The Endocannabinoid System Explained – Series Vol 01 – introduction to the ECS

Here we begin our ongoing series on the introduction to the Endocannabinoid System or ECS. In this series we will be exploring the many aspects of the ECS and the critical role it plays in helping to regulate and maintain our overall health and well being.

 

THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM – What is it?

The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) helps in maintaining equilibrium amongst many of the different functions and systems within the human body. The ECS consists of a network of receptors that are activated by cannabinoids created within the body, known as endocannabinoids, or by those created by plants known as phytocannabinoids. 

While many discoveries regarding this system have been made, there is still much research to be done to fully understand the ECS and its role in regulating homeostasis within the body. The first cannabinoid receptor and endocannabinoid were not discovered until the late 80s and early 90s respectively, thus our scientific research regarding this little understood aspect of human health is still in the early stages. To date, there are over 120 known endocannabinoids being studied.


PRIMARY ENDOCANNABINOIDS

PRIMARY PHYTOCANNABINOIDS

Anandamide

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG)

Cannabidiol (CBD)


FUNCTIONS OF THE ECS

The ECS is responsible for regulating many of the body’s natural functions through activating endocannabinoid receptors found throughout the body, primarily concentrated in the brain, spinal cord, and immune system. Endocannabinoid receptors can also be found in the digestive tract, reproductive system, lungs, kidneys, liver, pituitary and thyroid glands, fat cells and muscle cells.

The exact systems and mechanisms for regulation are still being explored, however the ECS plays a role in controlling the body’s immune system, appetite, pain, inflammation, mood, body temperature, memory, reproductive health, and sleep cycle regulation.


REGULATORY FUNCTIONS & EFFECTS OF THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM

APPETITE

Cannabinoids can stimulate/increase appetite. 

NAUSEA

Cannabinoids can block signals in the body that trigger nausea and vomiting. 

PAIN & INFLAMMATION

Cannabinoid receptors in the brain are capable of suppressing pain signalling. 

MOOD MANAGEMENT

Cannabinoids have the potential to produce feelings of relaxation and euphoria. They can also reduce feelings of anxiousness and worry. 

THERMOREGULATION

THC can lower body temperature. The ECS also plays a role in the body’s immune response to ward off infection.

MEMORY & LEARNING

Cannabinoid receptors are highly concentrated in areas of the brain responsible for regulating memory and learning.

REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH

Phytocannabinoids can potentially disrupt and lower the production of estrogen and progesterone in women. 

SLEEP

Some cannabinoids can be sedating, specifically THC, which shares structural similarities to anandamide, an endocannabinoid that can affect sleep patterns.

 

While the initial research regarding the ECS began with the focus of studying the effects of cannabinoids from cannabis on the body, the discoveries that followed have exposed a need to better understand the natural functions of the ECS that occur independently from the introduction of phytocannabinoids. Among the most interesting areas of current study is the research regarding endocannabinoid deficiency or dysfunction, and the potential implications this might have for a variety of common and difficult to treat chronic conditions. 

 

UP NEXT – In the next segment of our series covering the Endocannabinoid System, we will be discussing the endocannabinoid receptors of the ECS. We will take a closer look at these receptors, their locations, functions, and signalling processes.


To begin your cannabis medicine journey today, book an appointment now with the Savikalpa Virtual Clinic for an online doctor consultation, or request more information from a member of our highly trained clinic staff (eclinic@savikalpa.com).

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Interested in learning more? Send us your questions (eclinic@savikalpa.com). It is our mission to educate patients in any way we can, and we would be delighted to hear from you.



Research regarding the endocannabinoid system:



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