For around fifty years, scientists have realised that cannabinoid receptors form part of human brains. When you use cannabis, the receptors are sensitive to the compounds found within the plant, which causes various powerful effects in the human body. When cannabis was made legal in various parts of the world, we got a much clearer idea of how these cannabinoid receptors worked. Let’s take a look at the system in more detail now.
Why is the endocannabinoid system important?
Found in the brain and other organs, the endocannabinoid system is made up of cells, receptors, and signal molecules. They influence things like our mood, our sleep, our appetite, and even the way we experience pain. Scientists also discovered that they’re responsible for regulating stress, which was a key finding. As a result, many researchers believe that a range of afflictions, from depression to chronic pain, may be caused by an imbalance in the endocannabinoid system.
Found in the ECS, cannabinoid receptors bind and trigger a reaction from their position within these cells. In the brain, the receptors are positioned on neurones that influence things like memory processing, motor function, cognition, and emotional response. In humans, two primary cannabinoid receptors are present – one that deals with pain response and another that is involved with the psychoactive effects of cannabinoids. If you take medical marijuana or products with high levels of THC, your brain has a powerful reaction that can limit the effects of anxiety, depression and physical pain.
An important scientific discovery
When scientists learned of the existence of cannabinoid receptors, they also found that THC and CBD – two of the compounds found within cannabis – activated them. As a result of its further study over the years, medical marijuana has been legalised in many different countries. Contrary to what people often think, cannabinoid receptors can be found in nearly every part of the brain. CB1 is more prevalent in the limbic system and cerebellum, while CB2 is found in the immune system. Additionally, other parts of the body have cannabinoid receptors.
If cannabinoids activate CB1, they lead to reduced decision making, reduced motor activity, and even impaired memory and learning function. However, when CB2 is activated, the result is a reduction in neuropathic pain and a range of anti-inflammatory effects. Since the receptors were discovered in the seventies, THC has been found to limit the progression of Alzheimer’s and has even been used to treat epilepsy and schizophrenia. CBD has helped to reduce seizures and has even been used as an anti-psychotic.
Cannabinoids and the human body
The endo-cannabinoid system is capable of a range of effects on the human body. Some of the results include alleviated anxiety, reductions in chemotherapy symptoms, fewer seizures, and less pronunced nausea. Research into the system that started in 1988 found that Anandamide – an endocannabinoid – was able to produce similar effects to THC. Although there are other compounds, further research is needed to discern how they would interact with other cannabinoids in the human body.
Given that the endocannabinoid system was unknown to us until the 1970s, it’s remarkable how far we’ve come in such a short space of time. One of the best ways to enjoy the natural benefits of cannabidiols is to take it in the form of CBD, which can be vaped, used as an oil, or enjoyed in myriad other ways.