Deep dive into the Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

As promised in our “Into to the Endocannabinoid System” blog, we’re back with a slightly deeper look into the ECS! Today we’ll go into slightly more detail on how the ECS works as well as endocannabinoids, receptors and enzymes.


So how does our ECS work?

The ECS plays a role in regulating a plethora of vital functions from appetite and mood to memory retention and perception of pain. I won’t say the list is “endless” but let’s just say it’s very, very lengthy. Even if you’ve never used a cannabinoid product in your life, your ECS system is still working for you even at this very moment. The ECS helps you maintain homeostasis or internal balance despite ever changing external factors, keeping you and your body functioning at its best. There are 3 vital pieces to this elaborate ECS puzzle: endocannabinoids, endocannabinoid receptors and enzymes.


Endocannabinoids

The human body produces its own cannabinoids that are called endocannabinoids, an important function of the peripheral nervous system as well as the central nervous system. Currently anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol are the two known and studied endocannabinoids. They are produced naturally as needed to help communicate and send messages between cells. One of the important functions of endocannabinoids is to calm or essentially quiet over active cells. Some cells needlessly send too many signals causing imbalance, endocannabinoids travel to the targeted cells and bind to receptors helping to correct cell communication and ultimately support overall homeostasis.


Cannabinoid Receptors

We have two major cannabinoid receptors, CB1 & CB2. These aren’t the only receptors present within our ECS but they are the first discovered and have been most studied thus far. 

CB1 receptors tend to be the most abundant cannabinoid receptors in the central nervous system, brain, and spinal cord. These receptors are what interact with THC and allow people to get that “high” feeling when using marijuana (keep in mind all of our products are hemp derived and will never contain more than .3% THC). CB1 receptors play an important role in memory, emotion, perception of pain, appetite and cognition.

CB2 receptors are more commonly found in the peripheral nervous system in places such as the immune system and especially the gastrointestinal system. But both types of receptors are found throughout the entire body. CB2 receptors may regulate inflammation and other immune responses, per research.

These receptors allow our body's cells to detect cannabinoids, both endocannabinoids as well as phytocannabinoids from the plant such as CBD. Once detected, receptors send cells into action. Responses vary greatly depending on the type of cell and cannabinoid. 


Enzymes

So once cannabinoids have done their job and fulfilled their purpose, they’re broken down by specific enzymes. Currently there are two known types of enzymes that work with our ECS.

  • Fatty acid amide hydrolase - eliminates/breaks down anandamide
  • Monoacylglycerol acid lipase - eliminates/breaks down 2-arachidonoylglycerol

If cannabinoids were not broken down and eliminated after they have served their purpose there is a chance that the cannabinoids could re-trigger the same receptor or even multiple receptors after the need has passed which could potentially lead to negative side effects and limit proper communication between cells.


And those, my fellow wellness enthusiasts, are the 3 major components of the ECS and a bit of how each of them work together to support homeostasis and provide an overall wellness experience. Don’t forget to keep checking back in for more cannabinoid education and news! We’ll touch on bits of the ECS here and there over time to keep everyone informed and in the loop! As always #liveandlivewell

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