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Spend just a little time reading up about cannabis and you’ll no doubt run into the term endocannabinoid system or ECS. It’s one of the body’s major systems but also one of the least known and least understood.
But the ECS is one of the main reasons why cannabis science is so interesting. The ECS was discovered in 1988 specifically because of research into cannabis . Science had long been trying to understand why cannabis affects us the way it does. Some pieces of the puzzle had already been found. CBD was identified first. Then THC. And later still, some of the key cell receptors that allow CBD and THC to influence our bodies.
But it was the discovery of the ECS that started to bring all the pieces together.
What Is The ECS
The endocannabinoid system is a neuromodulator. It’s an intricate web of signaling systems. It balances the activity of a multitude of major systems in the body. It helps regulate the central nervous system, the digestive system, the circulatory system, immune response, sleep, memory… If your body was a house, the ECS would be the Smart Home app, remotely adjusting the heating, air, locks, oven, and even automatically feeding the pets while you’re away to keep everything running in perfect order.
The ECS signals the body to produce endocannabinoids and cell receptors. When the right two come together, they influence how many of the body’s systems regulate. They can affect everything from inflammation to nausea to pain to mood.
The ECS works to keep the body in homeostasis. Balance. It tries to produce the right balance of endocannabinoids, enzymes, and cell receptors to keep everything working in harmony. Appetite. Happiness. Muscle tension. All constantly being monitored and adjusted by a master control system.
How Cannabis Works With the ECS
The cannabinoids in cannabis interact with the cell receptors the ECS produces. They can influence how many cell receptors are created and which ones. They can prompt the ECS to make more of its own natural endocannabinoids and more receptors for them to bind to.
The THC in cannabis fits like a lock and key into the CB1 receptor. It mirrors the action of an endocannabinoid our bodies naturally produce called anandamide. Anandamide gets its name from Sanskrit. Ananda means bliss. Anandamide is sometimes called the bliss molecule because it brings about feelings of happiness, peace, and euphoria.
The euphoric response from THC is only one of the ways it interacts with the ECS. THC has shown positive results in addressing many different types of pain.
CBD’s influence on the ECS is more discreet. It does not produce a euphoric high and it doesn’t bind directly to the cell receptors. Instead, it influences the ECS to make more of them. It prompts the body to fine tune the dials on many of its responses, including to injury, disease, and discomfort.
It’s this fine tuning that gives CBD so much promise in so many areas of wellness. Studies have shown CBD has anti-inflammatory, anti-seizure, anti-cancer, and anti-anxiety properties. There is even evidence that CBD inhibits drug-seeking behaviour in cases of opioid addiction.
But if our bodies are designed to produce their own natural endocannabinoids to balance our system and keep us well, why would we need the cannabinoids in cannabis to boost our ECS?
The ECS is constantly balancing three key components – cell receptors, endocannabinoids, and the enzymes that break them down after they have done their jobs. So, if the primary job of the ECS is keeping these in harmony, why would we need the cannabinoids in cannabis?
A leading theory is that of clinical endocannabinoid deficiency. This sees the body overproduce some components of the ECS while underproducing others. This imbalance subverts other systems since the ECS can no longer effectively regulate them.
Take migraines, for example. A 2007 study examined the cerebrospinal fluid of chronic migraine sufferers and found a stunning difference in the levels of anandamide between the sufferers and the control group. The control group showed almost double the anandamide levels of the migraine sufferers.
Findings from early research on many conditions, including PTSD, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and other treatment-resistant conditions have also pointed to differences in endocannabinoid levels. Since THC and CBD can both influence the ECS – THC by acting on it directly and CBD by acting on it discreetly – the cannabinoids in cannabis offer us a way to target the source of the imbalance and help the ECS correct it.
Finding Your Balance
A body in balance is a healthy one. A happy one. One with an ECS that is constantly making micro-adjustments to maintain homeostasis.
As one of the body’s most powerful and influential systems, caring for your ECS means caring for the whole package. It means supporting the healing of strained muscles and tissues. It means encouraging the natural rhythms of eating, sleeping, and waking. It means helping the body balance the cells, receptors, and enzymes it needs to ward off pain and inflammation. It means readying the immune system to kick into gear and defend against threats without overreacting to them.
We support our bodies in all sorts of ways. Vitamin D to make up for the lack of natural sun in the winter months. Calcium supplements to help build and maintain strong bones. The ECS is no different.
The word disease is one we’ve come to associate with a specific diagnosis. But the root of the word simply means the absence of ease. For many of us, there’s no formal diagnosis for the aches and pains of daily life. We often chalk them up to ‘just getting older’. But there is no reason to give up and give in to this. The ECS is a responsive system. It wants to find balance and ease. And the fascinating science of cannabis and the ECS is a path to giving the ECS all the care and support it needs to get us there.
Ease is something that every body deserves. How will you find your ease today?
Check out our products page to explore our custom CBD formulas for bringing balance and ease into your every day.
Written by | Infused Amphora Team
The Infused Amphora Team is dedicated to creating resources to educate and engage consumers on the growing evidence of CBD benefits and the extensive health and wellness properties of CBD oil.
Contributors | Angus Taylor + Dr Gaylord Wardell
IPI is a pharmaceutical ingredient company that cultivates cannabis strains curated to extract specific cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids for the formulation of effects-based health and wellness products. Angus is an experienced public speaker, engaging stakeholders, governments and media. Angus was the co-founder of NewLeaf Cannabis, Canada’s most successful retail brand to date, and has been established as a well-known and recognized expert in the field.
Dr Wardell is a practising physician with over 40 years of clinical and educational experience in pain management, medical practices and education. Dr Wardell is past President of the Pain Society of Alberta, and current President of the Alberta Medical Association, section of Pain. He is a popular public speaker, an active blogger on medical and pain-related issues, and proponent for scientific validation for patients experiencing pain.
Infused Amphora “Learn” is intended for informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.