Cannabis has a profound influence on the human body. This one herb and its variety of compounds seem to affect every aspect of our bodies and minds. How is this possible? How can one herb help so many different conditions? How can it provide both palliative and curative actions? How can it be so safe while offering such powerful effects? The search to answer these questions has led scientists to the discovery of a previously unknown physiologic system, a central component of the health and healing of every human and almost every animal: the endocannabinoid system.
In each tissue, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) performs different tasks, but the goal is always the same: homeostasis, the maintenance of a stable internal environment despite fluctuations in the external environment. The ECS plays an important roles in central nervous system development, the ability of nerve connections to remain reactive to their environmental stimuli, and the response to endogenous and environmental insults.
In addition to regulating our internal and cellular homeostasis, cannabinoids influence a person’s relationship with the external environment. The administration of cannabinoids alters human behavior, often promoting sharing, humor, and creativity. Because cannabanoids affect nerve growth and repair, neuronal plasticity- the ability of the brain to change its structure and/or function in response to external constraints or challenges, and learning, cannabinoids may directly influence a person’s open-mindedness and ability to move beyond limiting patterns of thought and behavior. Reformatting these old patterns is an essential part of health in our quickly changing environment.
It is interesting to know that while the endocannabanoid system is an essential part of the normal functioning of our cells, tissues, and organs including our brain and nerves, this system is altered in most nerve related disorders. Some scientists even believe that low levels of cannabanoids may contribute to some disorders.
Cannabis plants produce between 80 and 100 cannabinoids and about 300 non-cannabinoid chemicals that we know of. The two main cannabinoids are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). The most commonly known of the two is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis.
THC makes you feel ‘high’, whereas CBD is thought to have an anti-psychoactive effect that controls or moderates the ‘high’ caused by the THC. CBD is also thought to reduce some of the other negative effects that people can experience from THC, such as anxiety.
The two cannabanoid receptors that we know of so far, CB1 and CB2, are found throughout most of your organs and in your immune system, and help maintain healthy balance and function. When an outside force, such as pain from an injury or a fever, throws off your body’s homeostasis, your ECS kicks in to help your body return to its ideal operation.
Research has linked the ECS to:
appetite and digestion
learning and memory
heart and blood vessel function
reproductive system function
skin and nerve function
THC and other cannabanoids from marijuana interact with your ECS by binding to the CB1 and CB2 receptors. THC works on pain receptors to decrease your sensation of pain for example. However, after taking too high of a dose, people can feel paranoia, strange thoughts, and anxiety. TIP: If you have taken too much THC, you can reduce the effects quickly by taking CBD.