Understanding the Endocannabinoid System pt1 1

Understanding the Endocannabinoid System.
An Intro to the ECS – Part I

By Amy Stevenson

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Exploring this topic is no easy task, there’s a lot of acronyms and information to process, and you might think ‘why does it even matter?’

 

At Inner West Hemp, we believe you should understand everything about the products you’re intending to use. From how it’s made, how much to take, right down to the science behind how your body actually uses it.

One of the most important things to keep in mind when learning about the ECS is this: it’s not so much the how, but the why, when it comes to the affects on the human body.

 

CBD, much like any other cannabinoids from Cannabis Sativa, doesn’t just work on its own. Once the molecules enter the bloodstream, they continue to travel and pass through the blood-brain barrier to reach the Endocannabinoid System.

 

So now you might be asking – what is Endocannabinoid System? And why is the system even necessary for cannabinoids to even work? Well this is the guide for you!

 

Over the next two posts, we’ll explore the topic, and help you gain an understanding of how this system works, its function, and why it’s so crucial, especially when it comes to overall wellness.

The ESC Explained

The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is referred to as the Endogenous Cannabinoid System. If you’re feeling a tad overwhelmed by the big terminology, don’t be, we’re here to break it all down for you. 

Essentially, the ECS is a complex physiologic network that stretches throughout the human body to help establish and maintain overall health and wellness.

 

The ECS uses complex actions, such as the transmission of neurons, which affect our nervous and immune systems, and several organs. Simply, it serves as a bridge of communication between the mind and body.

 

Initial findings suggested the function of the ECS was only connected to the brain and nerves, however, as researchers later discovered, it actually also encompasses several other bodily parts, including skin, gastrointestinal tract, bone, tissue, and other biological structures.

 

More recent studies now also explain how the ECS interacts with different physiological functions such as sleep, metabolism, mood, appetite, stress, and general pain. They’ve also even explored the reproductive and immunological abilities!

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How Does ECS Function?

 

Although scientists are continuing to uncover all the secrets of the ECS, what we do know for sure right now is that it helps to regulate a broad range of processes.

 

Even if you don’t use CBD products or cannabis, the ECS still functions and remains active inside your body. For the system to work correctly, it uses three critical components: Cannabinoid Receptors, Endocannabinoids, and Metabolic enzymes.

 

Cannabinoid Receptors comprise the entirety of the Endocannabinoid System, and allow it to function. These connectors spread throughout the body, attached to cellular membranes.

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There are two known types of cannabinoid receptors, which help make up the ECS – Cannabinoid Receptor 1 (CB1) and Cannabinoid Receptor 2 (CB2). CB1

 

Receptors are predominantly found within our Central Nervous System, and they can affect or send transmissions to the connective tissues, neurons, glands, gonads, and organs associated with the nervous system.

 

In comparison, CB2 Receptors are more prevalent with the Peripheral Nervous System, and are nerve fibers branching from the Central Nervous System, and stretch to numerous organs and parts of the body such as your limbs, skin, muscles, and immune cells.

Essentially, the job of these receptors is to transmit information to the inside of the cell regarding conditional changes. It’s this process which then kick starts the cell to give the most suitable response.

It’s also worth noting that tissues can also have both CB1 and CB2 receptors which link to different actions, and they become active primarily through the use of Endocannabinoids.

 

Endocannabinoids, most importantly, are the cannabinoid molecules that are produced naturally by our bodies. But simply, they’re two types of cannabinoids that activate the Cannabinoid Receptors within the Endocannabinoid System.

 

Importantly, Phytocannabinoids are cannabinoids synthesized naturally from plants – mainly Cannabis Sativa. CBD, cannabigerol (CBG), cannabinol (CBN), and other beneficial cannabinoids you may find in premium CBD Oil products are phytocannabinoids, as is THC.

 

By contrast, Endocannabinoids are referred to as endogenous cannabinoids, and help to sustain and maintain internal functions. Proving that our bodies are still a great mystery, it’s interesting to note scientists are still working to figure out how many Endocannabinoids our bodies typically produce, due to the fact they only become synthesized when needed.

Throughout the years of research, two vital Endocannabinoids have been discovered: Anandamide (AEA) and Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). If you’re struggling to keep up with all the terminology, it’s okay because despite the names, these Endocannabinoids are actually a lot simpler to understand.

 

First named and identified in 1992 by Israeli organic chemist Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, AEA it is a fatty acid neurotransmitter. Since it’s discovery, it’s been featured in numerous scientific reviews, all researching how it affects humans, however scientists believe these molecules affect the development of early-stage embryos and memory.

 

The second important discovery came in 1994-1995, when Dr. Mechoulam and his student, Shimon Ben-Shabat, first described 2-AG. Fun fact! 2-AG was actually an already known chemical compound, but it was later when scientists discovered its compatibility with cannabinoid receptors.

 

High levels of 2-AG are found in the Central Nervous System, and it’s also found in breast milk and maternal cows.

Anandamide

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2-AG

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Endocannabinoids and Phytocannabinoids stimulate cannabinoid receptors by attaching or binding to them. Without phytocannabinoids, the Endocannabinoid System uses endogenous cannabinoids, which the body only creates when needed. They have short-range effects and a shortened half-life before their degradation from enzymes.

Moving on to metabolic enzymes, they’re what our body uses to break down endocannabinoids after they have served their purpose. They work by accelerating the chemical reactions within our systems, which results in the deterioration of molecules.

 

Two primary enzymes are responsible for breaking down endocannabinoids:

Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase (FAAH), which is a serine hydrolase enzyme, and one of the most diverse and most extensive enzyme classes, and Monoacylglycerol Lipase (MAGL), also part of the serine hydrolase enzyme family.

Serine hydrolase enzymes have vital roles in several pathological and physiological procedures. They degrade substances by splitting specific molecular bonds. While FAAH breaks down endocannabinoid anandamide,

MAGL creates a chemical reaction using water molecules to degrade long-chain fatty acids and typically breaks down 2-arachidonoylglycerol.

 

These enzymes ensure endocannabinoids are used, and don’t last longer than required. It’s this degradation process which endocannabinoids unique from hormones or other standard neurotransmitters, as they cannot be stored and put away for anticipated use.

 

In part two of this post, we’ll continue to explore the ECS and its role in maintaining wellness within the body, and recap everything you need to know!

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