Endocannabinoid System The Largest System in the Body
Have you heard about the Endocannabinoid System within your body? I had not when I first started consuming cannabis many years ago. Over the last few decades we have slowly learned more and more about one of the largest system in our bodies. However, this is a system within our bodies your average doctor does not know about. That presently is not a part of the medical school curriculum. But with education it has the potential to improve many of their patients’ lives.
113 Known Cannabinoids
The Cannabis plant protects itself by producing a viscous resin in structures known as trichomes on its leaves and flowering parts. These trichomes are what produce cannabinoids we commonly call cannabidiol (CBD) or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). There are approximately 113 known cannabinoids to date. Each plant compromises of different cannabinoids, some that are active such as CBD and some that are euphoric or mind-altering such as THC. Until recently we only found these cannabinoids on the cannabis plant. However, current research has now found cannabinoids on other plants such as carrots, broccoli even black pepper. The discovery of these cannabinoids is what lead to scientists to the discovery of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS).
Raphael Mechloulam Discovers CB1 Receptors
The ECS regulates and controls many of the critical bodily functions, including learning, memory, emotional processing, temperature, pain control, sleep, eating, immune responses. The ECS is a vast network of chemical signals and receptors that are throughout our brains and bodies. The receptors in the brain we call CB1 receptors and outnumber man of the any other receptor types in the brain, who knew? We certainly didn’t until the late 1980’s (1989-1990) thanks to a man named Raphael Mechloulam, a top cannabinoid scientist and pioneer for our scientific research of Cannabis Sativa L. The CB1 receptors he discovered we now know to be the receptors that regulate activity of systems in the body that need adjustment like hunger, temperature, and alertness.
CB2 receptors were discovered in 1993 also by Professor Mechloulam and his team. The CB2 receptor is a second type of receptor that mostly is engaged with our immune tissues and is critical to helping control our immune function, and plays a role in bowels like intestinal inflammation, contraction, and pain in inflammatory bowel conditions. This receptor is of great interest in drug development because they are not associated with euphoric effects or the “high” that the CB1 receptors are known for. Which for some, those particularly looking at the health benefits, the euphoria associated with cannabinoids use is an unwanted side effect.
Israel Leading the Charge
You may be shocked to know this but did you know that Israel has lead the charge on today’s understanding cannabis? Cannabis studies have been going on for decades, they are the leaders in cannabis research. And in particular Professor Mechloulam work is largely the reason why they have led this research. Professor Mechloulam is now 93 years old, and we all should thank him for the dedication of his life’s work and the path he has created for us all in our understandings of the plant Cannabis Sativa L.
The Importance of a Healthy Endocannabinoid System
After these discoveries pharmaceutical companies started working on drugs that effect our Endocannabinoid Systems. One drug truly showcased the importance of having a healthy ECS. A drug called Rimonabant was created to block the CB1 receptors. This was an anti-obesity drug that went very wrong. Patients that were using Rimonabant found themselves losing weight because of the block onthe CB1 receptor but were also becoming suicidal and very commonly patients were experiencing nausea and upper respiratory tract infections. This drug was pulled from the market in 2008 after many suffered the side effects of blocking their CB1 receptor. The Rimonabant drug truly showcased the importance of having a healthy Endocannabinoid System.
Learning about the Endocannabinoid System
With all this said, I’m only touching on the large subject that is the Endocannabinoid System. I feel this is one of the most important days. In my class I bring in experts on the subject for day 2 and we end with a question and answering session. There is so much still to learn about cannabis and its effects on our bodies, but the ECS is something worth taking the time to learn and understand.
Author: Bailey Stuart
Adjunct Professor UAA
Green Jar COO | Owner