs in cannabis, is psychoactive and its possession is prohibited in most parts of the world. With the exception of Uruguay, some parts of the USA where the Cannabis industry already provides more than 100,000 jobs, Canada where you can legally buy cannabis online, and the next country coming to this list is tiny Luxembourg.
What about the Netherlands? Well, it doesn’t really count because recreational cannabis is still technically illegal there. Though there are some loopholes that make it tolerated by the authorities. The Dutch believe that a drug-free Dutch society is an unrealistic and unattainable expectation. However, the non-psychotropic and cannabis-containing CBD compound is completely legal in most EU and NA countries. It can usually be obtained in the form of dried hemp for brewing or cannabis extracts (so-called “CBD oils“).
Cannabinoids contained in hemp are often regarded as a complement to, or even a substitute for, human endocannabinoids.
There are patients who, using cannabis, feel relieved of their disease because they supplement the deficiency in their endocannabinoid system.
There are also synthetic cannabinoids produced in laboratories of research institutes or pharmaceutical companies. However, as the expert Ewa Gryt points out, the experience so far shows that the therapeutic usefulness of these compounds is, so far, at least limited. And despite the fact that they are much cheaper in production and, like pharmaceuticals, easier to accept for traditionally educated doctors, their practical significance is nowadays small.