What is the endocannabinoid system?

What is the endocannabinoid system? | HERBLIZ

There are a number of terms that appear repeatedly in connection with CBD. Some of them sound as complicated as this one: endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system is part of the human nervous system and everyone is born with it. You could call it a signal network or regulatory system. In this article we will explain the term as simply as possible and look at the important functions that this system has within the human body.

What does the word 'endocannabinoid system' mean? 

This complex term can be divided into two building blocks based on its meaning: Endo' refers to all processes that occur within a system. In this case the human body is meant. Endogenous' would be the longer version of the word from which 'endo' is derived. The term 'cannabinoid' refers to the ingredients of the hemp plant. It was only through the discovery of the 'cannabinoids' in the cannabis plant that the system in the human body responsible for their action was discovered. Thus the complicated term 'endocannabinoid system' was quickly born.

A trip into history  

It was only 33 years ago that the endocannabinoid system was discovered using what was then the most modern technology available. It was in 1987 when Prof. Allyn Howlett from the Saint-Louis University in Missouri (USA) was able to show how the ingredients of the cannabis plant affect humans. At the same time he discovered the system with the complicated name - the endocannabinoid system. With this system he proved that cannabinoids act via the body's own receptors. 

Since then, science has been constantly on the trail of this topic. So far, only three receptors have been discovered within the system. However, research already suspects that the system has much more to discover. In the future, it is expected that even more receptors and their functions can be investigated.

What are the components of the endocannabinoid system? 

The system has not yet been researched extensively enough to make a definitive statement here. We simply do not know all the components yet. According to current research, the system consists mainly of the C1, C2 and C3 receptors. Receptors function in the human body like small recipients. They receive signals from messenger substances (neurotransmitters) and then trigger the appropriate reaction in the body. Each of these receptors has its own task in the human body. That is why they are located in the most different places in our body. All three receptors are activated by the messenger substances - the cannabinoids. If necessary, our body can produce cannabinoids itself - these are then called endocannabinoids.

A distinction is therefore also made between the two terms:

  • Endogenous cannabinoids → own neurotransmitters produced by the human body

  • Exogenous cannabinoids → Neurotransmitters that act on the body from outside (e.g. through CBD or THC)

What functions does the system have for humans?

The system works through the different receptors. Therefore, the functioning of the system can be explained by means of the individual receptors. CB1 receptors are an enormously important component of our nervous system. They are mainly located in our brain, but also in some internal organs such as the intestine. Research says that these receptors in the brain are responsible for our cognitive performance, pain perception and information processing. Our memory formation is also controlled by these receptors. But this is only a small part of the area of responsibility.

The human immune system is taken care of by CB2 receptors. They ensure that our own defense system is well equipped. Researchers associate the receptors with the fact that inflammation is reduced, tissue damage is repaired and our metabolism is balanced. So far there are hardly any research results on CB3 receptors. However, it can already be said that here the cannabinoids dock and trigger a reaction too. 

What is it important for? 

The endocannabinoid system with its receptors is responsible for a number of important functions. The list only contains functions that have already been proven by research:

  • Reactions to stress

  • Functions of the immune system

  • Sleeping habits

  • Appetite Feeling

  • Pain sensation

  • Alleviation of inflammation

  • Inner pressure of the eyes

  • Muscle control

  • Motivation

  • Metabolism

  • State of mind

  • Memory

  • Digestion

How is the system balanced? 

When our own endocannabinoid system is out of balance, our body's own functions are affected. The way of life and the day-to-day activities usually play a major role in whether the inner systems are balanced. The so-called work-life balance often makes us look for the balance. CBD is a natural plant product which in no way replaces the body's own endocannabinoids. It helps the body in the long term to restore its own balance. CBD (cannabidiol) does not replace the transmitter substances and does not dock to our endocannabinoid system. According to science, it acts as an inhibitor. 

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