What is the Endocannabinoid System?
The endocannabinoid system (or ECS) is a cell-signaling system that runs throughout your whole body and is active all the time (even if you don’t use cannabis products). It wasn’t discovered in the mid-1990s, so there’s still a lot we don’t know about it. Read on for a crash course on this vital part of your body, whether you’re a cannabis connoisseur or not!
Why is the Endocannabinoid System Important?
From what we know, the endocannabinoid system seems to be most important in terms of helping us maintain homeostasis. This basically means that the endocannabinoid system helps to keep everything inside your body working together in the right ways.
The ECS does this by helping to regulate a ton of necessary functions. So far, it seems like the endocannabinoid system helps to regulate mood, sleep, appetite, and cognition. The more research that we’re able to do into the cannabinoid system, the more we’ll find out about just what it does.
How Does the Endocannabinoid System Work?
On the most basic level, the endocannabinoid system is made up of three parts: endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes. The endocannabinoids attach to a receptor, do their job, and are then broken down by the enzymes.
It gets a lot more complicated than that, but this isn’t a biology class so we’ll leave it there!
What Kinds of Cannabinoids are There?
There are several different kinds of cannabinoids.
Endocannabinoids are produced by your body and are a part of the ECS.
Phytocannabinoids are produced by plants (like marijuana and hemp).
Synthetic cannabinoids are produced by scientists in labs. These can mimic the behavior and function of endocannabinoids.
What are Endocannabinoids?
Endocannabinoids are also called “endogenous cannabinoids” (but that’s even more of a mouthful). They’re molecules that are similar to the cannabinoids you’re more familiar with, but they’re produced by your body as needed to help to keep everything running smoothly.
Scientists have only discovered a couple of endocannabinoids so far (anandamide or AEA and 2-arachidonoylglyerol or 2-AG, if you’re curious). Once again, we need more research to be able to fully understand just how important the endocannabinoid system is.
What are Cannabinoid Receptors?
Cannabinoid receptors are sites found all throughout the body. Basically, they are the things that signal to the ECS that it needs to do something. Endocannabinoids themselves can bond with any of your receptors. Where they bond determines the effect that they have on your body.
There are two “types” of cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2.
CB1 Cannabinoid Receptors
These receptors are mostly found in the central nervous system and brain. They are neurotransmitter regulators, which means that they tell neurotransmitters (like serotonin and dopamine) when to move around.
CB1 is responsible for the “stoned” feeling that THC can give you! The dopamine that it helps to regulate is what gives you feelings of euphoria. CB1 acts on the part of the brain that deals with pain, so it’s responsible for the pain-relief effects of THC (this “top-down” approach is the same general way that opioids work, too). CB1 is also what gives you the munchies. It turns on the body’s desire to eat both for survival and for fun, which explains why you get so hungry and why your favorite snacks also just taste so much better!
A lot of the intoxicating effects of THC have to do with CB1 as well. When a cannabinoid attaches to a CB1 receptor, you might feel sleepy, clumsy, or forgetful. CB1 is also responsible for the pounding heartbeat that sometimes comes with a large dose of THC.
CB2 Cannabinoid Receptors
CB2 receptors are mostly found in the peripheral nervous system, especially in the immune cells that travel throughout your body. They seem to be most present in the brain when there is inflammation somewhere in your body, but more research is needed to figure out where CB2 receptor sites appear and what exactly they do.
From what we do know, CB2 receptors seem to be responsible for the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabinoid products. These receptors might contribute to the “body high” that you often get from low-D9 THC products.
What are the Enzymes?
Back to the endocannabinoid system as a whole!
The enzymes that we talked about earlier are there to break down the endocannabinoids once the endocannabinoids have served their purpose. So far, scientists have identified two enzymes that are a part of this process: fatty acid amide hydrolase and monoacylglycerol acid lipase (bonus points if you can pronounce those).
How Does the Endocannabinoid System Work with Cannabis Products?
If you’re here reading this, we suspect that this is what you’ve been wondering all along!
When it comes to cannabinoid receptors, the cannabinoids you ingest fall into two categories. Some are agonists, which means that they bond with or “turn on” the receptor. The others are antagonists, which means that they block the receptor from activating. Next we’ll take a look at how some major cannabinoids bond with CB1 and CB2.
THC bonds easily with both CB1 and CB2, producing a whole variety of effects that we’ll bet you’re familiar with! CB1 is the receptor responsible for the psychoactive effects of Delta-9 THC products. As we’re sure you also know, using cannabis regularly can cause you to build up a tolerance. Over time, this tolerance leads to a decrease in CB1 expression in the brain. However, going just 48 hours without cannabis can get your CB1 receptors back to the sensitivity of a non-cannabis user.
CBD doesn’t bond with CB1 or CB2, but scientists are less sure of how exactly it does what it does. Some think that it might keep endocannabinoids from breaking down, and others think it might bond to a receptor we haven’t even discovered yet. The fact that CBD doesn’t bond with your cannabinoid receptors also explains why it can help to “cancel out” some of the side effects of taking too much THC.
Delta-8 is able to bond with both CB1 and CB2, but it doesn’t bond as well with CB1. This is why D8 often produces a milder high than D9.
Delta-10 is very similar to D8 because it can bond to either receptor. However, neither of them are able to bond with CB1 or CB2 as efficiently as D9 is.
HHC bonds with both CB1 and CB2, similarly to D9 THC. However, just like D8 and D10, HHC is not able to bond with these receptor sites as efficiently as D9 can.
And there you go! You’re now full of fun facts to impress everyone with at your next smoke sesh. If you’re ready to take your cannabinoid receptors for a spin, check out all of the great products we have here at Bay Smokes.